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Future of the Connected World

News Release

From Vaccine Delivery to Remote Working, Experts Predict Internet-Enabled Devices Will Shape Global COVID-19 Recovery

> Increased dependency on technology during the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the enormous benefits and new challenges posed by our connected world

> Industry and public-sector leaders are calling for immediate collective action to ensure internet-enabled devices can fairly benefit and protect society

> 37 world-leading initiatives in six continents have come together as part of a multi-year effort to shape the development of the internet of things

Geneva, Switzerland, 9 December 2020 – As the world awaits a COVID-19 vaccine, attention is focused on how to track and safely deliver these temperature-sensitive vaccines to billions of people. Sensors and internet-enabled devices are expected to play a central role in this process, much as they have throughout the pandemic.

COVID-19 has accelerated global trends towards remote working, telehealth, distance learning and automation, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Global Internet of Things (IoT) Council and PwC. The pandemic is also boasting adoption of wearable technologies like fitness trackers and smart-home devices. As the dependency on connected technologies increases, so do the associated risks and the need for good governance.

“The maturity of governance continues to lag behind the pace of technological change,” said Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies of South Africa and Co-Chair of the Global IoT Council. “We must come together and act now to ensure these technologies become a force for shared societal benefit, as opposed to exacerbating existing inequalities.”

According to the State of the Connected World report, strengthening security and privacy is not the only priority to realize the potential of our 22 billion internet connected devices. As IoT continues to expand and provide new benefits to individuals, businesses and communities, the ability of these connected devices and systems to fairly benefit and protect society was highlighted as the largest governance gap, based on surveys and interviews with more than 400 subject matter experts worldwide.

Report findings highlight the need to mobilize in five critical areas:

-- building transparency and trust into the heart of IoT technologies

-- ensuring public privacy and security is protected

-- providing equal access for all

-- incentivizing the use of IoT to help solve humankind’s biggest challenges

-- bringing people together to create a global consensus on these critical issues

To advance these five actions and shape the future development of the IoT, the World Economic Forum has brought together 37 world-leading initiatives in six continents as part of a multi-year, global action plan. These new initiatives include:

> Consumers International, Carnegie Mellon University, Zigbee Alliance, UL, Arçelik A.Ş. and Libelium are launching a global coalition to improve the trustworthiness of consumer IoT devices and help consumers better understand the benefits and risks associated with these products. Action will focus on building consensus on device safeguards and standards throughout the ecosystem of internet-enabled consumer electronic devices, such as voice assistants, security cameras and wearable technologies.

This work will be complemented by an emerging public-private partnership including Helpful Places, Digital Public Square and the City of Boston, which are working to increase transparency and signage for the use of digital technologies in public spaces.

> Brazil, Colombia, Kazahkstan, South Africa and Turkey are working together to help build the technological capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises. The partnership aims to reach more than 5,000 companies within the next three years with new training and support services.

> 36 cities around the world including Buenos Aires, Istanbul, London, Medellín and Mexico City, will pioneer a global policy road map for the responsible and ethical use of connected technologies as part of the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance. This includes the launch of new policies related privacy, security and digital infrastructure.

The World Economic Forum aims to develop this work through a year-long series of activities, which formally begin on 10 December 2020. An initial report to document progress on the global action plan will be shared as part of the World Economic Forum’s Global Technology Governance Summit on 6-7 April 2021.

“With the emergence of 5G and IoT, we are on the cusp of unleashing the power of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and enabling the digital transformation of industries around the world,” said Cristiano Amon, President of Qualcomm Incorporated and Co-Chair of the Global IoT Council. “The combination of these essential technologies has the potential to shape the future of the internet, connecting everything to the cloud. Through the Council’s close collaboration with ecosystem partners, governments and policy-makers, we strive to ensure privacy, security and equity in the design and deployment of IoT systems."

“As the internet of things becomes a part of our daily lives, it is essential that we build upon the last three decades of learning from the World Wide Web, ensuring that these technologies create a digital future that is safe and empowering for everyone. Governments, companies and citizens need to work together in innovative public-private partnerships to create this digital future” said Adrian Lovett, President and Chief Executive Officer of the World Wide Web Foundation and Co-Chair of the Global IoT Council.

“This report highlights the enormous potential for IoT to accelerate sustainable and equitable growth, especially as it relates to equipping the next generation with critical skills to take advantage of these emerging technologies,” said Mohamed Kande, Vice-Chair, Global Advisory Leader, PwC. “These insights couldn’t be more timely as IoT has been used to reduce business interruptions and improve workforce safety during the COVID-19 pandemic with contact tracing and other preventative applications. It will also have a critical role to play in solving the global challenge to manufacture and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.”

