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January 28, 2019  //       //  Opinion

Davos 2019: the technology round-up

By Lizzy Chesters

Last week, the great and the good came together at The World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Due to the high calibre of attendees, the discussions that occur during the event have the potential to make a huge impact on global affairs and across many industries.

Globalisation 4.0 was the key theme for this year. So, who was saying what over the past seven days? Here’s our round-up of the tech news stories that deserve your attention.


Global rules on technology

A common subject that encroached into several speeches was a need for countries to collaborate on the tightening of global rules on technology. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister stated that his country would use its chairmanship of the Group of 20 nations this year to develop an official international protocol for oversight of data use.

Angela Merkel also supported the need for a “common digital market” across the EU to cope with the ongoing problem of data misuse.

And yet, Alibaba Chairman, Jack Ma, came out against the necessity for increased tech regulation. Ma said he is “not a person who likes regulation first”. He believes that implementing strict regulation could stunt progression. Especially when humans are still fledglings in the evolution of technology. He argued, “We should not make a pair of shoes for a three-year-old boy and say, ‘All your life you have to wear these shoes. We know so little about the future.”

Europe is falling behind in the space race

The changing competition in the international space race was also highlighted. According to Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, China and the US are forging ahead in the space race and Europe should start to worry. He said, “It is very important for Europe to get their act together and define a clear vision for European space and for us a European supplier… The US and China are definitely moving faster right now.”

China’s recent mission to the dark side of the moon, which proved an enormous success, sparked Hoke’s comments.

New partnerships

One announcement particularly relevant for Great Britain is the new partnership between the UK and World Economic Forum. It’s intended to help lead a regulation revolution in the country. It will also help the companies, industries and services that will emerge as a result of new technologies.

The Business Secretary, Greg Clark, spoke out about the new relationship, saying, “The speed of technological innovation across the globe is faster than ever. New technology is creating whole new industries and business models”. Clark championed the UK’s position as a leader in fostering an effective regulatory environment. There’s a focus on the protection of consumers whilst preserving an openness to innovation. Mr Clarke claimed that the British framework has the potential to be replicated around the world.

Bitcoin is doomed

2018 will forever be remembered as the year of cryptocurrencies. Despite its recent fall from grace, it was to be expected that that future of this technology would crop up at some point during Davos 2019. 

Yet, it seems that the success of bitcoin is still up for debate. During a panel discussion on the future of blockchain technology, some participants were skeptical. In fact, founder of BCG Digital Ventures, Jeff Schumacher, commented that bitcoin is on the trajectory to zero. He claims that the technology behind the cryptocurrency is full of potential. But it will never become ubiquitous because “it’s not based on anything”.

Digital skills gap

The STEM skills gap is one that keeps rearing its head. It popped up again during the ‘Making Digital Globalisation Inclusive’ panel discussion. Bringing together the CEOs of Microsoft, HCL, Dell and Salesforce, all the leaders expressed their growing concerns about the widening skills gaps that are facing our industries.

Headlines in the media about how robots are set to steal our jobs are all too common. But Dell founder and CEO, Michael Dell, rebuked these concerns claiming, “Countries that are most roboticised actually have the lowest unemployment rates, so I’m not convinced that technology is necessarily a big part of the problem”.

In a separate panel discussion, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, also highlighted the topic of STEM skills, when he asked the audience, “We know that the jobs of the future will require different skills, so how do we equip the youth of the world for these jobs?” In all cases, reskilling and upskilling were heralded as the most appropriate means of tackling the problem across the board.

There are many concerns about how the role of technology is going to transform the future. Let’s hope that the conversations held during Davos 2019 will prove to be a starting point in helping to address these issues going forward.

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