Key IT Takeaways From World Economic Forum's Davos Conference
Key IT Takeaways From World Economic Forum's Davos Conference
A major theme of this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was 'The Fourth Industrial Revolution' and the resulting technology disruptions.
IT Disruption: Positive, Negative or Both?
The result of new and unexpected innovation in IT can be positive (potential to raise global income levels and enhance quality of life), or it could be the opposite (cause greater inequality and displace workers). Either way, it was clear from the conversation at Davos that the innovations that make up the Fourth Industrial Revolution are having a massive impact on businesses across virtually every industry.
Global Connectedness and the Many Roles of IT
Global connectedness was a recurring theme at Davos in regard to the good it can bring. Tradeshift put a new spin on this, establishing a partnership with the (RED) campaign. "Our business was founded on the idea of democratizing business and bringing trading partners together to create significant impact throughout supply chains," Lanng told eWEEK. "Just as Twitter or Facebook can democratize media by giving everybody access to each other, we can help create equal access to the economy by lowering barriers to participate in global trade. It's the concept of creating a seamless global economy."
Disruption Needs to Be Handled by the Right People
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is clearly an important topic, but it's being filtered through a corporate agenda that has big corporations controlling much of the conversation. That needs to change, Lanng said. "If you look at last year's keynotes from Davos, Microsoft, SAP and IBM were among them. This represents the commercial interests conflicting with real disruption, which was previously exclusive to startups. Repackaging technologies as new should not, and cannot, be considered disruption, and this is largely their model. We need to see through this," Lanng told eWEEK.
Disruption Is Being Co-Opted by Large Multinationals
Established corporations realize disruption may be of concern for their customers, so they sell them disruption, but in safe packaging. By continuing to operate under the assumption that the biggest multinational corporations are on the cutting edge of disruption, we risk not acting on the real opportunities that innovative technologies from smaller players are bringing. We risk missing out on globally significant opportunities like radical reform of education systems, government bureaucracies, energy management and production, and transformation of transport systems.
Silicon Valley Is Converging With Hollywood
Kevin Spacey, an investor in Wisekey, a cyber-security firm, dropped into Davos and talked about his prediction that, in the next few years, Silicon Valley will become more involved in content. He noted that it's no longer the case that aspiring stars need to be in Hollywood to get noticed, because they can be discovered online instead. Spacey went so far as to say he wouldn't be surprised when a big tech company buys a studio. Spacey said, "It's what I thought a few years ago with Yahoo, or Google or Netflix. Those companies who have made a lot of money being a portal for entertainment … if they wanted to compete, they would have to start doing their own content, so I wasn't surprised when Netflix stepped up."
Social Media Is Only Beginning to Impact Communication
Ted Bailey, CEO of real-time information discovery firm Dataminr, said he thinks social media is only in the "second inning." He went on to say he thinks we're only at the start of the revolution social media will cause. He also described Twitter as one of the most significant companies of the century for having revolutionized real-time communication, despite its problems.
Lack of Women in Technology a Major Talking Point
CNBC reported that women represented only 18 percent of the delegates in Davos, but when it came to the topics discussed, "women in tech" ranked in the top three, along with climate change and Middle Eastern refugees. There was a great deal of discussion about why women are so under-represented in technology, which yielded feedback such as this: "It's very difficult to rise to the CEO level and raise two kids. So we need to change the culture," said Hanzade Dogan Boyner, a prominent figure in Turkey's digital world. There was a great deal of discussion on what companies are doing to implement that change. Jürg Zeltner, CEO of UBS Wealth Management, said he doesn't want to go into a boardroom without women. Zeltner is directly holding his business managers accountable for hiring more women, saying they'll be fired if he doesn't see greater numbers.
Technological Drivers of Employment
At Davos, the WEF released an analysis of the technological and sociological drivers of employment titled "The Future of Jobs." It notes that, among the technological drivers, those with greatest short-term impact (defined as 2015 to 2017) are 1) mobile Internet; 2) cloud technology; 3) cheaper computing power; 4) large-scale data storage, or big data.
IoT May Not Become Mainstream Until 2018
While their impact is expected to be small in the near term, hardware and physical technologies, such as robotics and the Internet of things, are expected to contribute most of their overall impact after 2018. Anticipating and preparing for certain skills requirements, as influenced by these technological drivers, will be critical as the employment landscape continues to evolve. Case in point: The "Future of Jobs" report distributed by WEF at Davos noted that 65 percent of children entering primary school today will end up working in entirely new types of jobs that don't yet exist.
Some Facts and Figures on Davos 2016
Davos is Europe's highest city at 5,120 feet elevation. About 2,500 world business and political leaders attended, including 40 heads of state. A ticket costs $20,000; a night in a medium-range hotel is around $600. Add to it wining, dining and essential accessories like snow boots, and the bill can total around $40,000. Not an event for the faint of wallet.