World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012

  • A Smart Growth Solution

    Thursday 26th January 2012 - 9:00am - 10:00am

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  • Thursday 26 January

    This session was conducted under the Chatham House Rule.

    How can technological advances drive economic growth and employment?

    Dimensions to be addressed:

    - Integrating breakthroughs into markets
    - Creating enabling innovation environments
    - Examining the consequences of the failure to respond

    Key Points

    • Technology is changing the way goods and services are delivered, increasing efficiency and productivity.
    • The name of the game in business is smart growth – how to do more with less – and every organization, company and government should find ways to use technology to drive smart growth.
    • Social media promote collaboration and knowledge sharing, which are essential to smart-growth strategies.
    • Economies that are aiming to adopt smart-growth models must invest in education and focus on developing skills and human resources.


    A solar panel is placed on top of a school in a rural area of India’s Karnataka state. Children come in the morning carrying batteries the size of a lunch box, which they plug in and charge up while they are in class. At the end of the day, the kids head home with their power supply packs. If any students skip school, their families do not get any electricity that night. Under this scheme, set-up costs are low, rural households have access to inexpensive power from a clean source, and children are motivated to go to school. In addition, parents can make some money by selling extra electricity to neighbours.

    While small in scale, this programme is a model of how technology can drive practical and affordable solutions to an infrastructure bottleneck or deficiency – in this case, the lack of power. The result: new growth and employment, while at the same time contributing to the development of clean energy. There are countless other ways in which technology is being adapted to change processes, the delivery of products and services, and the way business is done. The savings in time and resources can be spent on creating more business, driving more growth.

    In addition, the use of technology can make goods and services more accessible to more people, leading to greater social equity. Innovations in technology are reinventing how products and services are delivered in many developing economies. These innovations can often be replicated in other emerging markets and even retrofitted for developed countries, unleashing a new wave of growth.

    In a world of limited resources, surging population and rising consumption, the name of the game is smart growth – how to do more with less. Businesses, governments and a host of organizations including schools are using technology to do things differently and, as a result, increase productivity and efficiency. Teachers, for example, can conduct classes from home via videoconference at non-traditional hours, allowing students to work during the day. In many cases, smart-growth solutions are environmentally responsible.

    Green technologies such as nuclear and solar power are solving energy supply problems. Smart grids, mobile telephony and ICT technology are allowing for more efficient and sustainable use of energy. “Smart city” pilot projects are under way to demonstrate what technology can do. To replicate and scale up these new “frugal” models of clean growth will require public-private partnerships and the participation and support of businesses and the public.

    Educating people will be critical. Social media is already playing a major role. Companies around the world are using social media tools not just to communicate their smart-growth strategies to consumers and clients but also to deepen their internal and external networks. By promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing inside companies and between businesses, social networking has become a powerful driver of innovation and creativity. For this reason, it is essential that governments implement the right policies needed to foster Internet expansion and use. Companies should also understand the value of their knowledge assets and how to use the data and information they have or can access to improve their productivity and efficiency.

    What are the guiding principles or basic ingredients of a smart-growth strategy? For businesses, there are three requirements: to build as extensive networks as possible to create rich sources of data and information, to gather intelligence from these networks to improve productivity and efficiency, and to ensure that data and information are secure. To develop smart-growth strategies requires talented people. If countries are to shape smart-growth models, they will need to focus on skills and human resources development. Investing in education, especially at the primary and secondary levels, is crucial. The United States, in particular, must revamp its education system to improve student performance in fundamental areas such as reading, the sciences and mathematics.


    This summary was written by Alejandro Reyes. The views expressed are those of certain participants in the discussion and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participants or of the World Economic Forum.

    Copyright 2012 World Economic Forum

    This material may be copied, photocopied, duplicated and shared, provided that it is clearly attributed to the World Economic Forum. This material may not be used for commercial purposes.

    Keywords: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012, Davos, Klaus Schwab, Great Transformations, New Models, economics, social and technological models, defining models, markets for growth, technology, growth, knowledge sharing, education, social media



    Vittorio Colao

    , Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone Group, United Kingdom; Co-Chair of the Governors Meeting for IT & Telecommunications 2012

    Angel Gurría

    , Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris; Global Agenda Council on Water Security

    Harish Hande

    , Managing Director, SELCO Solar Light, India; Social Entrepreneur

    Atsutoshi Nishida

    , Chairman of the Board, Toshiba Corporation, Japan

    Sheryl Sandberg

    , Chief Operating Officer, Facebook, USA; Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012; Young Global Leader

    Moderated by

    William D. Green

    , Chairman, Accenture, USA



  • Vittorio Colao Vittorio Colao
    Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone Group, United Kingdom

    Degree in Business, Bocconi University; MBA, Harvard Business School. Formerly: Chief Operating Offi...

  • Sheryl Sandberg Sheryl Sandberg
    Chief Operating Officer and Member of the Board, Facebook, USA

    BA, MBA, Harvard University. Former: Economist, World Bank; Chief of Staff, US Treasury; Vice-Presid...

  • Atsutoshi Nishida Atsutoshi Nishida
    Chairman of the Board, Toshiba Corporation, Japan

    MA in Political Philosophy, Tokyo University. Since 1975, with Toshiba: commercialization of world's...

  • Angel Gurría Angel Gurría
    Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris

    Graduate, School of Economics, National Autonomous University of Mexico; Master's in Development Fin...

  • Harish Hande Harish Hande
    Managing Director, SELCO Solar Light, India

    BTech, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur; MS and PhD, University of Massachusetts. Co-Founde...

Moderated by

  • William D. Green William D. Green
    Former Chairman, Accenture, USA

    BSc in Economics, MBA and Hon. Doctor of Laws, Babson College. Since 1977, with Accenture: former CE...