Issue 8: The Next Transformation

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Welcome to Backstory, a weekly newsletter turning global technology shifts into a three-minute read. This week we are thinking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and gender. Are we missing a major opportunity? – Mary Ames, Director of Strategy


The Next Transformation


The Fourth Industrial Revolution. It’s here and it’s transforming the future of work. While we often hear about the power of blockchain, artificial intelligence, and big data in relation to the 4IR, the role of empathy, ethics, and bias take a back seat. Underpinning the lopsided discussion is how the coming transformation of labour could improve the position of women in the workplace.

A risky future: Many of the jobs across Asia that could soon be made redundant through automation are, in fact, performed by women. The loss of these jobs will have profound societal effects. If we start a conversation about the role of gender in 4IR today, we can lay the groundwork for a more equitable future tomorrow.

The right foundation: Throughout history, we have failed to capitalise on the power of women’s contribution to the workforce. It’s time for a change. Programmers are reinforcing the gender norms of today in their code. To fully realise the potential of the 4IR, we must realise the invaluable perspectives women can bring to designing and regulating the future.


“Without fully unleashing the power and potential of all of humanity, the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution will remain in jeopardy."

Valerie Cliff, Deputy Regional Director, UNDP in Asia and the Pacific.


WEF in Dubai: How do you build a knowledge economy? It’s a pressing question for leaders around the world and especially those in the Middle East. Investment in a knowledge economy is the best safeguard for the future economic health of any country. The opening of a new World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Dubai is a testament to how far along the UAE is in building its own knowledge economy. We explore the pressing issues the centre should consider.

Beyond regulation: Data privacy scandals, looming regulations, and bungled product launches are just a few of the recent ills plaguing the internet. What’s profound about these challenges is not that they exist but how people are thinking about overcoming them. A certain air of inevitability hangs around many of these challenges. This week we argue that this type of fatalism is leading to a deficit of what made the internet great in the first place: innovation.


Time to break up? The debate over regulating Facebook and other technology giants heated up again this week. Chris Hughs, one of Facebook’s founders, took to The New York Times to call for the company to be broken up. While we support smart regulation, the fact is that breaking up Facebook in the United States is not an end-all solution. Reforming the internet is a global, not solely American conversation.

Would You Share That?  Do we really understand privacy today? To aid our understanding, the Times put together a collection of pieces to create The Privacy Project. It’s a critical work of journalism, but what’s more interesting (and perhaps entertaining) is a piece about our comfort level with sharing information on social media. Have you considered how much you want to share and why? Best to check out the questionnaire.


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