What global leaders are saying about this initiative

“As the world and everything around us becomes smarter and more aware through rapid advancements of IoT technologies, our lives will be increasingly impacted by decisions made by these smart systems. It is therefore crucial for governments, corporations and innovators to be aware and actively engage in safeguards and measures that would detect and eliminate propagation of and any built in, usually unintentional biases,” said Anousheh Ansari, Chief Executive Officer, XPRIZE Foundation.

“COVID-19 has accelerated digitalization at all levels in our society, which is a great opportunity to deal with world challenges. However, in order to make technology accessible it is absolutely necessary to ensure inclusive and understandable privacy at all levels, making sure that nobody is left behind in this process,” said Alicia Asín, Chief Executive Officer, Libelium.

“Companies have tried to build the best experience for their customers with their connected product portfolios. It is clear that trustworthiness is as important as the quality of products. To enable a more connected world, a multistakeholder community is critically important to improve trust globally,” said Nihat Bayiz, Head of Research and Development, Arçelik A.Ş.

“The internet of things presents society and the economy with endless opportunities, but to realize the benefits of these new technologies they must be developed and adopted safely and securely. With these new opportunities come new cybersecurity challenges that must be addressed by collaborative work between the public and private sectors. The PETRAS National Centre of Excellence, the world’s largest socio-technical research centre focused on the future implementation of the IoT, has made great strides in this area and looks forward to engaging with the Future of Connected World initiative,” said Madeline Carr, Professor of Global Politics and Cybersecurity, University College London.

“The inevitably more connected world requires us as business leaders to take responsibility and protect the privacy and dignity of the consumers and enterprises we serve. Businesses have a distinct opportunity to surprise all the stakeholders in their ecosystem by adopting voluntary guardrails respecting the rights of all parties. The Future of Connected World is a profoundly relevant initiative to guide all stakeholders to fulfil these shared responsibilities,” said Fadi Chehade, Co-Chief Executive Officer, Ethos Capital.

“A critical report if you want to put IoT at the service of society. As the use of IoT grows and its presence becomes increasingly more ubiquitous in different areas of our lives, this report tells us both about the benefits and societal challenges of IoT," said Cristina Colom, Director, Digital Future Society, Mobile World Capital Barcelona.

“A trusted safe and secure connection and communication between the humans and internet of things will enable global collaboration and eliminate the borders by creating smart citizens in a virtual world,” said Sridhar Gadhi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Quantela.

“More than just digital infrastructure, IoT is a pathway to addressing humanity’s most critical challenges and a global opportunity to democratize access to innovation and technology at a pivotal time for our society. Carnegie Mellon is pleased to be a part of this important initiative and to celebrate the release of the World Economic Forum State of the Connected World report, which will help leaders in government, industry, NGOs and academia come together around a common vision and action plan for maximizing the extraordinary potential of IoT,” said Farnam Jahanian, President, Carnegie Mellon University.

“Global collaboration to accelerate connectivity in under-resourced and underserved parts of our world through new funding models, incentives and capacity building will serve to rebalance profit sharing in the general interest and to harness our awareness of the interconnectedness towards a reality of shared destiny, in which technology becomes a driver for social, economic and environmental sustainability in the Great Reset,” said Fanyu Lin, Chief Executive Officer, Fluxus.

“Recent history has shown how important it is to have honest conversations about the potential negative impact of technology and take action before the worst happens. The Global IoT Council is the best place I can think of to host many of these conversations and prepare the much needed action plans to preserve a Human Rights by Design internet,” said Julie Owono, Executive Director, Internet Without Borders.

“A common part of everything we do as humans each day hinges on digital connections; as we evolve that global IoT existence, it’s critical we work across academia, industry, public and private sectors to help build consumer trust, ensure the right levels of security, and provide transparency along the way,” said Tobin Richardson, President and CEO, Zigbee Alliance. “From a connectivity standards perspective, our Alliance bears a major responsibility in unifying and simplifying the internet of things, and we look forward to contributing our collective expertise to the Trustworthy IoT Coalition by working alongside Consumers International, Carnegie Mellon University and other industry colleagues to advocate for smart, safe connections.”

“Today, businesses throughout the entire world are connected by IoT,” said Richard Soley, Executive Director, Industrial Internet Consortium. “The next step is leveraging IoT for better business outcomes, or digital transformation, which is the main focus of the Industrial Internet Consortium.”

Media Kit

Media inquiries related to this initiative can be directed to Aylin Elci, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum, +41 75 404 10 95, aelc@weforum.org

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