Investment in education is vital for ensuring that citizens are ready for the future

In the closing session of the World Economic Forum’s inaugural Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils, business and civil society leaders called for the embedding of values in the design of technologies and investment in education to prepare citizens for the future by ensuring they have the skills to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“The pace of change that we have now is the fastest that it has ever been and the slowest it will likely ever be going forward,” Vishal Sikka, Chief Executive Officer of Infosys in the US, explained. “There is a lot of work to do to make people aware and to educate them.” The goal should be to shape an inclusive tech-driven future. “Our brains take the future as an increment of the present,” Sikka reckoned. “But the future is something that we can imagine and create. There is a tremendous opportunity to make a future we wish to live in and not a future that we would be forced to accept.”

“When you use technology, you have to do so in a values framework,” observed Usha Rao-Monari, Chief Executive Officer of Global Water Development Partners in the UK. “Technology has the opportunity of opening up closed systems” and “can be an accelerator of taking away obstacles to change” such as the asymmetry of information and the lack of trust and trustworthiness. Added Erica Kochi, Co-Founder of UNICEF Innovation, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in New York: “If we don’t implement education, health and jobs in our technologies by design, then we will create products, services and systems for the haves in the world and that is clearly not the world we want.”

Also critical in building tech-enabled systems for shaping the future is inclusion – and achieving buy-in. “We all have a stake in the systems we operate” such as the climate, said Tim Dixon, Managing Director, Europe, of Purpose in the UK. “Even the system of liberal international institutions is under threat in ways that they haven’t been until now. None of us can be free riders anymore. In this interdependent world, we can no longer aim to succeed by ourselves. The failure of the system is a failure for us ourselves. But how do we build systemic thinking and systemic leadership?” These will be crucial in dealing with multifaceted challenges, such as reskilling people for employment or deploying technology to address problems like the resettlement of refugees.

The inaugural Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils 2016 brought together over 700 top thought leaders from the World Economic Forum’s Network of Global Future Councils, comprised of 35 groups of experts from academia, business, civil society, international organizations and government. The councils are generating ideas and solutions that influence the future global, regional and industry agendas and will feed them into the programme of the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, in January 2017.

In closing the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils, Co-Chair Mohammad Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), called the expert panels “more of a task force to build a future and design it so that humanity can have a better life. This is our mission and our calling.” He announced that the UAE government will launch a national council on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The UAE itself, he said, will serve as a laboratory for exploring and testing initiatives and approaches to prepare for the future.

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