Reflections from Davos

By S.D. Shibulal
January 31, 2014

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

It’s been an exciting week at Davos. The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum this year was refreshingly different from previous editions. There is a general sense of optimism.

Although the effects of the recent crisis linger on, businesses and business leaders are acknowledging that we are seeing signs of recovery. In Davos, I had conversations with business leaders, heads of industry bodies, as also members of the academic and media fraternity. Each of these conversations resonated optimism.

(Pictures: World Economic Forum)

I also saw a few themes and points of view being discussed frequently, not only in my own conversations but also in several sessions at Davos. The most popular one was of the relevance of the theme of the annual meeting.

Everyone seemed to agree that the need of the hour is to reshape the world to ensure that every individual has equal access to an acceptable standard of living. The world of extremes in which we live today is not a sustainable one. The ever-increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots is unacceptable. More importantly, it is not conducive for socio-economic progress.

The onus to bridge the gap is on governments, societies and businesses alike. The scale of the problem is too huge for any single stakeholder to work in isolation and hope to move the needle and so a multi-stakeholder approach is the only way forward. Enterprises, in particular, need to balance performance with progress because beyond governments, they are the most influential bodies that drive social progress through the creation of jobs and wealth.

The possible fragmentation of the internet and its implications in view of the recent breaches in information security seem to be the hotbed of discussions. The global nature of cyber crime and the local nature of governance and jurisdictions of these crimes is creating a sense of helplessness for stakeholders entrusted with securing the internet.

The two schools of thought emerging from the debate is the possibility of national governments regulating the internet in their regions versus a central governing body with multi-stakeholder representation for instituting governance. No matter which approach we take to address the challenge, a fragmentation of the internet may not be in the best interests of leveraging its potential.

On a lighter note, wearable devices seem to be the in-thing and adding to the cool quotient of Davos, so to speak. I have been using a wearable device, a wristband called Fitbit, which I use as a pedometer. One of the applications of such wearable devices is the ability to record sleep patterns, pulse rates and the user’s daily activities, all of which can be synchronized with a mobile app. Several of the delegates I met were wearing a similar device.

Overall, I’m glad to see the sense of optimism back in the meeting rooms of Davos, which complemented the favourable weather outside it.

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