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On Tuesday, January 23rd, the 48th World Economic Forum (WEF) got underway in Davos, Switzerland. This year, the world’s top business and political leaders, economists and representatives from academia are gathering under the theme of “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.” In this context, the participants will focus on inclusive growth, sustainable development and the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The main objective of the meeting is to engage chief executives, political leaders, academia members and technology pioneers to advance multiple agendas, such as the Global, Geopolitical, Economic, Regional, Industry and Business, and the Future Agenda.
In a press conference ahead of the meeting, key representatives gave an update on the World Economic Outlook. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), stated that “global growth has been accelerating since 2016, and all signs point to a continuous strengthening of this growth.”
In addition, the IMF’s Chief Economist Maurice Obstfeld revealed the IMF’s revised forecast for the world economy’s growth for 2018 and 2019: 3.9 percent, 0.2 percentage points higher than last October’s forecast. While this was good news, Obstfeld warned that “the present economic momentum reflects a confluence of factors that is unlikely to last for long.”
The Fourth Industrial Revolution was a central topic of discussion on Day 1 of the proceedings. In a press conference on “An Update on the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the panel announced the formation of global councils on various technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, the Internet of Things, precision medicine, autonomous vehicles and drones.
The panel highlighted the critical aspects of collaboration and private–public partnerships. “Governments just cannot keep up with the dramatic speed of technological innovation,” said Yoichi Funabashi, Head of the Asia Pacific Initiative. Funabashi further emphasized that radical technological innovation cannot be deployed at scale without public trust and due process. Governments are thus called upon to work with the private sector in new ways to find the best formulas for deploying new technologies and harmonizing governance.
Accenture events also began on Day 1 of the conference. In Tuesday’s session, entitled “Future Workforce—Reworking the Revolution,” Accenture’s Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer Ellyn Shook, along with Richard Ambrose, EVP at Lockheed Martin, John Donovan, CEO and President of AT&T, and Yvonne Wassenaar, CEO and COO of Airware, discussed workforce reskilling and retraining issues in an era of automation.
The panel agreed that while people are concerned about losing their jobs due to automation, the focus should be on reskilling as an opportunity. Shook had a slightly different take, highlighting that people, being not only workers but also consumers, do in fact see the opportunities offered by technology. It is this optimism, Shook emphasized, that companies should capitalize on. She advised that all CEOs start with a positive vision for the future.
To the question of where the education is coming from, Donovan pointed to the collaboration of his company with universities and start-ups, and their own internal badging process. On the topic of apprenticeships, Shook added that these programs are not just for young people entering the workforce, but offer great opportunities mid-career as well, allowing people to “learn while they earn.”
Furthermore, Accenture’s North America CEO Julie Sweet joined Devin Wenig, CEO of eBay, and Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO of Schneider Electric, for a panel discussion about “AI, Automation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” As a key point, Sweet emphasized “the missing middle in AI discussions.” She explained that the true “power of AI is in taking humans and machines and putting them together,” with machines augmenting—rather than replacing—human skills.
Sweet also cautioned against focusing too much on the technology itself, stating that, to transform business, the focus needs to be on “people, processes and technology in an industry context.”
For more information, read the Reworking the Revolution report.
We also invite you to join the Accenture broadcasts at WEF 2018.