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Global Forum: Innovation creates opportunity, causes disruption

Jay Gillette | Nov. 25, 2014
Speakers predict continued upheaval through 3D printing, drones and driverless cars.

Professor Gérard Pogorel of Télécom ParisTech said that the new digital age is not as rosy as many enthusiasts may claim. Of the impact of digitalization, he said bluntly:

  • Productivity at the micro level translates into little or no growth at the macro level
  • Democracy has not been affected in places where it already exists, and digitalization has not expanded it elsewhere
  • "Education remains unscathed," it's just as authoritarian and un-experimental as ever
  • Development in emerging economies has been driven by catch-up processes and commodity-transfer
  • Income distribution continues to be hollowed out by a disappearing middle-class in the European Union and the United States, despite the emergence of a marginal middle-class in Asia

Some of Pogorel's recommendations were to redesign business processes to make productivity happen; to reorient economic systems toward production and downsize the financial industry; and to fix social and economic distribution.

Alcatel-Lucent's Gabrielle Gauthey added, "We are not done with the network--we have never needed more investment." Equipment providers by necessity are constantly reinventing themselves and "we can no longer afford the dogma of infrastructure competition," she said.

Gauthey challenged the delegates and policy-makers: "How can governments ensure new investments in networks?"

One solution is under way: Next year the International Telecommunications Union will hold the quadrennial World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) to harmonize "frequency plans for mobile broadband (Digital Dividend in 700 and 800 MHz), to be used by IMT mobile networks, specially for rural broadband."

The ITU estimates an impressive 50-percent more bandwidth for mobile may well become available. Still, conference delegates warned even that will not be enough for the era of Internet of Things. Creative efficiencies in devices, processes, and demand-side thinking will be required.

Women's issues also received attention at Global Forum, a trend in recent years. For example, Dr. Véronique Ines Thouvénot, co-founder of the NGO "Zero Mothers Die," said 300,000 women perish annually in maternal deaths from pregnancy and birth complications.

An ICT-enabled solution in developing nations is to provide "the pink phone" -- a free cellphone for pregnant women and a mobile account to connect directly to health workers, and to provide instant consultation as needed. For a donor cost of just $20, 8,000 mobiles are targeted for Ghana, with 5,000 more each for Rwanda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.

Global Forum 2014 was led by Dr. Sylviane Toporkoff, President of Global Forum, and a Founding Partner of sponsor ITEMS International. The next Global Forum will be held in fall 2015, at a venue to be announced early next year.


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