A critical question in today’s world is how to stimulate global, sustainable, and equitable growth. Addressing this question is imperative to driving long-term economic value, enabling individuals to improve their lives and ensuring a healthy future for the world we inhabit.
I am honored to co-chair the World Economic Forum’s ninth Annual Meeting of the New Champions on innovation, science and technology to explore this challenge.
It is also deeply fitting that these discussions are being held in China, which has experienced a degree of growth and development that was almost unimaginable 30 years ago when I was an exchange student studying at Peking University in Beijing.
Today, global growth indicators paint an unsteady and uncertain picture. Past techniques of stimulating economic value creation must be supplemented to meet today’s conditions. Economic fragility threatens wages and living standards. Billions more people must find paths of greater economic opportunity. Simultaneously, we must find solutions that are sustainable for economies and for our planet.
The upcoming Annual Meeting of the New Champions explores innovative and entrepreneurial responses to these challenges. We will do so within the context of an interconnected world. Our economies are interconnected, our technologies are deeply connected, and of course the effects on our planet are interconnected.
Within this framework of interconnectedness, innovation and technology will be key drivers of global, sustainable and equitable growth. To get there, we must rely on one of the most important technological innovations of our time — the internet. It connects us. It brings together people with varying ideas and backgrounds. It fosters innovation and opportunity.
The internet has changed the way we work, interact, ideate, learn, create and share. And yet, in some ways, it’s still in its early stages of what’s possible. One estimate shows that extending internet access to the levels of today’s developed countries could build long-term productivity by as much as 25%.
My organization — Mozilla — is focused on building the internet as a global public resource that sparks opportunity for all. Mozilla uses internet technology and a global employee and volunteer base to stimulate growth for individuals and economies in new ways, while maintaining deep respect for the individual.
The upcoming meeting offers a unique opportunity to advance this discussion. First, the Forum convenes a wide range of decision-makers, and mixes in an impressive set of experts and innovators. The breadth of people and insights to address complex topics is a rare and valuable asset. The mixture of economic expertise with technology and innovation knowledge is another unusual and valuable aspect of this meeting.
In addition, the Forum is an advocate of a process known as multi-stakeholderism. This process brings together governments, business and civil society groups into a shared decision-making process. Multi-stakeholderism is a critical part of how we will develop global, sustainable and equitable growth. We need governments to represent their citizens. We need business as the economic engine. And we need civil society groups to represent all the aspects of human dignity and citizenship that aren’t always addressed through economic development. Without a multi-stakeholder approach, we risk polarized societies, and uneven innovation and economic growth.
Finally, this meeting has a strong focus on innovation. Innovation grows from a mindset, backed by a supportive economic and social setting. It can be disruptive, where immense economic and social value is unlocked by shifting forever previously successful business models. The Industrial Revolution is a clear example of this, as is the internet. When innovation is disruptive, we see stronger efforts to stop it, to harness it, and to reign in its impact in ways that don’t challenge or obsolete existing models. Resolving these tensions in ways that allow innovation to thrive is critical. A fierce commitment to innovation is extremely important in creating significant and long-term opportunities.
Today’s challenge is to stimulate economic growth that is global, equitable and sustainable. Our opportunity is to enable the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit in each of us – empowering innovation wherever it sparks. I am delighted to serve as co-chair of the upcoming meeting to address these issues.
Author: Mitchell Baker is Executive Chairwoman of Mozilla Foundation, USA, and a co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2015, which is taking place in Dalian, China, from 9-11 September
Image: A worker walks past second-hand robots in a factory in Shanghai, August 21, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song