- COVID-19 has accelerated the deployment of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.
- The past year also increased the risk of cyberattacks and exposed gaps in digital access.
- The Davos Agenda will highlight how we can continue to drive innovation while ensuring technologies are used responsibly and fairly.
COVID-19 has accelerated the deployment of new technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – reshaping how we work, shop, learn, socialize, even visit the doctor in ways likely to remain permanent long after the pandemic is under control.
The continued acceleration of technology will be critical to recovery. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics can help us better prepare for and respond to pandemics – and better screen for, diagnose and treat disease. At the same time, AI has the potential to boost global growth by as much as 14% by 2030.
Meanwhile, technology – and digital skills – will be core to many of the most in-demand jobs of the near future.
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But we must be careful to manage the risks, too – and responsibly govern tech to ensure its deployment does not exacerbate inequalities or expose people to risks.
From 25-29 January 2021, The Davos Agenda will bring global leaders together to discuss the next steps in the response to COVID-19, including the role - and regulation - of technology in formulating new policies and actions.
Where do we go from here?
Building back better must include working towards tech for good – here's how.
1. Close gaps in digital access
COVID-19 has sped up digitization – and “exposed even more clearly the gaps that still exist in digital access,” said the Forum’s report, "Accelerating Digital Inclusion in the New Normal". “When essential services such as health, education or simply being able to continue one’s professional activity depend on connectivity, the inequalities became exacerbated.”
For example,“10% of households in low-income countries are fixed broadband subscribers, compared to 70% and close to 90% in middle- and high-income countries, respectively,” said the report. Furthermore, even among households with internet access, many do not have internet that is fast enough for remote work or school.
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The report outlined targets for broadband access for 75% of the world by 2025, while ensuring it costs no more than 2% of earnings.
“If we are to emerge strongly from COVID-19 and tackle greater challenges, such as climate change, then not only do we need to continue the digital evolution, but we need to accelerate it with 5G at the forefront,” explained Börje Ekholm, President and CEO of Ericsson.
Governments also need to invest in digital skills training. Only 32% of people in lower-income economies and 62% in higher-income economies have basic digital skills – but basic digital skills, as well as more advanced ones, will be essential to surviving in this “new normal” and obtaining the jobs of tomorrow.
What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve digital intelligence in children?
The latest figures show that 56% of 8-12-year-olds across 29 countries are involved in at least one of the world's major cyber-risks: cyberbullying, video-game addiction, online sexual behaviour or meeting with strangers encountered on the web.
Using the Forum's platform to accelerate its work globally, #DQEveryChild, an initiative to increase the digital intelligence quotient (DQ) of children aged 8-12, has reduced cyber-risk exposure by 15%.
In March 2019, the DQ Global Standards Report 2019 was launched – the first attempt to define a global standard for digital literacy, skills and readiness across the education and technology sectors.
Our System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Media, Information and Entertainment has brought together key stakeholders to ensure better digital intelligence for children worldwide. Find our more about DQ Citizenship in our Impact Story.
2. Stop cybercrime and ensure data privacy and security
While technology has allowed people to continue some elements of normal life even during lockdowns, it’s also exposed us to greater risk of cybercrime.
Now, companies rank “cyberattacks and data fraud due to a sustained shift in working patterns” the #3 most-worrisome COVID-19 risk.
“Private sector data reveals a 350% surge in phishing websites since the start of the pandemic. The United Kingdom and United States have reported that a growing number of cyber criminals and other malicious groups are exploiting the situation for their own personal gain, and cyber criminals have used stimulus packages as the subject of phishing hoaxes,” wrote Belisario Contreras, Co-Chair of the Forum’s Global Future Council on Cybersecurity.
To take on these risks, governments must update or develop national cybersecurity frameworks, increase international cooperation and unify awareness campaigns, Contreras added.
3. Good tech governance
Technology governance is needed not only to stop cybercrime, but also to drive growth and innovation.
Take a look at AI. There are more than 80 international standards and frameworks governing the use and ethics of AI, but this can impose "burdensome and sometimes conflicting obligations on organizations operating across national boundaries,” said the Forum’s Global Risk Report 2020.
“The proliferation of standards also makes it more difficult for countries and companies to converge on a single one as more AI-enabled systems are adopted. Even more critical, international and national policies are not keeping up with technological advances,” the report explained.
The bottom line: “An essential consideration for governments, businesses and civil society is how these technologies are harnessed and regulated to accelerate growth, encourage innovation and build resiliency,” said the Forum’s new Global Technology Governance Report 2021. “How governments and other stakeholders approach the governance of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies will play an important role in how we reset society, the economy and the business environment.”
What to watch during Davos Agenda
From 25-29 January 2021, join us for special addresses, leadership panels and impact sessions that will address many of the challenges discussed above, including:
- Harnessing Technology for Environmental Sustainability, Wednesday 27 January 18:00-19:00
- Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Thursday 28 January 08:00-08:45 and 17:15-18:00
- Averting a Cyber Pandemic, Thursday 28 January 10:00-11:00 and Friday 29 January 18:00-19:00
- Colombian President Iván Duque
- Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel
- Ken Hu, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Huawei
- Brad Smith, President of Microsoft
- Jürgen Stock, Secretary General of INTERPOL
- Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture
- Xiao Yaqing, Minister of Industry and Information Technology of the People's Republic of China
- Michelle Zatlyn, President & COO of Cloudflare
You can watch the livestreamed sessions here.