This year I went to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, full of high hopes. And I was not disappointed. The decision to attend the conference has paid dividends. I’ve just returned to Poland and, before I catch the flight to Distree, another conference that is very important to me, I’ve taken a moment to write down my first thoughts about last week’s trip to Switzerland.
It was a very special gathering for a number of reasons. On the geopolitical level, Donald Trump’s sudden interest in Davos is a clear sign that the US president has grasped the significance of Xi Jinping’s presence at the WEF last year. So much is clear, given that Trump is the first US president in 18 years to have attended Davos. The last president to attend was Bill Clinton, and the year was 2000. Moreover, even though only a few days before the conference things looked rather inauspicious for the relations between the US president and Theresa May, Davos was the place where the first ice was broken. Following the meeting, which after all was not supposed to happen (!), the two countries’ leaders asked their respective staff to finalize the arrangements for Donald Trump’s visit to Great Britain. It would appear that the conflict in the Washington-London relations, which seemed to have reached its peak towards the end of 2017, when nearly half of the British people polled by The Independent objected to Donald Trump’s visit to the British Isles, has been smoothed over. Of course, I am not going to speculate here about the current, complex geopolitical situation on the basis of a long list of interesting events which were not lacking in Davos, but I must say that such and similar diplomatic maneuvers make a super-interesting jigsaw puzzle.
On the other hand, let us not forget that President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki have also paid a visit to Davos. I see this as sending a very strong signal that Poland is really aiming high, perceives the event as an opportunity and is going to take advantage of it. Interestingly, when I was in Davos I remembered the words spoken in 2016 in the Ministry of Digital Affairs overseen now by Prime Minister Morawiecki. In submitting his „Time to accelerate. The Digitalisation of Poland” report, the then secretary of state in this department, Witold Kołodziejski, stated that the just-begun new stage of building a digital economy was Poland’s most promising opportunity: a chance „we want to seize and invest in”. Words in politics usually become obsolete very quickly, so when our scepticism proves unfounded, we should take note.
Talking about opportunities, I want to come back to the subject I have written previously about and which, as I had expected, attracted plenty of interest in Davos, too. I mean the fourth industrial revolution, which provides the backdrop for the digitalisation of the country. The whole range of developments including, among other things, data processing in the cloud, Big Data, IoT, artificial intelligence, or process automation represents an incredibly powerful set of tools. According to the estimates, even at this early stage, thanks to them Europe’s economy generates a few percentage points of its GDP, while the rate of growth in this sector is simply phenomenal. Similar trends can be observed in investment in digital transformation, which makes it possible to create products and services based on intelligent data processing. The fourth industrial revolution equals digital economy in the strictest sense of the word. It is an economy where, after the age of steam, then electricity, then electronics, the key role is played by data.
It is worth noting that, looking at the whole picture in historical categories, the fourth industrial revolution is the first revolution which our country can embrace and enjoy fully. Poland disappeared from the map of Europe too early and reappeared on it too late to partake in the bounty offered by the age of steam, or even electricity. Computers began to change the world at a time when any progress in this land was rather hard to conceive of, in this as well as in other areas of human endeavours. In fact, the catching up started only about a quarter of a century ago. All of which makes an even stronger case for seizing any opportunities which the fourth revolution brings with it and investing in them!
Bearing all this in mind, we have to be clear about one thing: seizing our chance does not mean only digitalisation of the country or of business. It goes without saying that automation and robotics will have a bigger and bigger impact on the labour market. In this context, transformation of the educational system seems inevitable to ensure that the new educational system can meet the employers’ growing requirements through an educated labour force while maximising the creativity potential and job flexibility of the graduates. This is only one of the many necessary changes that need to happen, but the subject of the revolution is too multi-faceted to be dealt with here at any greater length.
Modesty forbids but I admit that, as President of ABC Data, while in Davos, I listened with ill-concealed joy to speakers talking about the most important issues connected with e-commerce and the omnichannel concept. All the more so, given that the speakers included such luminaries as Jack Ma, founder of the famous Alibaba Group. I don’t think the group needs any further introduction, does it? The man himself is a visionary who has had an enormous impact on the world of business and the way we shop today. At the risk of sounding smug, I also wish to say that ABC Data played a part in the e-commerce revolution, if on a smaller scale. What part? I have written many times before about the visionaries who two decades ago created an internet sales platform called InterLink. Sounds familiar? I’m not surprised. After all, it’s a tool launched by ABC Data. So let me wallow a bit in the pleasure I get from sharing my thoughts on the subject with you. InterLink appeared at a time when all our competitors were very sceptical about our investment and spoke of the internet with an air of bemusement, expressing doubts whether the idea of selling online would ever take off. But the visionaries saw the future. And they were not mistaken. InterLink gave our company an indisputable edge over our competitors and, while being constantly improved, continues to be the main selling tool of ABC Data. It is hard to believe but our platform is 20 years old!
So yes, this year the World Economic Forum has met all my expectations. Can I expect the same from Distree in Monaco? Watch this space.
Official page of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting:
Reports: „AI Revolution. How artificial intelligence will change business in Poland“, „Harnessing automation for a future that Works” (to download) and „ Digital Poland” (from 2016) prepared by McKinsey&Company:
Article about the release of the „ Time to accelerate. Digitalization of Poland” Report by the Ministry of Digitalisation in 2016:
And some information about this year’s Distree here.