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The small ski-resort village of Davos usually attracts individuals looking to enjoy the slopes. But for three days every January, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual Davos meeting brings high ranking politicians, business people and cultural figures to discuss global issues and shape policy. The official theme of this year’s Davos conference was “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.  

With each of the three industrial revolutions, the world became more globalized. The first two industrial revolutions gave us the steam engine and mass industrial production. This led to the flow of goods and people across nations. The third revolution brought us computers and massive information exchange across the globe. The fourth industrial revolution has been described as the rise of cyber-physical systems. This includes the Internet of Things, driverless vehicles, smart manufacturing robots, AI, 5G and cloud networks. The WEF expects these technologies to increase information and trade flows.

Delegates at Davos 2019 emphasized improved productivity and living standards that would come with the technological innovation, increased trade and globalization. Delegates stressed the need for inclusive and climate friendly economic development and the need for privacy faced with AI and future technologies.

Specific policy initiatives were proposed at Davos. These include a plan for global data privacy, World Trade Organization e-commerce related negotiations, and a development framework for smart cities (1).

There were some particularities to Davos 2019. The American, British and French heads of state did not attend due to domestic issues. China’s Xi also did not attend. And contrary to the economic optimism showed by politicians and businesspeople at Davos 2018, Davos 2019 was marked by political and economic uncertainty (2).

The WEF Davos conferences help us understand the biggest priorities and challenges according to the world’s political and business leaders. Knowing this can help individuals and businesses better prepare for the current uncertainty and future issues. Canadian policymakers and businesspeople should use Davos 2019 to get ahead of the curve and prepare for the fourth industrial revolution.