World Economic Forum

Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The Centre is co-designing and piloting policy frameworks and governance protocols across six areas of focus.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

The impacts of artificial intelligence can already be seen in our homes, across businesses and impacting our political processes. In its embodied form of robots, it will soon be driving our cars, stocking our warehouses and caring for the young and elderly. Rapid advances in machine learning hold the promise of solving some of the most pressing issues facing society, but also present challenges such as inscrutable “black box” algorithms, unethical use of data and potential job displacement. As rapid advances in machine learning increase the scope and scale of AI’s deployment, multistakeholder collaboration is required to optimize accountability, transparency, privacy and impartiality to create trust. Project areas include: decision-making tools for corporate boards, protocols for government use of AI and standards for AI targeted at children.

Read our latest White Paper here:
AI Governance: A Holistic Approach to Implement Ethics into AI

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Internet of Things, Robotics and Smart Cities

There are more connected devices in the world today than there are humans. Commonly known as the Internet of Things (IoT), they come in infinite forms – from smart building technologies that monitor and manage energy usage, to connected vehicles that help anticipate and avoid potential collision. By 2020, the number of IoT devices is projected to exceed 20 billion, owing to continued technological advances and the plummeting costs of computing, storage and connectivity.

As IoT technologies continue to affect all aspects of daily life, and as intimately as being embedded in the human body, questions about data ownership, accuracy and privacy protection are taking on ever greater importance. Similarly, in an interconnected world where electric grids, public infrastructure, vehicles, homes and workplaces are capable of being accessed and controlled remotely, the vulnerability to cyber-attacks and the potential for these security breaches to cause serious harm are unprecedented.

Read our latest White Paper here:
Industrial Internet of Things: Safety and Security Protocol

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Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology

Blockchain, a relatively nascent technology that enables the decentralized and secure storage and transfer of information, has already proven itself to be a powerful tracking and transaction tool. It can minimize friction, reduce corruption, increase trust and empower users. Revolutionary use cases are being explored in almost every sector, ranging from finance to energy to shipping and media. The challenge is to unlock this potential in a way that ensures inclusion, safety, interoperability and scale. This project will work to advance the principles of good governance to support the infrastructure underlying, and the applications built on, distributed ledger technology. Project areas include: digital identify and certification, supply chain integration, smart contracts, and currency and monetary systems.

Read our latest White Paper here:
Blockchain Beyond the Hype

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Data Policy

Data is the oxygen that fuels the fire of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. More data is being generated than ever before, with the global volume of data predicted to double between 2018 and 2022, and then double again between 2022 and 2025. The ever-growing deluge of data is driven by the rapidly expanding universe of connected devices via the internet of things (IoT) and by breakthroughs in autonomous vehicles, drone technology and the growing availability of genomic testing. That very data, in turn, is leveraged through machine learning to make AI possible and to power advances in precision medicine, diagnostics and predictive analytics used across industries.

As data is increasingly generated and collected globally, businesses require clearer and more practical data policies, while policy-makers need better tools to develop future-oriented and agile frameworks for data regulation that will allow for innovation, but protect individual privacy. The Data Policy project focuses on maximizing the humanitarian and beneficial uses of data while seeking to develop practical solutions using a multistakeholder approach to policy-making.

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Autonomous and Urban Mobility

As the world continues to urbanize, public- and private- sector leaders are developing new mobility solutions. In particular, autonomous vehicles have the potential to improve road safety, decrease pollution levels, reduce congestion and transform the design of our cities. For consumers, autonomous vehicles can reduce waiting times, increase productivity and save costs, particularly when the vehicles are shared with others. However, transitioning to autonomous vehicles involved a disruptive shift that is bound to reshape public and private transportation systems, leaving many players behind if they fail to keep pace with emerging technologies. Collaboration among business and government leaders is needed to jointly identify the best strategies to accelerating the adoption of autonomous mobility in safe, clean and inclusive manner.

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Drones and Tomorrow’s Airspace

Unmanned aircraft systems, commonly referred to as drones, are democratizing the sky and enabling new participants in aviation. Drones already have the ability to increase crop yields, make dangerous jobs safer and act as a lifeline for remote populations. Autonomously piloted systems have the potential to revolutionize how people and goods are transported and to support entirely new and disbursed economic society.

Although drones have the potential to transform business models and tackle societal challenges around the globe, governments are struggling to find ways to encourage innovation while maintaining public safety and confidence. Large companies, as well as a growing start-up ecosystem, are hindered in their ability to invest and expand. Enabling millions of manned and unmanned aircraft to fly concurrently will also require new types of airspace management, physical infrastructure, and privacy and data ownership policies. Laying the right policy foundation and platforms for industry cooperation today, both through smart government regulation and industry-driven standards, will accelerate the adoption of new use cases and business models once the enabling technology and infrastructure is mature.

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