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Shapers of the future gather in Dubai for World Economic Forum summit

Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, right, and Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. (Dubai Media Office)
DUBAI: More than 700 international business leaders, policymakers and young intellectuals from 75 countries will gather in the UAE today to take part in a two-day summit to debate the impact of technological and communication change on the societies of the future.
Under the theme of “the globalization of knowledge in a fracturing world,” the Dubai meeting of the World Economic Forum’s Network of Global Future Councils will help to set the agenda for the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, next year, and “develop concrete, actionable recommendations for global decision makers,” the WEF said.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, said that forecasting the future has proved pivotal for successful government work and empowering citizens, according to an official statement.
The UAE has become a global hub for the future industry and an established platform to forecast upcoming challenges in a world where the Fourth Industrial Revolution — the WEF term for rapid technology change — is opening new horizons, he added.
The WEF said: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to exacerbate the challenges of a fragmenting world, but also to deliver new transformative solutions. The objective this year is to develop a shared vision for progress, building on the individual council discussions.”
The two-day WEF event will be opened by Mohammad Al-Gergawi, UAE minister of cabinet affairs and the future, and Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF. It is the second time Dubai has hosted the event.
One subject that looks certain to be discussed at the meeting is Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion plan for a new mega-city, Neom, which will be dominated by robotics and new techniques in artificial intelligence.
“Neom will be an example of the new knowledge society and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in action, and is certain to be on everybody’s mind. It talks to all the themes we will be discussing here,” said a WEF official.
Other subjects to be discussed include “Reality check: The world in 2017” and “Toward a shared narrative about the future.”
Aside from the big set-piece plenary sessions, members of the Future Councils will hold 35 separate sessions to “explore ways of facilitating systemic change in critical areas such as health, energy and infrastructure through breakthrough technologies related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the WEF said.
Dubai has led the way in the Arabian Gulf region to achieve “smart city” status, and is included in a list of 20 “data-driven cities” — which also include Boston, Copenhagen and Yinchuan — highlighted in a WEF report on cities and urbanization.
“The WEF seeks to empower cities as they prepare for the social, economic and technological transformations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is now more important than ever to understand the consequences of data and how it affects people’s lives,” the report said.
Examples of “data driven” initiatives in the cities are sewage-powered cars, smart cycle paths and safer high-tech public transport, it added.
In Dubai, the government is driving an initiative to implement blockchain technology in as many government services as possible by 2020, while the UAE is exploring plans for driverless air taxis and ultra-fast “hyperloop” transport systems.
The event will be attended by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al-Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai, and by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of the Emirates Group.
Also present will be Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, minister for foreign affairs of the UAE, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, deputy prime minister of the UAE.
The world of business is represented by Fahad Al-Dhubaib, director of new business development for Saudi Aramco, Alain Bejjani, chief executive officer of Majid Al-Futtaim Holding, and Teresa O’Flynn, managing director of BlackRock, among many others.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a concept that has been promoted by WEF founder Schwab. It is “characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. The breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance,” he said.
The WEF has also unveiled a series of “transformation maps” that show the key factors shaping countries, economies and societies, like environmental sustainability, human capital, innovation, geopolitical position, economic diversification and infrastructure.

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