Data Analytics & AI

WEF 2018: Collaboration is key to ‘creating a shared future in a fractured world’

The theme of this week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is “Creating a shared future in a fractured world.” Certainly, transitioning to a digital economy plays a pivotal role in such an endeavor, but it won’t happen without collaboration.

That was the message from a panel discussion yesterday that included a powerful group of CEOs – BT’s Gavin Patterson, CA Technologies’ Michael Gregoire, Cisco’s Chuck Robbins and Thomson Reuters’ James C. Smith – along with former EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes (you can watch the full discussion below). The group highlighted the need for industries, government and citizens to work together to solve the most pressing technology issues we’re facing: skills; trust in technology; and data that needs to cross borders.

Where is collaboration needed?

The WEF has identified six key shared outcomes around which it is encouraging collaboration and partnership.

  1. People need to have access to the internet and it needs to be accessible to them
  2. Helping organizations go through a responsible business transformation at a scale and speed that’s never been seen before
  3. Policy that is fit for purpose and informed – the game is changing so the rules must change too
  4. Security and resilience that’s baked into organizations, practices and culture
  5. Robust, open and inclusive identity and access systems
  6. Finding ways to share data while protecting privacy and providing security and transparency

Skills are the No. 1 priority

All the CEO panelists cited issues around skills as the most daunting challenge. This includes not only addressing job losses due to automation but also figuring out how to overcome a dearth of technology skills worldwide.

“Seven of the 10 most valued companies in the world are tech companies, yet at the same time were seeing growing backlash as people are concerned about what this technological revolution is likely to do to their employability,” said Thomson Reuters’ Smith.

McKinsey & Company estimates that between 400 million and 800 million individuals could be displaced by automation and need to find new jobs by 2030. And according to a WEF report on workforce reskilling, one in four adults reported a mismatch between the skills they have and the skills they need for their current job.

BT’s Patterson said skills are the issue that worries him most. “As leaders if we don’t work together to get it right, the backlash…will get worse, not better.”

Patterson contends that the issue is not one tech companies alone can solve. Schools must begin educating children in primary grades to prepare them for jobs that will use technology; companies must work harder to train a more diverse workforce including hiring more women; and workers must take the initiative to learn and train continuously so that they are able to transition into new roles as technology changes.

Smith agreed pointing out that there are 500,000 open IT jobs in the US and 600,000 in the EU. While there are some government programs in place to help people reskill – the EU, for example, has pledged to spend $30 billion in multiple reskilling programs – the content for those programs must come from the business community.

Developing a ‘SkillSET’ portal

As a first step toward collaboratively addressing challenges around jobs, the WEF this week launched the IT Industry Skills Initiative, which aims to bring competitive training content together on one platform. The initiative is targeting 1 million people for training and resource opportunities on the WEF SkillSET portal.

The initiative was conceived by the WEF’s IT Governors community, which Cisco’s Robbins has chaired for the past two years and CA’s Gregoire will chair for the next two. The founding partners are Accenture, CA, Cisco, Cognizant, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Infosys, Pegasystems, PwC, Salesforce, SAP and Tata Consultancy Services. The SkillSET portal is a free platform of online tools to streamline the process of reskilling adults. The initial iteration of the portal will be available in April 2018.

Collaborating on trust, privacy and security

Establishing digital trust, identity management and securing data globally across borders are other pressing challenges that require collaboration. Smith said he sees digital identity as foundational for access, authentication, trust and privacy, and would like to see public private partnerships come up with a concrete proposal to address identity management.

“We’re living through the fourth industrial revolution,” he said. “There is an incredible concentration of power among a handful of companies and, one could argue, perhaps a greater global concentration of power than an in any of the prior industrial revolutions. That’s something we’re going to have to grapple with.

“The company that figures out how to empower people with their own data and provide radical transparency…is going to be ahead of the game. That’s going to have to be a public private dialog as to whose rights those are.”

Gregoire agreed. “If you look at the top four [tech companies in the world], their raw material is data. If you go back a hundred years, the most important companies were oil companies, so data is the new oil… Eventually there will be a business model where data is monetized. Somehow it has to get back into the hands of the people who own it. There is no business model right now, but it has to happen.”

Robbins suggested that distributed ledger technology like blockchain could hold the key to the business model disruption that’s needed to give consumers control of their data and help them profit from how it’s used. And Kroes said governments can play a key role in identity and data management, particularly across borders. She advocates strengthening trust in technology through algorithm transparency.

“It’s all about transparency,” she said. “People are willing to trust, but they need to know what’s behind it [data]and what’s done by it.”

How can TM Forum help?

As part of our collaboration community, TM Forum is working on several of the issues the WEF is exploring, and many WEF members are also TM Forum members. If you’re interested participating in the Forum’s work on artificial intelligence, including a Catalyst proof-of-concept project that is exploring how to use explainable AI (XAI) for transparency in data, please contact Andy Tiller via [email protected].

If you’re interested in learning more about our work on, data monetization, digital trust and security, please contact Craig Bachmann via [email protected]. And if you’re interested in participating in a Catalyst project exploring blockchain technology, please contact John Wilmes via [email protected].


    About The Author

    Managing Editor

    Dawn Bushaus began her career in technology journalism in 1989 at Telephony magazine, which means she’s been writing about networking for a quarter century. (She wishes she didn’t have to admit that because it probably gives you a good idea of how old she really is.) In 1996, Dawn joined a team of journalists to start a McGraw-Hill publication called, and in 2000, she helped a team at Ziff-Davis launch The Net Economy, where she held senior writing and editing positions. Prior to joining TM Forum, she worked as a freelance analyst for Heavy Reading.

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