FutureTime team was happy to be present at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) and several associated events which took place on 21-24 January in Davos. Themed “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”, WEF 2020 convened more than 3,000 political leaders, chief executives, thinkers, and celebrities of all sorts from all over the world.

Notably, this time the main focus of this large-scale event shifted towards the issues beyond direct profits and gains. Apart from sustainability, the agenda in Davos included climate change issues, the prospect of quantum computing in business and global economy, the ongoing rise of digital currencies and blockchain technology, the need for adoption of new types of authentication, the potential of workforce upskilling and reskilling and many more.

Blockchain seems to have finally become one of the core topics at the WEF, as “the first neutral and public traceability platform” was announced here. Created in collaboration with Everledger, Lenzing Group, TextileGenesis™, and the International Trade Center, the platform is said to be capable of visualizing blockchain-based supply chain data from multiple companies and sources. Moreover, being a UN entity, the International Trade Center has hosted it via Sustainability Map, thus assuring all parties that their data will be hosted at UN data centers to benefit from UN neutrality, immunities, and privileges.

Instead of discussing big ideas crypto startups were more concerned about their own profits. For instance, Circle’s Jeremy Allaire talked a lot about the benefits of stablecoins and tokenization.  

At the same time, BlockBase had its annual summit aimed at fostering a “regenerative planetary culture that applies vision, creativity, and transformation tools to accelerate conscious economy paradigm shift”.  

Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International blamed banks, insurers and pension funds of their indifference to climatic change issues. According to Greenpeace’s report, in the last five years, 24 global banks have invested $1.4 trillion in the fossil fuel industry despite all their claims about supporting net-zero initiatives. These figures look even more strikingly, given that just $1 trillion of investments in solar power sources could buy 640 GW of electric energy (that is, more than the current global capacity).

WEF 2020 was attended by a great number of tech startups working in the field of innovative ways of reducing pollution. Among these were: Israeli startup TIPA, which presented a fully compostable flexible packaging which can easily replace polyethylene and polypropylene, Dutch startup Photanol, which is busy working on the means of turning carbon dioxide into chemicals with sunlight in order to provide an alternative for petroleum-based and sugar-derived products (such as creams, shampoos, plastic containers and detergents) that would reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and many others.  

A real breakthrough was reached at the annual meeting of business giants involved with the production and industrial use of batteries. These leading representatives of mining, chemicals, battery, automotive and energy industries agreed on creating a sustainable battery chain by 2030. The measures envisaged by this program include maximizing the productivity of batteries, enabling a productive and safe second life use, circular recovery of battery materials, increasing the use of renewable energy, protecting public health and environment and some others.

WEF 2020 saw the launch of the so-called Reskilling Revolution – an initiative aimed at providing one billion people with better education, skills and employment by 2030. Brazil, France, India, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, UAE and the US all demonstrated their commitment to the project’s goals. The related platform will be initially fuelled by the sponsorship from UAE, while the list of its non-governmental partners includes PwC, Salesforce, ManpowerGroup, Infosys, LinkedIn, Coursera Inc. and The Adecco Group.

Quantum computing has been gradually turning into a big issue too, though it tends to raise more questions than answers. WEF hosted a panel discussion dedicated to the topic and moderated by The Innovator’s Editor-in-Chief Jennifer L. Schenker.

The participants were trying to predict how this new technology would change business. Despite the lack of clarity due to a number of scientific riddles yet unsolved, theoretical computer scientist Scott Aaronson pointed out that, first and foremost, quantum computing would likely impact businesses involved with the simulation of quantum mechanical processes (such as materials, chemicals, and scientific research). He also stressed that businesses should manage their expectations before the true value of the technology is unlocked.

Cybersecurity was another focal point of the Forum. According to statistics, global economy loses $2.9 million every minute to hackers. Notably, 80% of cyber-attacks are password-related.

 “Better authentication practices are not just possible they are a necessity,” – said Adrien Ogee, Project Lead, Platform for Shaping the Future of Cybersecurity and Digital Trust, World Economic Forum.

Given all that, the Forum urged companies to work together to find a way to safely transition away from passwords. As a result, the report was issued with five top passwordless authentication technologies listed in it (namely, biometrics, behavioral analytics, zero-knowledge proofs, QR codes and security keys).

The discussion on the matter revolved around the need to build the right data governance model and framework at the senior leadership level. It brought together the world’s largest internet providers and multilateral organizations.

The last day of the WEF 2020 marked the formation of a Global Consortium for Digital Currency Governance, which is to bring together business giants, financial institutions, government representatives, technical experts, academics, international and non-governmental organizations.

Earlier in the week the Forum announced the Forum and a community of over 40 central banks, international organizations, academic researchers and financial institutions have created a policy-maker toolkit to help central banks evaluate, design and potentially deploy central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). The Forum is convening a global community of central banks from both emerging and developed economies to exchange best practices and learn about how CBDCs work. CBDCs are digitalized instruments issued by the central bank for payments.

Among other notable events were the Caspian Week Conference where global leaders, visionaries and experts discussed the ways and means of boosting the interaction between the Caspian Region and the world, and Russia House – a platform for promoting Russian initiatives among representatives of international business and official circles attending Davos. Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Maxim Oreshkin summarized the results of the latter meeting as follows:

 “A meeting of the Foreign Investment Advisory Council in Russia with the heads of major corporations took place at the Russia House in Davos. Everyone noted the positive dynamics of the development of macroeconomic indicators and agreed on further joint actions to improve cooperation between the government and businesses.”

All in all, there was enough turbulence and innovative thrust to the WEF 2020. Hopefully, at least some of the promises and proclamations voiced at it will be fulfilled at least in the foreseeable future, if not this year.