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HS4A at the CES 2023

by Garry Jacobs, President & CEO, World Academy of Art & Science; Executive Chairman of HS4A

In most cases the global challenges are interrelated and interdependent, so they cannot be addressed effectively in a piecemeal fashion. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic represents a multidimensional threat to every aspect of people’s lives all over the world. It has impacted on health, food production and distribution, employment and livelihoods, manufacturing, transport and distribution everywhere. Schools were closed, transport was shut down, manufacturing stopped, and global supply chains interrupted.

The war in Ukraine is another example. Even today it is creating severe food shortages, energy problems and price inflation for people all over the world. The war is not just a threat to lives in the warzone, it threatens the security of people everywhere. Climate change is the ultimate example. The challenges it poses are of greater magnitude than anything humanity has ever faced in the past. Humanity cannot afford to ignore these problems.

Technological innovation can offer at least part of the solution. The alliance with CTA is to encourage the creativity and innovative resources that are available in the industry to turn their attention to addressing issues that are of deep personal interest and concern to people all over the world.

HS4A seeks to communicate the importance of human security to people around the world in a manner that makes every aspect of human security personal. A central message is that our security does not just depend on our military forces. Though it is necessary to have national security investments, most people are far more seriously impacted by other needs – food, energy, healthcare, education, a safe environment in the community, personal safety, and equal rights for women and minorities.

A study of successful businesses shows that companies that grow fast and continuously are those that are able to adapt to the changing and evolving needs of the societies around them. CES is all about such adapting: new technology and new innovation to meet new needs. To cite an example, as personal computers were spreading in the 1980s and became a dominant force, people were required to learn the computer language in order to communicate with them. Many viewed computers as a threat to their jobs. Apple Inc. approached the issue of computers in terms of human security and sought to convert the personal computer into a powerful instrument to meet the personal needs of people. It created a computer that understands our language and uses our metaphors such as desktops, files, folders and trash cans in ways that people can relate to. Combined with the advent of the Internet and the smart phone, it made computers an essential means for meeting a very wide range of human security needs.

The potential for innovations with high impact on human security is illustrated by what India has done over the past five years. It has extended mobile technology to the most remote areas of society, to reach people who never had access to banking or formal credit systems, and who had no way to even receive government subsidies. Now India has become a pioneer in mobile banking. Anyone with a mobile phone can open a bank account, transfer money to a barber, dentist, or fruit seller and receive payments from anyone else with a similar device. This has already had a positive impact on hundreds of millions of people who now enjoy financial inclusion. The mobile technology existed earlier. But what has made the difference is thinking of it creatively in terms of how it can benefit people in outlying areas.

Looking at technology use from the consumer’s point of view is really the heart of what CES is all about. New technologies require looking at things differently than they did before. CES 2023 provides opportunities for everyone to participate and contribute to HS4A. Another example of the potential is in the field of education. UNICEF has done a study of technologies that can dramatically improve the quality and lower the cost of education around the world. Real innovations in education are going to come from the private sector. The necessary technology is available, but we need adaptive, resourceful models for disseminating it.

This is already happening in higher education. Hundreds of millions of youth are entering the age of higher education, and there is no way we can meet the demand by building more universities. We need new delivery systems. Online education could give any student anywhere in the world access to the highest quality information in the language of their choice, staying at home or anywhere else. The cost of education has skyrocketed. In India, people mortgage their homes just to get their children into medical school or engineering college. This can be prevented. We have an old paradigm and an old system that are going to be interrupted by the private sector and new technologies. Companies will innovate and design new models.

Health care is another area where technology can make a huge difference. There are many companies in areas such as wearables, protection, or improved diagnosis or treatment that can contribute to human security. Food producers, pioneers in new technologies to improve food production, water companies, and those dealing with ecology, pollution, and reduction in the consumption of raw materials too can play a role.

CES 2023 has introduced a new category of innovation awards to recognize new technologies to enhance human security. WAAS has set up a panel of judges, and will award companies that are doing something innovative. Such recognition can make these companies models and catalysts for others. Companies have to look at unmet human needs and learn to think differently.