Davos Digest 2018: Day One

Good morning! Day one of Davos 2018 is a wrap. Now onto the news that made headlines…

The event kicked off with a strong international call-to-action from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who set the tone for the Forum, warning of the threat of anti-globalisation and highlighting the massive impact that technology is having on the world.

The power statements continued, with Peter Maurer of the Red Cross exposing the true reality of the humanitarian crisis facing the world, while Cate Blanchett used the platform to condemn the treatment of refugees.

We also saw Canadian heartthrob (and Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau discuss the importance of gender equality in today’s world – a topic that received a lot of airtime at Davos as it rises on the global agenda, and shot to prominence through the recent #MeToo movement.

Tech was once again hotly tipped as a catalyst for global change, with leaders from the likes of SAP, Philips, (both FH clients), Salesforce and Uber all touching on the importance of collaboration or education to help solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

And finally in culinary tech news, it seems the WEF attendees could enjoy a nice plant-based burger to curb the cold weather. Thank Silicon Valley for that one.

Women on the political agenda

  • Empowerment and inclusivity: Tuesday’s discussions revolved around the topics of inclusivity and empowerment, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking about women rights and the importance of gender equality on his second visit to the Forum. A powerful and timely speech on the back of the recent #MeToo movement.
  • Modi packs a punch: Indian Prime Minister Modi opened Davos 2018 with some headline-worthy fodder, claiming that globalisation is under attack, and warning against the threats of protectionism, terrorism and climate change. Could this be an indirect message for President Trump?
  • The realisation of a humanitarian crisis: Modi was not the only one to address hard hitting issues. The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer said that the world is heading for a humanitarian crisis. Cate Blanchett used the platform to condemn the ‘shameful’ treatment of refugees, having received an award for her work on this issue.

Looking ahead in politics: This theme of global economic inclusivity rolls into Wednesday’s agenda, when both French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel will be addressing the congress. If Brexit isn’t brought up on some level, we’d be surprised.


Business spirits run high… and low

  • Oh Canada!: The friendly next-door neighbor to the US has concluded a deal on a comprehensive Trans-Pacific Trade partnership, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his speech on Tuesday. The deal, which excludes the US after it recently abandoned talks, sees 11 countries bring in measures to lower tariffs and barriers for trade between the nations involved.
  • Receiving mixed signals: In the wake of the US government’s recent tax cuts, the IMF lifted its global growth forecast to 3.9 percent, and advanced economies have grown their GDP by 5.3 percent. But in interviews at Davos, experts have expressed genuine concerns that the financial system is dangerously stretched with high levels of cheap debt and low interest rates, saying this could mean another bubble similar to that of 2008. Are some institutions ignoring the warning signs in order not to ruin the party?
  • Britain down in the dumps: According to the latest annual PwC CEO survey of nearly 1,300 CEOs released at Davos, optimism is at a record high, with 57 percent predicting growth would accelerate worldwide this year, up from just 29 percent from last year. In contrast, UK CEO’s registered a significant drop in confidence. Et tu, Brexit?

Looking ahead in business: Wednesday will see major oil firms meet behind closed doors to discuss the challenges facing the industry. Saudi Arabia is seemingly already preparing for a life without oil, so we’ll be watching out for some interesting developments on the energy front,


Opportunities and challenges of data

  • The patient is always right: Currently, the world spends $8 trillion on healthcare, and by 2040 that is set to rise to an extraordinary $18 trillion. Yet, life expectancy is stagnating in even the highest spending countries. Royal Phillips (FH client) CEO Frans Van Houten, and peers from across the healthcare industry, unanimously called for a more patient-centric take on healthcare, as well as increased global collaboration on patient data.
  • Trust must be tech’s first priority: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff stressed the importance of earning consumers trust in making a business survive. Benioff picked up on the PR and customer issues that Uber has been suffering all year, pointing the finger at former-CEO Travis Kalanick for creating a culture of growth at all cost.
  • Uber is not driverless. Yet: Next over to the new CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, who sought to reassure the public during his interview with CNBC that the ride-hailing company is not moving to a fully autonomous business model. Yet it does want to introduce them in the next 18 months. However, Khosrowshahi stated that in 10 years from now, even if 70 percent of the network was autonomous, Uber would still need to double the number of drivers it employs.
  • “The best part of you, is you”: SAP boss Bill McDermott (FH client) described the importance of global re-skilling in digital technology, promoting the idea of a worldwide, collaborative portal that could support millions of previously unreachable people to learn and adapt their knowledge.
  • Tech-savvy Modi: Hot on the heels of the IMF’s growth predictions establishing India as the fastest-growing country in 2018, 2019, Narendra Modi also stressed the crucial role that technology plays in today’s global society, adding that “the flow of global data is creating the biggest opportunities and the greatest challenges.”
  • Ad Wars: Amazon and Facebook are starting to threaten Google in the ad space, according to industry heavyweight Sir Martin Sorrell. It turns out Amazon is eating into Google’s search engine pie, with 55 percent of product searches from the US now going through Amazon rather than Google – but does “Just Amazon it” have the same ring to it? The ad tycoon also warned leaders of the growing backlash against big technology corporates in the US.

Looking ahead in tech: The second day sees some of the world’s biggest tech leaders take to the stage, with CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella speaking on how the fourth industrial revolution will transform healthcare, and Jack Ma discussing the power of e-commerce for small businesses. Later on in the day, Google boss Sundar Pichai will engage in a one-on-one discussion with WEF founder Klaus Schwab, and Tata Consultancy Services Chairman N. Chandrasekaran (FH client) will be covering the social, economic and technological impact of India in the global economy.