Given the changes and dynamics shaping our world in 2017, the theme of this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting – Responsive and Responsible Leadership – could not be more relevant and timely. It reflects the urgent need for the world’s decision makers to listen to people’s concerns and address them in responsible, credible ways and create more inclusion in our societies.
There is no shortage of things to worry about with so much change taking place. Yet that change is also an opportunity. We have a unique opportunity to make the world more inclusive than it has ever been, to bring opportunity and empowerment on a scale which would have seemed unthinkable only a few years ago. That opportunity is technology. That opportunity is digital.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is driving the convergence of technologies that blur the lines between physical, digital and biological systems. The interplay between artificial intelligence and robotics, social media, pervasive computing, Big Data and the Internet of Things will mean 9 billion people and a staggering 50 billion devices connected to the Internet in 2050.
Increased connections between people have always caused economies to grow and the current trend is turbo-charged because of the connections between people, between machines themselves and between people and machines. This will enable the global economy to grow at an ever faster pace to an estimated US$150-170 trillion by 2050.
As digital technologies gain in strength, how we work, save, transact, travel and heal will change completely.
Responsible and responsive leadership means ensuring that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is an inclusive one. The potential of digital to empower communities across the world remains profound and limited only by human imagination.
This is not just a futuristic vision, it is happening now. Take banking; the number of people around the world without access to formal financial services stands at two billion. Connecting that many people is undoubtedly a daunting task but consider this: The unbanked population shrank by 20% between 2011 and 2014 according to the World Bank. That happened because of new opportunities offered by digital technology such as TCS’s mobile banking solutions.
TCS mobile phone technology is also helping to connect some of the world’s most remote farmers. With access to expert advice and market information they are able to grow the crops people need, better prepare for bad weather and other challenges while improving yields and reducing environmental impact.
As the world population ages, technology is offering the opportunity to stay in their homes longer, prolonging independence and reducing the burden on the state.
At TCS, we know that technological innovation is the key to unlocking the economic potential of all the world’s people. We support young digital entrepreneurs designing new technologies to assist local charities working with anything from drug addiction to eating disorders.
Through all of this, digital technology is the common thread. Digital innovation is driving inclusion right across the world. And with the right support and encouragement it will continue to do so, in ever greater ways.
These are uncertain times, yes, but exciting times too.
We have in our hands a driver for growth, a force against inequality the like of which we have never seen before. We must use it well and use it responsibly.
The leaders who gather at the Annual Meeting 2017 have a duty to react credibly and responsibly to the new challenges. We all have a duty to ensure that the new opportunities are used credibly and responsibly too.
Natarajan Chandrasekaran is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Tata Consultancy Services.