The problem is not Data Protection, it is Data Collection! – Web Summit 2019

To keep up with the newest trends in the world of tech, sustainability and business, the Executive School of the University St. Gallen attended the Web Summit 2019. Here you can read a few highlights from this impressive conference.

The Web Summit in Lisbon once again delivered.

 

Thousands of participants from all over the world poured into the many pavilions in Lisbon to experience the latest in tech and in business in general from November 4-7. Populating its halls with hundreds of startups and dozens of big names in business of just about all branches. Speakers covered themes from the future human race on Mars, to amazing brain controlled applications to sexuality in the 21st century.

 

With all that happening one wonders what are the main aspects to be taken out of such a huge meeting of minds. Let’s give it a try at rounding up some relevant content and trends out of this year’s Web Summit.

“To protect anyone you need to protect everyone.”

Edward Snowden was the star of the opening night of the Web Summit. As expected, his interview focused on the current aspects of data and the internet. Snowden made a brief but passionate speech about the importance of recognizing the true problem: our acceptance of Data Collection as something natural. He believes GDPR is a (humble) step in the right direction, as it still focuses on data protection, which for him is but an aspect of the larger problem. Asked about how business should deal with data and their customers, Snowden replied “You as a business must show your customers that they do not have to trust you” and that therefore data protection needs to be a moot point. Business should (must?) be so transparent about their handling of data that the whole situation would not need to be addressed by laws and regulations such as the GDPR.

Business trends and technology are one and the same

The Web Summit has established itself as a conference which scope is much larger than its tech-only origins. It is now clearer than ever that talking business means talking technology and that goes through all areas of business, be it entertainment, health, production or retail. Making tech human-centered, as opposed to an elitist geek topic, is a core message at the Web Summit.The organizers consequently followed a diverse, gender neutral approach to technology, with about 50/50 female/male ratio to its speakers. Even at the startup presentations during the opening day, almost every startup was presented by a woman. This holistic and open approach to technology as a human capacity is possibly one of the big reasons why such a tech-focused conference benefited from 46.3% woman attendance. This is a very important trend and one which is yet to find its way into the higher ranks of business. As we know, diversity and inclusion are still a theme.

 

“Web Summit is where the future goes to be born”

The Atlantic

AI/Machine Learning is ubiquitous… and Human Resources is in for a treat.

A visitor at the Web Summit may well believe AI/machine learning is everywhere, and he/she would be right! It is so common now that it is not even mentioned as a special quality any longer. To have AI supported business cases and applications is considered as standard. Any tech start-up or modern company worth its salt makes use of it. The technology is finding it is way all across the board of possible branches and scenarios, be it finance, health or even entertainment.

 

If there is an area which does have a lot of AI-tech-light shining upon it, it is the human resources sector. As AI gets pretty advanced, particularly in linguistics, we discover a lot of new and old businesses willing to put that to use in order to guarantee they win the war for talents. The Web Summit was popping with startups dedicated to solving HR problems, such as finding the right people, or positioning yourself, or keeping your people at the right place. Related topics like diversity and inclusion or team building also found a way into these developments and many startups offered intriguing ways to analyse job applications, job offerings or more exotic aspects of talent acquisition.

Blockchain… yeah, right.

As mentioned in a previous post, the blockchain hype is over and now it is slowly climbing out of the Trough of Disillusionment. There were way fewer start-ups based on this technology compared to last year’s Web Summit and only one single talk specifically about the topic (ironically on whether there is any use for it; and yes, there is). Apart from the ever present naive “future-token-to-exchange-for-whatever” startups, there was nothing that called our attention as especially promising. Blockchain has yet to show where it will find its place to shine.

What the future holds…

As usual in such a technology fair, a lot of what we saw won’t survive or perhaps even be relevant by the next Web Summit. That is the speed of our times and the reason to keep updating ourselves (#lifelonglearning). And that is what the Executive School is all about.

About the author
Julio Prina supports the Executive School at the University of St. Gallen in all themes digital, be it Blockchains, Artificial Intelligence or E-Learning.