WEF 2022: what tech leaders should look out for

With the 2022 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting commencing this Sunday, we take a look at the key discussions from Davos that tech leaders should look out for

The WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, taking place from the 22nd-26th May, brings together high-rank officials from across business and politics to discuss how geopolitical issues can be addressed.

With recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic still high on the agenda, and the conflict in Ukraine ongoing, not to mention climate change, the event will look to establish possible solutions created by the variety of stakeholders attending. Having been originally planned for January before being postponed due to the Omicron variant, the upcoming summit will focus on eight key themes:

  • Better Business
  • Climate and Nature
  • Fairer Economies
  • Global Cooperation
  • Health and Healthcare
  • Jobs and Skills
  • Society and Equity
  • Tech and Innovation

While the event has received criticism for the carbon emissions generated through widespread travel to Davos, WEF founder and chairman Klaus Schwab stated in January a need to “establish the atmosphere of trust that is truly needed to accelerate collaborative action and to address the multiple challenges we face”.

The global tech industry will be key in underpinning many of the discussion areas, with many partner organisations involved being tech-first companies or consultancies. These include big tech corporations Amazon, Microsoft and Meta. With this in mind, we explore the developments that tech leaders need to look out for from the 2022 WEF Annual Meeting.

Tech and innovation

Long gone are the days when technology stayed in its own individual sphere; tech now plays a role in all industries and is key to businesses maintaining customer experience and gaining a competitive edge.

The Tech and Innovation theme at WEF 2022 will look at how a global framework for ethics can be agreed, while considering sustainable development goals. Matters to be discussed will include robots being used for warfare, AI algorithms for determining life expectancy, and genetically modified babies.

Industry 4.0

Previous WEF research has predicted machines to do half of all work tasks by 2025. While there are concerns around job losses as a result, there is also the potential of new roles emerging that wouldn’t have been imagined five years ago. This evolution of industry is set to be a hot topic at WEF 2022.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is the term coined for automation and data exchange in manufacturing, and while not new, it has come into sharper focus as we continue to see the barriers between physical and digital worlds dissolve, says Jean-Christophe Hermann, executive vice-president, global retailing & consumer goods at Valtech.

Hermann continued: “In the retail sector, extremely difficult market conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated institutional change in the way consumers shop and experience brands. It’s for this reason that brands must utilise technology to deliver multi-channel, ‘phygital’ experiences – not allowing in-store or online experiences to operate in silos. In fact, these channels must actively feed into one another, using the data generated from every customer interaction to deliver a superior experience and drive customer loyalty. This will redefine the mission of the store experience as we know it, in particular with customer digital onboarding and assistance instore becoming crucial.

“This is becoming particularly important amidst the rise of direct-to-consumer and composable commerce strategies – both of which focus on customer- and data-first thinking. Today’s consumers have a huge amount of choice and often prefer to engage directly with their favourite brands through multiple online channels. Brands must be able to tap into this engagement, adopting a digital-first mindset built around capturing data on changing customer preferences and habits in order to provide differentiated experiences.

“It’s clear that the lines between physical and digital are continuously blurring. That’s why closing the digital-physical experience gap is so important for any retailer that wants to flourish through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, digital-first D2C and composable commerce strategies will empower retailers to do exactly that.”

The metaverse

WEF 2022 will also look at how metaverse infrastructure can drive collaboration and innovation, while ensuring online safety and security for users.

“Of course, we know from research that more than two thirds of industry leaders out there believe that data generated inside the Metaverse will be very important to their business operations as well as future strategic decision-making, and more than half are of the opinion that data will be vital in sustaining it,” said Or Lenchner, CEO of Bright Data.

“As such, business leaders around the world will gather to discuss how to best set up the building blocks for an open and inclusive virtual world, as well as one regulated by a regulatory framework that allows data to be collected responsibly and intelligently, avoiding harm to the overall data ecosystem. We believe that this utopian virtual future is not far away, and urge business leaders to consider adopting data solutions that will play a key role in connecting them to their customers or employees inside the Metaverse, helping to uncover hidden insights they never thought were possibly there.

“Indeed, it’s an exciting frontier for all, especially those within the data space, and I look forward to seeing how conversations will go at this year’s World Economic Forum.”

The role of data

According to Gartner, 25 per cent of internet users will spend at least an hour every day on the metaverse by 2026. Indeed, the metaverse is set to generate surges of data, which will need to be managed effectively.

“The infrastructure upgrades needed to realise this immersive lifestyle will be a mammoth job,” said Jon Lucas, co-founder of Hyve Managed Hosting.

“One good comparison is the journey of shrinking computers down to the size of a smartphone, a process which took decades. Cloud infrastructure will play a crucial role in meeting the demands of the metaverse.

“Data centres will need a goliath increase in power to service large-scale servers which will in turn require increased cooling and storage. Not only will there need to be huge increases in power to data centres, but those data centres will need to be located more widely, placed closer to the users and inhabiting spaces not previously thought of for data centre placement.”

This generation of data will come at a cost to carbon footprints, demonstrating the need for stakeholders at WEF 2022 to establish solutions for reducing environment impact. With organisations of all sizes increasingly shifting towards purpose — looking beyond the bottom line — and customers more than ever viewing ethics as a priority when making purchase decisions, solving this issue is paramount.


How the C-Suite can set the organisation up for metaverse success — Christian Kroll, managing director at Capgemini Invent UK, discusses how the CEO and C-Suite can ensure metaverse success for the organisation.

Tackling tech anxiety within the workforce — Attar Naderi, associate director, Europe & MENA at Laserfiche, discusses how leaders can go about tackling tech anxiety among their workforces.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.