Preparing for Fourth Industrial Revolution Requires Deeper Commitments to Education

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  • Rapid technological change threatens to create a new swathe of have-nots and displaced digital refugees
  • The key to preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution lies in the technologies themselves, which must be designed to benefit everybody
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17 January 2017, Davos-Klosters, Switzerland – The accelerating pace of change driven by emerging technologies threatens to create wider income and opportunity gaps, warned business and technology leaders in a session on preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the opening day of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. “We are at a point where it is possible that technological development can accelerate and increase digital refugees,” warned Marc R. Benioff, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce in the US. Added Vishal Sikka, Chief Executive Officer of Infosys in the US: “We have to put in an extra effort so that we don’t create a bigger society of have-nots. That means a deep commitment to education and to addressing the displacements.”

The key to preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution lies in the technologies themselves, argued Mukesh D. Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries in India. “These technologies really are all-inclusive and will benefit all. In a sense they are great equalizers.” The rapid growth of e-commerce and digital cash in India is an example, he observed. “And the fastest way to transmit education in a big country like India is through technology.” Making these technologies inclusive will require designing them so that they benefit everybody and not just a few, Sikka said. “That requires empathy. I’ve always wondered why every company isn’t a technology company.”

Focusing on education and promoting innovation are not new solutions to the challenges of inequality and marginalization. “Education and entrepreneurship are the answers,” Sikka stressed. “We just haven’t been doing enough of it.” And what is required are fresh approaches or new models shaped through debate and collaboration among all stakeholders, Benioff said. He proposed that CEOs each adopt a public school. For initiatives to be effective will require building trust and articulating a vision, explained Mary Barra, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Company in the US. “You need to be incredibly transparent for people to have trust.”

To prepare for the disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, leaders will require radar to pick up on displacement and discontent and a compass to set the values and vision needed to succeed, Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford in the UK, told participants. To weather the challenges will require more collaboration among countries, Shu Yinbiao, Chairman of the State Grid Corporation of China. “Globalization is inevitable and is good for the development of the global economy. We will need more international cooperation.”

The 47th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is taking place on 17-20 January in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, under the theme Responsive and Responsible Leadership. More than 3,000 participants from nearly 100 countries are participating in over 400 sessions.

The Co-Chairs taking a principal role in shaping the discussion at the meeting are:
Frans van Houten, President and Chief Executive Officer, Royal Philips, Netherlands
Brian Moynihan, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Bank of America Corporation, USA
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Documentary Filmmaker, SOC Films, Pakistan
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children International, United Kingdom
Meg Whitman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, USA

The World Economic Forum, committed to improving the state of the world, is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.
The Forum engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. (