Davos Notebook

Women on top — more quotas, please

I was in the lobby of the Steigenberg Belvedere waiting for my husband yesterday but there was nowhere to sit. Looking around I saw a Davos Wife  resting on a crowded stairway. I joined her and, of course, we struck up a conversation about Women at Davos. I could tell by her comfy snow boots she had been coming for years.

She explained to me that I had it all wrong. Women are at not the bottom of the ladder at Davos but in fact are the ones who make it work. Here is why: speakers are invited so that they can be on panels but the businessmen come so they can take meetings and do deals.

“The World Economic Forum produces all this content but needs to create an audience for the invited speakers,” she said. “The women who come are equal to their husbands and equal in drive and so they self select.” Since they aren’t given a role in the conference they have nothing to do but go to the panels. That’s why the audiences for the sessions on health, arts, science and, to some extent philanthropy, are largely made up of Davos Wives.  Davos would not function without these women.

I am all for  being allowed to attend panels on “Personalized Medicine”, “Design for the New Reality” “Ensuring Elusive Growth” and “What If Another Bank Fails?”.  But things have come to a pretty pass when a paid up Davos Wife (who is a business executive to boot) actually believes our role is simply to fill the seats. Nor do I do believe for a minute that this is what founder Klaus Schwab and his board have in mind for us.

The people that run the Davos meeting are trying hard to make it more woman friendly and they have many initiatives to prove it. But sometimes they just get it wrong: at the Thursday panel on “Women and Society” chaired by Laura Tyson, the male panelists outnumbered the females by two to one. When she saw it on the agenda, “I thought it was a f—-ing joke! “said one female Davos participant.

What is the Davos optimism based on? – Strategy head

Mark Spelman, Global Head of Strategy at Accenture, stopped by the Davos town library (our WEF headquarters) to talk about what he believes have been the key developing themes at this year’s meeting.

In this first video, Spelman talks about key growth trends and the reasons behind the sense of ‘cautious optimism’ at Davos 2011.

“If 2010 was really about stability in the global economy, I think 2011 is all about the pace of global recovery,” he says.

China and the future of the Internet

CHINA- Michael Fertik is the founder and CEO of Reputation.com, an online privacy and reputation management company. He is a member of the World Economic Forum Agenda Council on Internet Security and recipient of the WEF Technology Pioneer 2011 Award. The opinions expressed are his own. -

China’s Internet is, in fact, the world’s largest intranet. This is not news to anyone who follows technology in the Middle Kingdom. The Chinese government doesn’t make any real attempt to hide its complete control over what happens behind the Great Firewall. The regime is open about its intent to ensure what it calls “harmony,” which more or less means that it will squelch civil debate that moves beyond a certain pitch or further than a few degrees off the median line. As China’s power grows online and offline, these patterns, taken together with the Chinese government’s technical sophistication, will be of fundamental importance to the overlap between digital freedom and privacy.

The Chinese play hard. They mean to keep their intranet secure and the integrity of their “harmonious” public web discourse intact. They do not hesitate to use their considerable technical prowess to spy on machines that are operated on their network.  As a friend of mine in U.S. intelligence circles says without hesitation, “If you go to China, there is a 100 percent chance that your equipment will be compromised.” Earlier this week here at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, I met a successful civil activist who routinely visits China for her work, and she casually reported a recent office visit from Chinese state security services who evinced specific and sweeping knowledge of her emails, calendar, and other information she keeps exclusively on her computer.

Energy policy is key at Davos

– Laurens de Vries and Emile Chappin are researchers at Delft University of Technology. Much of their research is funded by the Next Generation Infrastructures Foundation. The opinions expressed are their own. –

One of the key issues being debated at this year’s World Economic forum is energy policy, particularly how we best make the transition to clean energies of the future to mitigate global warming.

