World Economic Forum: Tech takes from The Davos Agenda

In lieu of its Annual Meeting–set for May in Singapore due to the COVID-19 pandemic–typically held this time of year in Davos, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum this week convened business executives, government officials and other elites virtually for The Davos Agenda conference.

Here we’ve compiled commentary from WEF speakers on how technology is (re)shaping the world.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son on remote work and autonomous driving

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son noted that instead of spending time and resources traveling the world for meetings, COVID-19 has made video conference a “necessary tool. I’m doing the Zoom kind of video conferencing fixe, six, 10 times a day and meeting with people and companies from all over the world. I don’t have to travel. The way we work is drastically changing.”

“Tragedy is tragedy. It’s a disastrous situation. But technology-wise, it is evolving quicker.”

He also predicted that mass production of autonomous vehicles not equipped with steering wheels is starting in two years and production volume will ramp from there.

“Several years after that, the cost per milage by fully autonomous driving becomes cheaper than the car the consumer owns. How many people need [a]car in the home you drive by yourself? Instead of calling a taxi and so on, you can call an autonomous car from your smartphone. I think a drastic change will happen to the way we live, the way we commute, the way we interact,” he said.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore on supply chain and logistics

The ongoing global pandemic has put pressure on supply chain and logistics operators the world over in light of surging demand for home deliver of items generally purchased at retail outlets. The challenges facing the sector, which is a major target of digital transformation investments focused on autonomy, efficiency and velocity, are magnified as nations attempt to procure and deliver vaccines to their citizens. Similarly, ramping up vaccine manufacturing, another major target of tech-based automation,

“We now have a crush of demand here in the first half of the year, yet what it looks like from a manufacturing and availability point of view is it’s the second half of the year when we’re going to have the supply available…but it gives us time to plan,” she said.

“It gives us time to get ready and the most difficult part as I look around the world is the developing countries–are they ready? We’ve been buying refrigerators to help the cold chain in each one of these countries. The challenge is enormous, it is a massive undertaking and the readiness is the hardest thing. There is a chasm between the developed and developing world. We are going to have to address that gap.”

Ajay Banga, Mastercard’s executive chairman, on closing the digital divide

The ongoing problem of digital deserts has been brought into sharp relief during COVID-19. The World Economic Forum says there are some 3.6 billion people lacking access to broadband. This puts seemingly everyday conveniences like access to retail banking out of reach for roughly half of the world’s population.

Ajay Banga, Executive Chairman, Mastercard said that the vision of an IoT-connected world just doesn’t work without ubiquitous access to the internet.

“While we’ve all embraced the digital world over the last year—if anything this has probably pushed digitization forward by a few years. The other side of that unfortunately is that…close to 46, 47% of people have inadequate or very poor accessibility to the internet. You cannot have the internet of everything, which is what we are talking about on one hand, without the inclusion of everyone.”

Indian minister KT Rama Rao on how tech impacts “the common man”

K T Rama Rao, a cabinet minister for the Indian state of Telangana, discussed the long-term changes fostered by technology but put it to leaders to consider the impact technology has on society.

“We have to redefine IT…I had meant that the technologies that have been benefiting us, the technology changes that have been sweeping the entire landscape for the last two and half, three decades, now I think we have to take a closer look at the overall situation and understand that there are technologies which can really help our most common problems that are prevalent across the world.”

“Any technology which does not have a societal impact, in my humble opinion, is going to be futile.”

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