Who's going to benefit from the tech revolution?

IDG News Service | Jan 20, 2016

Top tech CEOs spoke about how they think the world will benefit from the coming tech revolution at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.

Wednesday was something of a tech day at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The 2,500 business, government and academic leaders attending the conference got to hear from a string of top tech executives, including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who spoke about the importance of Internet access for all.

"Connectivity, data is too important to keep it only to the world's rich. There are four billion people in the world who don't have access. And when they they get access, they are more highly educated, they have more job opportunities, they have longer, healthier and more productive lives."

Facebook is researching tech for this. Its Its Aquila drone is solar powered and could beam down a 10Gbps connection to hard-to-connect places.

Connectivity was also in the mind of GM CEO Mary Barra. Cars have rapidly moved from mechanical to highly complex electronic devices and that’s not stopping. Aautonomous driving technology of the future could make our roads much safer and driving more fuel efficient.

"We are at the start of an industrial revolution and in the auto industry it's really being driven by the convergence of connectivity, electrification and changing customer needs. The convergence is allowing automakers like GM to develop dramatically cleaner, safer, smarter, more energy efficient vehicles for customers around the world - and we believe these changes are as important as when we transitioned from horses to horsepower."

Indeed, the so-called fourth industrial revolution was the theme for the day. But who’s going to benefit from this explosion in technology and environmental technology?

"There is going to be economic surplus that's going to be created because of this fourth industrial revolution, the question is how evenly will it be spread between countries, between people of different economic strata and also different parts of the economy."

UBS released a report this week that said the rich stand to gain from advances in robotics, while the poor will worse off because they will lose jobs to machines.

But the outlook isn’t great for companies in 2016. A PWC study paints an overall pessimistic outlook.


And on ISIS, Facebook’s Sandberg talked about a role for the Internet.

"The best things to speak against recruitment by ISIS are the voices of people who were recruited by ISIS, understand what the true experience is, have escaped and come back to tell the truth."

The U.S. Government recently asked tech companies to help them battle online radicalization. One of the ideas is giving greater exposure to credible voices that can talk to youth, so Sandberg’s comments are interesting. Obama’s government might have an ally in her and Facebook.