Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

At Davos, All Conversations Turn to Power of Technology

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

At Davos, All Conversations Turn to Power of Technology

Article excerpt

Even the program guide for the World Economic Forum has more references to technology and social media than any of the nerdiest Silicon Valley blogs.

When I set out to report at the World Economic Forum, I imagined it might be difficult to find technology-related stories. It turns out, I was a tad wrong. I would have had more luck finding a snowless Alpine mountain in the winter than finding people discussing a topic that did not involve technology.

After a year that has included the social media-fueled protests of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, global Internet privacy legislation and billions of dollars in technology stock offerings, technology and social media have not only entered the building, they are the walls holding it up.

Even the 102-page program guide for the World Economic Forum, where business, political and intellectual leaders gather each year to talk and frolic, has more references to technology and social media than any of the nerdiest Silicon Valley blogs I read daily.

Of course, technology is not a new concept at the forum. Eric E. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, told me he had been attending Davos for 15 years, two years before Google was even created.

But what has changed, dozens of people told me, is technology's infusion into every topic here.

Sessions on philanthropy, agriculture, social unrest, media and the economy were all full of digital banter. One attendee even told me that social media repeatedly came up during a discussion on religion.

Paulo Coelho, the best-selling Brazilian novelist, said in an interview that business and political leaders were finally accepting the power of social media. "Five years ago, Davos was discussing new business models; now that has totally dropped. Now it is all about the Internet," he said. "They used to have answers here, and now it seems people are more comfortable with questions; the Internet has a lot of questions."

Mr. Coelho, by the way, has more than seven million followers on Facebook and three million on Twitter. …

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