Web Summit Opening Night Snapshot

Image credit: Web Summit

Web Summit 2018 opened last night in Lisbon with more than 69,000 attendees from 159 countries and markets registering for four days of inspiring talks, shared insights, and the chance to make connections and woo investors and potential partners.

 

Now bigger than ever, Europe’s largest tech event has lined up more than 1,200 influential speakers this year and more than 1,800 of the world’s hottest start-ups are in attendance. This is also the world’s largest gathering of international journalists and broadcasters, with 2,600 media covering the event, and the largest accumulation of VC funding, with more than 1,500 tech investors walking the exhibition floor.

 

With one issue firmly settled—Web Summit will remain in Portugal’s tech hub for the next ten years—the team is asking a simple question of attendees this year: at a time of great uncertainty for the industry and the world, where to next? Our first-day keynote speakers stepped up with a series of calls to action.

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Tim Berners-Lee: fight for the web you want

When Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web almost 30 years ago, he imagined a free and open platform that would serve humanity. Today? He’s disappointed. The web is effectively broken, mired by hate speech and fake news and threatened by privacy issues and market concentration. He wants to protect the internet as a basic right of everyone: a neutral always-available space guided by his new Contract for the Web. We’re at a tipping point, he cautions, but governments, companies, and individuals can make the web more truthful, creative, constructive, and democratic.

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Lisa Jackson: do well by doing good

Apple’s VP of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, Lisa Jackson, wants the global tech community to know that there is no conflict between a healthy planet and a healthy bottom line. And under her leadership, the world’s most valuable company is proving this every day. Apple has so far issued $2.5 billion in green bonds in support of the Paris agreement. It now powers all of its global facilities (data centers, offices and stores) with 100% clean energy and is working towards a closed-loop supply chain. Education and female empowerment are also part of how Apple does well by doing good.

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António Guterres: put new safeguards in place

Welcomed by the stunning sight of a torch-waving capacity crowd at Lisbon’s massive FIL conference center, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres shared his enthusiasm for the benefits that cutting-edge technologies bring to the world. But he also identified three challenges of the ongoing tech revolution: its social impact, through changes to the job market; its ability to amplify discord and oppression through hate speech and censorship; and the weaponization of AI.

 

Traditional forms of regulation via international law no longer apply, he warns, because tech moves too fast. Instead, he wants to see the UN become a platform—as envisaged by Tim Berners-Lee in his Web Contract—where codes of conduct are agreed that allow the web, AI, IoT, genetic testing, blockchain, and other tech innovations to be a force for good.

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António Costa: build bridges not walls

Portugal’s heritage as a nation of seafaring explorers that sparked the Age of Discovery is coming to life again as it learns from the past and embraces the future as an open society that wishes to connect all peoples in the Information Age. Prime Minister António Costa embodies his country’s belief that freedom is essential for creativity, technological innovation and entrepreneurship. Welcoming the tech world to Portugal, he says that walls are prisons, but bridges are open doors to progress.

 

Tomorrow’s Web Summit will delve deeper into all of these topics, when executives from BP, Google, IKEA, Microsoft, Samsung, and Slack take the stage alongside F1 Champ Nico Rosberg, Serbian PM Ana Brnabic, FleishmanHillard’s own John Saunders, and many more.

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