3 reasons for the tech world to be optimistic from Davos 2023

Tom Okman

February 14, 2023


Cooperation in a fragmented world. That was the motto of this year's World Economic Forum's (WEF) annual meeting of 2023 at Davos. The Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have already stretched the limits of the global economy. Yet the global markets also faced new challenges of stalling economic growth, rising inflation, and energy prices.

co-founder of Nord Security stands smiling in front of World Economic Forum sign wearing a suit

Tom Okman, co-founder of Nord Security

This increasing geo-economic fragmentation showed that the established worldview of seeing systems as separate sectors instead of interconnected ecosystems is a vision without a future. But we have reasons to remain cautiously optimistic. As Klaus Schwab, the founder and chairman of the WEF, noted in his welcome speech, we do have the ability to rebuild a more resilient, peaceful, and sustainable world.

How? It will require collaborative work and addressing the current risks with proactive, vision-driven business strategies and aligned policies. This year's WEF annual meeting had many sessions and deep dives into such potential levers that can aid businesses in the upcoming future. Here are my three insights for tech business leaders that I took away from Davos:

#1 Embracing the shift of employee’s priorities results in a win-win for all

One of the many things that emerged in the post-pandemic labor market was the wave of new terms. Quiet quitting. The great resignation. Career cushioning. Even a term to describe those who resent the idea of returning to the office from their remote work surroundings – resenteers. Most of those terms came from advanced economies and signaled that something negative was happening for various stakeholders. But in reality, it only showed that people's priorities changed and that a healthy work-life balance became critical when those economies generated more options. Businesses were quick to raise the question of when, if ever, we would return to the pre-pandemic work trends. But an even better question is – should we?

In many places worldwide, the global pandemic provided a moment of reflection for employees. Reflections about whether their role in the workplace provided enough purpose or impact. And whether they had the necessary skills to do the jobs they felt passionate about.

Tech companies that were flexible enough or willing to pivot in time to embrace the change started making positive adjustments and received productivity boosts and better talent retention rates. Successful cases of upskilling and reskilling initiatives also showed that simultaneously working and learning from colleagues calls for a reimagining of a more practical educational system that would integrate technology in better ways.

#2 AI tools show a rapid adoption rate, but they need to be used responsibly

One of the better ways to integrate technology was showcased with AI language models, particularly the now infamous example of ChatGPT. On its launch in November last year, its capabilities shocked and awed the general public. Companies quickly noticed the relatively easy access and fast adoption rate from even less tech-savvy people. The potential use cases brought about a surge in specific job ads, calling for AI prompt writers and integration engineers.

But all this was quickly followed by concerned voices from educational and academic circles about the potential learning shortcuts that such tools enabled. The global press also raised questions about the future of creative jobs. And the public debate went beyond the question of AI chatbots. For example, it helped reframe remote workers' concerns about companies implementing robust AI productivity monitoring tools.

However, such a snowball effect showed three major points worth addressing. First, like any other disruptive technology, responsible use should always be integral to the design, especially in transparent data usage and sharing. The same goes for the AI model's reproducibility and explainability. Second, clear and thorough communication is key when bringing disruptive technology to the public. And finally, as we saw with ChatGPT, DALL-E, or StableDiffusion, when used responsibly, AI tech can be a tool eagerly used by the masses, one that could bring significant productivity optimization to the business.

#3 Digital resilience is possible with the right cybersecurity approach

The digital space was another area affected by geo-economic fragmentation. If we could have efficiently identified and pinpointed the major digital threat actors twenty years ago, the rapid evolution of the ecosystem now makes it a genuinely problematic task. Cybercriminals commercialized the exchange of their know-how, tools, and services, making everything widely available to anyone with bad intentions.

To make matters even more challenging, the digital world is a field where progress and innovations put the whole ecosystem at more risk even while they make beneficial leaps. Advancements in AI, quantum computing, the metaverse, and the rising number of IoT devices unlock new potential attack vectors and threat landscapes for cybercriminals. Not to mention the hypermobility of remote workers where companies have to implement sophisticated network security solutions to practically treat any employee's home as a small, secured branch of the company.

So are businesses doomed to forever lag behind cybercriminals in the digital space? Not really. One example given in one of the WEF panel discussions mentioned the 12-month-long wave of aggressive and persistent Russian army cyberattacks on Ukraine. Yet no major cybersecurity failure occurred during this time. This example acts as a great symbol of cybersecurity technology advancements, especially in threat intelligence and end-point security fields.

The increasing scope and sophistication of cybersecurity technology are also not the only factors that are important in viewing the future's digital landscape with cautious optimism. In order to effectively fight the cybercrime problem, we must first be able to understand the problem. In business, that usually falls on the executive team's awareness of the limits of their company's digital resilience.

The Global Cybersecurity Outlook, released during the annual meeting, showed a positive change in management's attitude. In the Davos 2022 meeting our cybersecurity community raised the issue of a significant perception gap in companies between management and in-house specialists, but now business leaders are far more aware of the cyber threat than ever before. So while the threat of a digital storm remains strong, cybersecurity has never been more capable of providing true digital resilience.