Davos 2014: Call to exploit disruptive technologies

The 44th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum has ended with the business, government and civil society leaders stressing the importance of taking advantage of the disruptive impact of technology.

“We really are living in a hyperconnected reality, which while it can be disruptive can also be incredibly productive,” says Yahoo chief executive officer Marissa Mayer, who co-chaired the wrapup session of the three-day summit.

“Disruption usually results in productivity gains and redistribution of wealth. We need to use that redistribution of wealth to fuel investment in education, communication and inclusion to get a nice virtual cycle and make sure that the productivity gets used to solve some of the global problems.”

How disruptive technology can generate inclusive growth was an important focus of the 2500 participants at the WEF.

“I am optimistic that we will see new kinds of jobs created, particularly to help with youth unemployment,” says Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. “Technology can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”

Two other meeting co-chairs identified regulations as a disruptive uncertainty that they expected to have to deal with in their businesses this year.

“New regulations are being launched, but there are different rules across countries,” says Jiang Jianqing, chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. “The finance industry has to face this challenge.”

Christophe de Margerie, chairman and CEO of energy group Total, said the outline of a new global agreement on climate to be adopted in 2015 will emerge this year.

“Can we invest without knowing what will be the regulations? And what will be the tax framework? We need to have one. If we are not told how we in business will be treated, if we will be treated as enemies, I don’t know how it will work,” he says.

In several sessions focusing on global economy, leading finance officials asserted that the economic recovery is strengthening, with the US showing strong core growth. US Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew says he expects 3% growth in 2014 but warns the US Congress may create a “false crisis” by failing to raise the debt ceiling promptly.

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi warned that while Europe is recovering, governments must commit to pursuing structural reforms.

Others expressed concerns about possible volatility in capital markets and currencies due to the lack of coordination in the unwinding, or tapering, of the exceptionally supportive monetary policy in the US and other economies.

“New risks include how tapering takes place, at which speed, how it is communicated and what spillover effects it has,” said Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She also issued a strong plea for gender parity.

“The position of women is getting better but we have to keep at it,” she urged. “We don’t have equal pay for equal jobs. This doesn’t just need to be reset; it needs to be fixed.” 

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Nothing more disruptive than bitcoin .... it's coming.

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Perhaps some good will come out of Davos after all!

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