Technology connects the world, but leaders must find ways to help everyone benefit

Smart phones have connected people around the world, but not everyone has been able to benefit from the technology.
Smart phones have connected people around the world, but not everyone has been able to benefit from the technology. Getty Images

As Heraclitus said: "The only thing that is constant is change." This has never felt more relevant. Whether we live in a global metropolis or a rural farming village, never have we experienced the breakneck speed of change as we are experiencing in this technologically-driven era.

While the world today feels faster, more uncertain and more volatile than ever, we are actually living in the most peaceful time in history with unprecedented opportunity for knowledge and advancement for billions of people.

As information has become more available through the adoption of smart phones and the powerful technology that powers them, people all over the world have access to knowledge that only a few years ago would have only have been available at the most elite centers of higher learning. Today, these technological capabilities, coupled with innovative and disruptive business models, are transforming lives and industries in unimaginable ways.

However, not everyone is equipped to deal with these tectonic shifts in societies, leaving many feeling left behind and uncertain of what their roles are in this rapidly changing world.

The question of what we are to do collectively, as a global community, to address the effects of this breakneck change is the theme of this year’s Miami World Strategic Forum – “Leading an Era of Change”. How do leaders manage and balance the many conflicting interests of individuals, communities, governments and businesses to ensure that we continue on the road toward the future while minimizing the negative side effects that could derail progress?

The world faces a barrage of disruption that is challenging well-established political, economic and social structures. While it is easy to see how this disruption is causing a great deal of unease, especially in political and economic environments, it is more important than ever for leaders, entrepreneurs and thinkers to come together to discuss trends driving the global economy and provide insights and understanding that create bridges of opportunities.

The exponential adoption of smart-phone technology coupled with powerful social and commercial platforms have brought the power of super computers to people all over the globe, empowering them with information that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. This has created a wave of change whose effects with which we are only beginning to grapple.

Simultaneously, we are seeing the advent of artificial technology position itself to take the jobs of millions, displacing workers who are, in too many instances, ill equipped to compete in a technologically driven world.

Leaders, whether in politics, business, health or academia, must grapple with how to lead in an era with equal amounts of opportunity and challenge. Many seek to hold on to the past, promising a return to a status quo that will never come back while others promise a glistening future that they really can’t predict. Finding a balance is a tricky proposition with no clear right or wrong answer. The only thing we can do is bring together our best and brightest and engage in an honest and open discussion that allows us to forge a path forward.

The reality is that there are no easy answers. While it has become the nature of our permanently connected social media world to reduce complex issues into simplified media-ready positions, we must create opportunities to convene leaders to have thoughtful discussions that look at all of the sides of the issue and to forge collaborative solutions that bring us together.

While it would be folly to believe that having frank discussions in a collegial environment will solve all of our problems, it is a place to start. We at The International Economic Forum of the Americas are committed to creating venues all over the world that promotes solutions for our shared interests while respecting our differences.

Nicholas Rémillard is president and CEO of the International Economic Forum of the Americas (IEFA), which hosts three annual economic forums, the Conference of Montreal, the Toronto Global Forum and the World Strategic Forum. The World Strategic Forum, returns to Miami, Florida on April 16 and 17 under the theme “Leading an Era of Change.” Now in its eighth year, the Conference will gather over 1,400 participants and 90 speakers at the Biltmore Hotel to address the issues, opportunities and challenges facing world leaders in today’s dynamic and disruptive global environment.