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Davos 2014: Japanese reforms, tech heads’ plea and more

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the next targets for his reform programme are to liberalise its electricity sector and to turn its healthcare system into a centre of “regenerative medicine.”

In his speech to the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos he likened himself to a “drillbit” that will break through the “solid rock of vested interests.”

Commenting on the rise in tensions between Japan and China over territorial claims, he called for the creation of a mechanism for “crisis management” in Asia and a communication channel between “our armed forces.”

“Japan has sworn an oath to never again wage war… We will continue to be wishing for the world to be at peace,” he said.

Privacy transparency plea
Chief executives from leading technology companies at called for greater transparency over what user data is collected from governments in the name of security.

At “The New Digital Context” session, Yahoo  head Marissa Mayer said the US administration needs to more clearly identify what kind of data are collected by the National Security Agency and what they are used for.

“[We need it] so we can help our users understand exactly how many requests we are getting and the range of types of requests we are getting [...] We need to be able to rebuild trust with our users,” she said.

“Usually when you make a trade-off for privacy, it’s very clear what is being looked for and how the information is being used. When you go through security at the airport or when you sign up for a driver’s licence, you know exactly what you are disclosing to the government and you know what you get in exchange. I think what’s murky about some of what’s happening today is that people don’t necessarily know what information is being collected and how it’s being used.”

BT Group’s Gavin Patterson said 100% privacy would be unlikely, because it would mean 0% national security.

“I think when it comes down to it, people recognise they have to give up some of that privacy in order to be protected."

Another approach is letting the users have a stronger say in the level of privacy. Randall Stephenson, CEO at AT&T, welcomed the transparency debate, noting that users need to dictate themselves how they want to own the data.

“We came out of 9/11 in 2001 and the pendulum really swung toward security. Now people are saying security versus privacy, there’s a balance here. And I think at the end of the day the customer needs to have a lot to say in where that pendulum sits.”

Dr Doom's Tweeting treats
New York University economist Nouriel Roubini – known as “Dr Doom” for his bearish predictions – says he’s paying attention to the debates, noting in particular those on what he calls the “drivers of inequality:”  labour-saving technological change, globalisation, the power of elites and “winner-takes-all effects.”

He’s also sharing his own take through Twitter on what’s next for global economies, with that tech shift in mind.

“In the third manufacturing revolution we will have robotics, automation, 3-D printing [and] nanotechnologies. But only skilled jobs will be created.”

On the prospects for Germany, the UK and their continental economic allies: “Is Europe back? Tail risks reduced, but fundamental weaknesses remain chronic.”

And from behind the scenes: “Scariest comment at the WEF so far: Chinese analysts saying in private that a limited war between China and Japan is possible.”