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Global smart cities initiative launched at Davos

Teams from the WEF’s Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution Network will be previewing new policies and blueprints

Smart cities are on the agenda at Davos. © World Economic Forum/Benedikt von Loebell
Smart cities are on the agenda at Davos. © World Economic Forum/Benedikt von Loebell

A new global initiative focused on accelerating the responsible and sustainable development of smart cities has been launched at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.


This work will be based in Japan, where more than 90 per cent of the population currently lives in cities. Leveraging Japan’s role as chair of the G20 Summit this year, a coalition of G20 cities will be formed to help ensure that global smart city efforts are built upon a common set of human-centred principles and shared policy frameworks.


New policies and blueprints


The WEF said that teams from its Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network will be previewing new policies to help corporate boards steward the responsible adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) by their companies and new blueprints to ensure that internet-of-things devices are deployed effectively and responsibly.


WEF also announced that more than 100 international organisations, businesses and governments have joined its Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network to co-design and pilot new policies for emerging technologies.


The Centre Network brings together governments, leading companies, civil society and experts from around the world and its vision is to shape the development and use of technology in ways that maximise the benefits and minimise the risks.


Over the next months, teams from the centre will be launching:

  • a policy playbook to ensure safe, equitable, efficient and sustainable adoption of autonomous vehicles;
  • a governance framework to balance anonymity and transparency on blockchains that will be piloted this year by the Government of Colombia;
  • a data-sharing platform in India that enables precision agriculture while protecting privacy, which can be scaled up globally;
  • guidelines for government use of AI that will be piloted by the United Kingdom and numerous other governments;
  • Precision Medicine Readiness Principles that can be used by policy-makers in low-resource contexts beginning with partners in Africa;
  • and a governance framework to unlock cross-border access to health data for precision medicine that will be piloted by institutions in Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Over the past year, the network helped Rwanda write the world’s first agile drone regulation and is scaling it across Africa and Asia, developed actionable governance toolkits for corporate executives on blockchain, co-designed the first-ever Industrial IoT (IIoT) Safety and Security Protocol (with pilot implementation by a leading global insurance company being announced this week), and created a personal data policy framework with the UAE for governments looking to balance the risks and opportunities of emerging technologies.

“Businesses and governments are falling behind in responding to this pace, continuously operating in the ‘too late zone’"

The international expansion of the Centre Network began last year with new offices in China, India and Japan to accelerate and globally scale up emerging-technology pilot projects. Heads of the delegations from Colombia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced the opening of affiliate centres in Medellín, Tel Aviv and Dubai, respectively.


“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is moving faster than anyone expected,” said Murat Sönmez, managing director and head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network. “Businesses and governments are falling behind in responding to this pace, continuously operating in the ‘too late zone’.


“As the platform for global technology policy the Centre Network aims to accelerate the creation and implementation of forward-looking governance protocols. The addition of affiliate centres is critical in capturing this opportunity so that the Fourth Industrial Revolution benefits not just the few but society as a whole.”


New global partnerships


At the Annual Meeting 2019, new partnerships with the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco (the Network’s headquarters) were announced by the governments of Azerbaijan, Canada, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkey and Viet Nam.


The United Kingdom announced this week that it will be expanding its current AI partnership with the network to include a new initiative with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to develop innovative regulatory approaches for emerging technologies that can be scaled globally.


Businesses and start-ups are crucial parts of the network’s multi-stakeholder approach and the newest additions include: Amazon Web Services, Deloitte, Guardian Life,, Kanoria Foundation, Netflix, and Visa. Newest start-up partners include: AirMap, Cognite, Curl Analytics, Diginex, Fiscal Note, Global Gene Corp, Integral Petroleum, LCX, MetricStream, Srei Infrastructure Finance and Steady.


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