World Economy

Improving People’s Lives Takes Center Stage at Davos

Improving People’s Lives Takes Center Stage at Davos  Improving People’s Lives Takes Center Stage at Davos

The World Economic Forum continued its sessions on Thursday and Friday, addressing a variety of economic, political, social and environmental issues.

Pros and cons of technological advances: On this year’s main theme of ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, a panel was convened on the transformations driven by this revolution, in which experts stressed that rapid advances underway across a range of technologies are changing how people live, work and interact with each other, with both positive and negative impact.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft Corporation argued that inclusion is a major concern, with the right debate being: “Is there a digital dividend or a digital divide? The emphasis should be on skills rather than worry about jobs being lost. We as a society will have to spend the money to educate people so they can find new jobs.”

The key point is improving productivity to drive growth and achieve a surplus. “The question is how the dividend is going to get spread,” Nadella asked.

Other panelists also pointed out that technology has a huge multiplier effect on finding solutions to many problems by having even the poorest people have access to the technologies that can improve their lives.

But technologies such as mobile phones and artificial intelligence can make people feel disengaged and remote. There has to be empathy.

  Digital Media

Alongside such debates, findings of a new survey were presented on behavior patterns among users of the internet and the impact of digital media on their life, social interaction and work.

Digital media users spend more time online than they sleep, and as platforms continue to grow, key issues such as ethics and privacy will have an ever expanding impact on our society. Overall, perception of digital media’s impact on lives is positive, as 50% of participants agreed that digital media improves their quality of life and civic participation, and two-thirds believe it helps them do their work. Yet, digital users are not inclined to pay for premium content (34%), or exclusive or educational content (21%).

  Migration Crisis

Due attention was paid at the forum to the controversies surrounding migration issues. The traditional ways of helping refugees no longer work on their own as the world faces the worst crisis of displaced persons since World War II.

Panelists at the WEF called for a paradigm shift to help the world’s 60 million refugees. “We need to tackle the problem in a different way,” said Alexander de Croo, deputy prime minister of Belgium.

He called for tearing down the wall between short-term humanitarian action and long-term development, so that refugees can gain access to education, labor markets and other benefits.

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross stated that aid organizations are also beginning to develop new tools and approaches.

“We are willing to create economic zones where refugees can find employment,” said Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, whose country hosts 1.3 million refugees.

Migration to the EU region has presented the European Union with its “biggest-ever test,” according to Joachim Gauck, the German president. He stressed that measures will likely be introduced by his government to limit the number of refugees entering the country. Such a limitation is “morally and politically necessary to preserve the state’s ability to function, as migration is only politically viable to the extent that citizens are willing to accept it”.

Furthermore, member states must do more to support refugees in countries bordering Syria and Iraq, he said.

  Reviving the Middle Class

US Vice President Joe Biden pointed out that a thriving and growing middle class has been the main reason for social stability in the world’s democracies. “When the middle class does well, the wealthy do very well and the poor have a ladder up.”

He outlined five ways to bolster the middle class: invest in education and training, strengthen core social protection and obligations to employees, modernize infrastructure, ensure that tax regimes are more progressive and that everybody pays their fair share, and make capital more widely available.

  Renewables and Waste

On the environmental subject, it was stated that far from being a romantic dream, renewables are central to meeting the energy demands that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring.

Hiroaki Nakanishi, CEO of Hitachi, Japan, said the challenge has moved from having more renewable energy to having better energy systems. There are distributional challenges that come with the distance between generation sites of wind and solar energy and the load centers.

“A more systematic approach is required to integrate renewable energy sources into an overall smart grid,” he stressed.

Also a new report was published jointly by the World Economic Forum titled ‘The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics’, which provides for the first time a vision of a global economy in which plastics never become waste and outlines concrete steps towards achieving the systemic shift needed.

According to the findings of this report, the use of plastics has increased twentyfold in the past half century and is expected to double again in the next 20 years.

As a result, plastic packaging material with a value of $80 billion-$120 billion is lost each year, and furthermore, by 2050 oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight).

  Pope’s Message

In a message to the participants at the annual forum, Pope Francis urged leaders “not to forget the poor” and assign high priority to the creation of jobs.

“The present moment offers the world a precious opportunity to guide and govern the transformations associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution in a way that builds inclusive societies.

However, it brings diminished opportunities for employment that also brings with it a responsibility among leaders to create jobs, tackle inequality and help solve society’s complex crisis,” the leader of the Christian world said.