Uber, Microsoft to help WEF restore trust in tech

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The World Economic Forum has formed six new councils to help restore trust in technology.
The World Economic Forum has formed six new councils to help restore trust in technology.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is enlisting the leaders of tech companies, including Microsoft, Uber and Qualcomm, for six new councils “to restore trust in technology”.

The six global fourth industrial revolution councils will design how emerging technology can be governed for the benefit of society “to help policy-makers and businesses strike the right balance between enabling emerging technologies and proactively mitigating the social risks that can result”, WEF said in a statement.

Covering the most pressing technology areas of artificial intelligence, autonomous mobility, blockchain, drones, the Internet of things and precision medicine, global councils bring together more than 200 leaders from the public and private sectors, civil society and academia from around the world.

Some familiar tech names have stepped up to help. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will co-chair the Global Autonomous and Urban Mobility Council, Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon will co-chair the Global Internet of Things Council, while Microsoft president Bradford Smith will co-chair the Global Artificial Intelligence Council.

WEF said council members will work together to develop policy guidance and address “governance gaps” or the absence of well-defined rules for emerging technology. They met for the first time yesterday at the WEF Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco.

“Companies and governments are not moving fast enough to anticipate social expectations in the fourth industrial revolution,” said Richard Samans, MD and head of policy and institutional impact at WEF.

“We believe this bottom-up, societally-focused approach can help to build and maintain public trust in the technologies, while strengthening the evidence base on which policy decisions are made by governments and companies. This is the first place where this kind of high-level, strategic dialogue on the governance of these technologies will take place across stakeholders and regions on an ongoing basis.”

The councils are organised by the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network headquartered in San Francisco. The network expanded internationally last year to China, India and Japan, and affiliate centres in Colombia and the United Arab Emirates opened in early 2019.

Five of the G7 countries and more than 100 organisations are officially partnered with the network to create policy frameworks, pilot them and scale up around the world.

WEF said the global fourth industrial revolution councils will enable cross-country exchange of policy and regulatory experience, including through case studies; identify and take action to address gaps in public policy or corporate governance through multi-stakeholder cooperation; shape a common understanding of “best” or “good” policy practice as a means of enabling better policy coordination within and among countries; and provide strategic guidance to the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network regarding the governance projects and pilots it undertakes.

Input from council members will also inform the agenda of the Global Technology Governance Summit in April 2020.

The full list of councils and chairs:

Global Artificial Intelligence Council


Lee Kai-Fu, chairman and CEO, Sinovation Ventures

Bradford Smith, president, Microsoft

Global Autonomous and Urban Mobility Council


Brian Gu Hong-Di, vice-chairman and president, Guangzhou Xiaopeng Motors Technology

Keiichi Ishii, minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism of Japan

Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, Uber Technologies

Global Blockchain Council


Elizabeth Rossiello, CEO and founder, BitPesa

Denis Robitaille, vice-president, information and technology solutions, World Bank

Global Drones and Aerial Mobility Council


Violeta Bulc, commissioner for transport, European Commission

Global Internet of Things Council


Cristiano Amon, president, Qualcomm

Mariya Gabriel, commissioner for digital economy and society, European Commission

Adrian Lovett, president and CEO, World Wide Web Foundation

Global Precision Medicine Council


Laurie Glimcher, president and CEO, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Peer Schatz, CEO, QIAGEN

Wang Chen, president, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences

A full list of members of the councils will be made public during the forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, China in July.

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