The discussion of these panels “In tech we trust” and “The future of digital economy” in Davos 2015, gathered some of the most top class experts and CEOs in this field such as Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google, USA, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer and Member of the Board, Facebook, USA, Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft Corporation, USA, Marc R. Benioff, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Salesforce, USA, Marissa Mayer, President and Chief Executive Officer, Yahoo, Tim Berners-Lee, Professor of Engineering, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, USA, and Vittorio Colao, Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone Group, United Kingdom .
All of them agreed on the positive aspects and great advantages of the digital economy from the healthcare, farming or education standpoint and it’s extraordinary positive impact in society. However it was also pointed out there have also been some negative developments such as the growing social inequality affected by the technology evolvement or the loss of privacy.
In this sessions there were several very important subjects tackled, such as education in the digital economy new world. Eric Schmidt assured “ Think about learning and education with all the new tools that are being built. We are on the cusp of the acceleration of that and it’s almost overwhelmingly good.” As to the future of internet his idea was very clear“[In the future], the Internet will disappear… you won’t even sense it, it will be part of your presence all the time.
Most of the panelists insisted also on the empowerment through technology. Sheryl Sandberg, insisted “If we can extend [the internet] to more people, we increase voice… we increase economic opportunity… and we increase equality.”
Satya Nadella was also interested in the human potential “I’m most grounded on the role of technology. Ultimately to me it’s about the human capital and the human potential and technology empowers humans to do great things. You have to be optimistic about what technology can do in the hands of humans.”
Besides Eric Schmidt pointed out the extraordinary empowerment of people through technological progress “Everyone gets smarter because of this technology… and the empowerment of people is the secret to technological progress.“
Regarding the future smartphones Eric Schmidt was very clear on their huge importance and impact in today´s and our future society. “New developments in machine intelligence will make us far smarter as a result, for everyone on the planet. It’s because our smart phones are basically supercomputers. He added “Around 400 million people in the last year got a smartphone. If you think that’s a big deal, imagine the impact on that person in the developing world.”
From a more technical perspective, on the bandwith subject Microsoft’s Nadella assured “there’s a consensus that low-cost bandwidth is a must.”
Other relevant aspects such as women and their social role in the digital world and the role of social media were also mentioned. Sheryl Sandberg also assured “The benefits of getting women connected often outweigh the benefits of getting men connected because they will put their investments back into the education and health care of their children.”
She also asserted that “ Social Media has created a historical shift from the historical powerful to the historical powerless. Now everyone has a voice”
Safety and privacy were also very recurrent subjects which preoccupied all of the speakers . Satya Nadella stated “We’ve got to get this balance between privacy and at the same time use of data for legitimate public safety. The internet is one of the greatest global goods, and common goods. If we destroy it, we destroy a lot of our economic future.”
On the other hand Marc R. Benioff added “ Trust is a serious problem, we have to get to a new level of transparency – only through radical transparency will we get to radical new levels of trust.”
As to the Snowden subject Marissa Mayer maintained “A reaction to Snowden was that you saw a lot of people became more concerned about their privacy and it became a lot more about encryption”. Marissa also insisted on the data protection subject assuring “What is clear is that users own their data and should have control of their data is used”
From an academic perspective on the safety issue , Tim Berners-Lee conveyed “I hope that if we come back here next year we’ll be talking about things very much more positively. So rather than just worrying about the niggling fears that people are going to be spying on us and doing the wrong things with our data, instead I hope we will have woken up to the completely exciting possibilities when it comes to our data.” He added “I hope that we’ll be in a situation where I can store data wherever I like, but it’s stored there in a way it’s treated as mine.”
As to the future of the digital world and the digital economy Vittorio Colao, launched his wrap-up vision “My vision for the future state of the digital economy – I see a movie. I see a story of everybody connected with very low latency, very high speed, ultra-dense connectivity available. Today you’re at the start of something amazing… I see the freeing up, not just of productivity and money, but also positive energy which can bring a more equal world.” He continued “To me the biggest question for the future is will we really continue in the future to licence spectrum – do governments licence oxygen? No. The Internet is oxygen, it’s water.” “I can tell you that this is just the beginning of a great story, it is like a movie. We are at the beginning of something amazing. In Turkey, we have farmers who are using our technology and 50 per cent of them are women. Then there is education of teachers in Africa..” “We need to see the benefit of technology and make sure that this movie gets a happy ending.”
What has been clear in Davos is that everyone sees the need to build partnerships between business, governments and the civil society that can create a new framework and action plan to ensure that the childhood inherit a better world for the future and the digital world will play a fundamental role with more positive content and media literacy throughout the world.