Spotlight: Cooperation, inclusion, AI and re-skilling -- four key words from 2019 WEF Davos Meeting

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-25 22:36:35|Editor: Yang Yi
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DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- The 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting wrapped up Friday here at the snow-covered town of Davos in Switzerland.

Participated by hundreds of world leaders from all circles of life, during the four days of packed sessions, a lot of topics have been discussed, from the current global challenges, the future of Europe, the fighting to save the oceans to setting rules for the AI race.

However, what impressed the world the most might be these for key words -- cooperation, inclusion, AI and re-skilling.


When 3000 global elites gathered again at Davos on Jan. 22-25 for the event, they were told that the theme of this year's meeting is "Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution".

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of WEF, explained that since the challenges associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) are coinciding with the rapid emergence of the many problems of the global governance, a new era of globalization is needed to be shaped, and that's globalization 4.0.

That is, the globalization 4.0 is both outcomes and solutions for many of the big issues of our time -- as being listed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres -- global politics and geopolitical tensions, the slowdown of global economy, climate changes, immigration and digitalization.

In a special address to this year's Davos meeting, Guterres said that in order to achieve a better world, there is no other way to deal with global challenges with global responses, and organized in a multilateral way.

"If I had to select one sentence to describe the state of the world, I would say we are in a world in which global challenges are more and more integrated and the responses are more and more fragmented. And if this is not reversed, it's a recipe for disaster," he noted.

"It needs to be a multilateralism in which not only states are part of the system, but in which more and more, the business community, the civil society, the academia, they are all part of the way to analyze problems, to define strategies, to define policies, and then to implement them."

Under the background of 4IR, Guterres highlighted the "digital cooperation", saying that "we need to find a minimum of consensus in the world on how to integrate these new technologies in existed human rules".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also presented a full-throated defense of the collaborative development of a new global architecture at this year's Davos meeting.

In her special address, the Chancellor said that all our major problems, including the future of artificial intelligence, will require global cooperation and engagement through a collective architecture.

"I stand here before you as someone who believes fully in the international order," she said.


Obviously, 4IR, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution was one of the core concepts behind all the discussion during this year's Davos meeting. It is creating huge economic opportunities while also raising concerns on the many changes it will bring about.

According to the latest figure from this year's WEF meeting, the 4IR is projected to unlock 3.7 trillion U.S. dollars in economic value by 2025, and digital flows now exert a larger impact on GDP growth than merchandise trade, making it easier for companies to globalize with less capital-intensive business models.

For IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, one of the major negative effects of 4IR is that it could leave many people feeling disenfranchised and left behind.

How can we ensure the full use of the digital globalization but at the same time avoid the negative effects? The answer is "inclusion".

"There is always a moment in every industrial revolution where inequality grows. We then have to create a social revolution. Without it the industrial revolution keeps misfiring," Hilary Cottam, Author and Entrepreneur, told the forum.

In every industrial revolution, the human beings have a social revolution, she emphasized, and this does not happen by accident. "It happens by design" and the state has a critical role to play in designing that new architecture.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said at the meeting that according to their study, extreme economic inequality is out of control and at present, 10,000 people will die everyday because they can't access public health.

According to her, even with the tech changes, we are now in an economy that is rigged in such a way that a few get better off and many others don't. "We have to get governments to get behind managing the economies better," she said.

For Robert E. Moritz, Global Chairman of PwC International, business has a huge role to play in this respect.

According to Subramanian Rangan, a Professor of Strategy, since Nordic countries have less inequality and they are the highest adopters of technology, "Technology is not the problem" and how people use technology is the big thing, he said.

"We need moral capital to complement this cyber capital. If you are not willing to sacrifice things, there will be no trust," he argued.

For Alibaba founder Ma Yun, the reason why some people don't believe in globalization is because "it is not inclusive". So, how can we improve it? His answer is to include much more people to this process.

"In the last 20 years, globalization was controlled by 60,000 companies worldwide, imagine if we could expand that to 60 million businesses," Ma said.


At Davos this winter, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been the most popular subject of discussion.

According to the latest figure from this year's Davos, AI has been projected to manage one trillion U.S. dollars in assets by 2020 and will transform the world in dramatic ways and will be the fastest growing trend in business under 4IR.

Saying AI is ensuring efficient operating systems for merchants, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang described the excitement around AI amusing given that Alibaba has been using this technology for years.

Amitabh Kant, Chief Executive Officer of National Institution for Transforming India (NITI), said that the objective should be to use AI to transform for the benefit of all, to ensure AI doesn't remain elitist.

Accordign to Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chairman of Siemens, the most important thing is that we should use AI to enhance human capability, but not just to replace them.


Another most attractive topic is this year's Davos is learning today for tomorrow's jobs, or re-skilling.

According to a WEF report released just ahead of this year's annual meeting, a total of 1.4 million U.S. workers might lose their jobs as a result of the 4IR and other structural changes over the next decade.

However, the report found, it will be possible to transition 95 percent of at-risk workers into positions that have similar skills and higher wages through re-skilling.

Figures released from this year's Davos meeting also showed that some 65 percent of children entering primary school today will graduate into jobs that do not yet exist, implying that a new learning and re-skilling revolution will be necessary to prepare workers and societies for the future coming soon.

Even in the educationally-advanced U.S., some panelists at the meeting said, as many as 43 percent of recent college graduates in the United States are underemployed in their first job out of college.

Bill Thomas, Global Chairman of KPMG, said that since the pace of change is increasing, the commitment to lifelong learning is going to become a competitive advantage if companies want to attract new generation to join.

"Today access to capital is easier than access to skills," said Muriel Penicaud, France's Minister of Labor, who also mentioned her re-skilling proposal which includes giving employees 500 euros (568.5 U.S. dollars) a year to choose their own training program.

"Many of our citizens think they are victims of globalization and technology. When you are not in the driving seat, change is always a threat. You need to be in the driving seat, you need to be able to choose your future," she said.

According to Julie Gebauer, head of Human Capital and Benefits at Willis Towers Watson, there are a whole set of human skills that are going to be important in the future -- the ability to interact with clients, global skills, the ability to use digital technology, complex problem solving ability and agile thinking.

"I don't think computers are going to take that away any time soon," she said.