Nuclear power, like energies of the future — wind, solar, carbon capture — must rely on government subsidies to be economically viable. This is true of virtually all alternatives to fossil fuels, which is a consequence of the fact that the social costs of the pollution that they cause is not included in the price people pay for them.

A golden opportunity for a new trading system


By Mari Pangestu, who is the Trade Minister of Indonesia. The opinions expressed are her own.

The world continues to face great uncertainties. Global recovery has been uneven, unemployment high and current account imbalances have led to continued tension including the use of currencies and other mercantilist policies for protectionist purposes. And we have yet to conclude the Doha Round of World Trade Organization Negotiations. So what do trade policymakers have to do to face this situation and ensure trade continues to contribute to growth and development?

For Indonesia, trade has recovered to higher than pre-crisis 2008 levels and in line with the higher growth in emerging economies. Like other East Asian economies, Indonesia is increasingly integrated with the region, clearly indicating that East Asia is a growing market with the rise of its population, middle class and purchasing power.

The deepest fear of the Davos Man


This is part of a series written by Anya Schiffrin, author of “Bad News,” and the wife of Nobel Prize Winner Joseph Stiglitz. The opinions expressed are her own.

Shoes …

The deepest fear of the Davos Man is not fear of failure or of giving a boring speech but of falling. Not falling from the heights of being at the greatest confab of businessmen the world has ever known but of slipping on the ice that forms when the winter sun meets the piles of snow that line the streets of this Alpine resort.

An undignified tumble is, of course, highly humiliating and so it’s rarely talked about. No one admits to slipping but a highly unscientific poll conducted by me shows that nearly everyone admits to seeing someone else take a tumble at one time or another.

Talking with Davos youth… all five of them

Youth isn’t a group that is closely associated with the World Economic Forum in Davos. There was much discussion before the meeting of the gender quota imposed by the WEF to try to increase the number of female participants, but there are just five teenagers at Davos this year, all of them from the Global Changemakers network.

I caught up with one of them, 18-year-old Trevor Dougherty, who wrote this post for us prior to the start of this year’s Davos,  to hear how his first WEF annual meeting is going. We will hopefully hear from the other four ‘changemakers’ before the end of the conference.

Tablets take over the world, one Davos at a time

This time last year, the online team here in Davos broke off from its coverage of the WEF for an hour or so to follow another Reuters live event – the unveiling of Apple’s iPad.

Back then, there were many gaps in our knowledge of what the iPad could do. We didn’t even know what it would be called.

What a difference a year makes. Now the device, and other tablet computers, is on show everywhere, especially among the gathering of the global elite in Davos. Reuters technology correspondent Kenneth Li wrote yesterday in this article that: “Those discussing the “Shared Norms for the New Reality” in Davos this week need only look around them to see one such ‘reality’: low-cost smart devices are sweeping away clunky old computers throughout the political and business world.”

Table for Two at Davos

The meal you had last night at the Congress Hall of the World Economic Forum in Davos may have been “Table for Two” certified.

Table for Two (TFT) is a Japanese non-profit organisation which aims to “transfer calories” from the rich world to the poor. It teams up with corporate and university canteens, serving low calorie, nutritionally balanced meals. A 20 yen (around 25 U.S. cents) charge – roughly the cost of one school meal in least developed countries –  is added to the price of these meals to feed people in need.

“You can distribute wealth and calories in one meal,” Kumi Fujisawa, TFT executive and co-founder of think tank SophiaBank, told Reuters on the sidelines of the Davos forum.

The Rise of Robo Sapiens

There are a few sessions at this year’s World Economic Forum that discuss the future but the fully-subscribed session on “The Rise of Robo Sapiens” on Saturday gives a glimpse on how artificial intelligence is reshaping our lives.

Panelist of that session, Gil Weinberg, professor of music technology at Georgia Institute of Technology, is here to present his project on “Shimon” – a $100,000 robot that “listens like human being but improvises like a machine”.

“The robot can play classical or jazz or whatever. It will push music forward”, Weinberg told Reuters.