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 nine 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.

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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.

The World Economic Forum supports the development of policy frameworks and government protocols that maximize the societal benefits of IoT technologies while mitigating their risks. Project areas include: safety and security, privacy and data integrity, system architecture and interoperability, societal benefit and equity, and the economic viability of solutions.

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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Autonomous and Urban Mobility

As global urbanization grows, public and private sector leaders must launch new mobility solutions to address people’s needs, while also minimizing increasingly complex social, economic, and environmental challenges. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to improve road safety, decrease pollution levels, reduce congestion and increase traffic efficiency. However, this transition involves a disruptive industry shift bound to reshape public and private transportation. Collaboration across industries and sectors is needed to jointly identify the best strategies for accelerating the adoption of autonomous mobility in a safe, clean and inclusive manner. This project provides a platform for city and business leaders to work together to understand and pilot autonomous and shared vehicle fleets –- generating key insights, policy frameworks and governance protocols that can be scaled globally to transform urban mobility. Project areas include: scaling insights from the City of Boston pilot project, developing city-wide mobility and data management platforms, launching the New Mobility Coalition and building CityWeb knowledge platform for city transportation officials and leading executives.

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Drones and Tomorrow’s Airspace

Unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones, are democratizing the sky. Each day, participants in the drone ecosystem are discovering new uses for this transformative technology – from delivering packages and lifesaving medicines to airborne taxis and photographing the world. Scaling up our use of airspace to enable millions of craft to fly safely will require smart government regulation and industry-driven standards for airspace management, physical infrastructure and privacy and data ownership policies. Project areas include: New paradigms for drone regulation, drone delivery for remote populations, policies for drone-derived data, reimagining aircraft certification and protocols for medical delivery.

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Precision Medicine

Precision medicine offers the opportunity to harness emerging technologies to tailor diagnosis and treatment of disease to a specific person or population, improving outcomes and potentially lower costs. This project aims to support the building and testing of policy frameworks to realize the benefits of precision medicine for society, while reducing risks. Project areas include: generating evidence of precision medicine’s effectiveness; data-sharing and related infrastructure; integrating a precision medicine approach into clinical practice; new approaches to regulation, pricing and reimbursement for diagnostics and treatment; and patient and public engagement.

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Digital Trade

Global e-commerce generated trillions of dollars in economic activity in 2017 and is growing exponentially. The free flow of data is essential to this growth as well as scaling the societal benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These benefits range from providing small businesses anywhere in the world with access to the global marketplace, to allowing for remote medical diagnosis and treatment in underserved communities. However, trade policy must evolve to empower new forms of digital commerce and cross-border data flows, addressing such challenges such as outdated regulations, fragmented governance and strict data localization policies. Projects areas include: developing a regulatory toolkit for e-payments, new policies for enabling e-commerce, a risk-based approach to data transfers, leveraging new technology to enhance data protection, future-proofing data policies and accelerating innovation in trade technology.

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Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth

The well-being of human societies is intertwined with the environment. Natural resources fuel the growth of industries and economies, and the environment influences public issues as diverse as health, natural disaster response and recovery, and food and energy security. Increasingly urgent global environmental challenges – such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and ocean health – also need fresh solutions. This project aims to build and test governance frameworks to realize the benefits of technology for the environment and society, including understanding the environmental impact of new technologies, while mitigating harm arising from deployment. Project areas include: Blockchain for scaling renewable energy, environmental data for resilient communities and meeting the global demand for protein.

This project is linked to:

Shaping the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security

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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