The global climate crisis is acute. In the last few months alone, Hawaii, Morocco and Libya have experienced climate-linked catastrophes that have wiped out communities and killed tens of thousands of people.
At the same time, emerging tech – notably artificial intelligence and data ecosystems – are becoming increasingly sophisticated and influential. There’s been much focus on the perils and threats posed by these scientific developments, but how can they be proactively harnessed to mitigate climate challenges and create a more resilient world?
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, GZERO Media held a Global Stage livestream event unpacking these complex challenges and opportunities, in collaboration with the United Nations, the Complex Risk Analytics Fund, and the Early Warnings for All initiative.
This urgent conversation was be moderated by Nick Thompson, CEO, The Atlantic; and featured Melinda Bohannon, Director General of Humanitarian and Development at the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office; Ian Bremmer, President and Founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media; Vilas Dhar, President and Trustee, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation; Dr. Comfort Ero, President and CEO of International Crisis Group; Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction; Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General; Amandeep Singh Gill, UN Envoy on Technology; Brad Smith, Vice Chair and President, Microsoft; Axel van Trostenburg, World Bank Managing Director; and Anne Witkowsky, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the US Department of State.
Emerging tech is presenting huge opportunities to identify climate hotspots and scale damage and destruction. Indeed, Smith says that satellites are able to not only capture visual images, but also gather “data streams” on fossil fuel emissions. In addition, AI is also being harnessed to identify communities affected by climate calamities and see which “people have been rendered homeless.” Still, tech companies can’t do it alone. In order to identify what their exact needs are, Smith adds, partnerships with NGOs and other stakeholders are key.
Amandeep Singh Gill had much to say about how these processes are applied in real time, particularly when addressing world hunger. “Across 90 countries, 700-800 million people are at risk of food insecurity,” he notes, adding that using data across institutions has allowed the multilateral organization “to get assessments about where food insecurity is going to spike next, and that allows us to respond in a better way.”
Still, having access to copious amounts of data is one thing, but figuring out how to use it to effectuate change is quite another. “There's a real gap between the information that's out there and the ability to act upon the information that's out there,” Dr Ero says, adding that “lack of policy and action” and failure to act quickly when crises are identified are hindering these global efforts. Dr Ero points to the situation in Somalia, which is still grappling with an insurgency by the Al-Shabaab terror group while also facing floods and trying to rebuild its society. “All the data points are showing the stresses that Somalia has to deal with, but why aren't we able to respond to that?” she asks, highlighting poor governance and lack of political will as impediments to progress.
When asked about how these issues might be affected by the fact that heads of state from four out of five permanent members of the UN Security Council did not show up at the UN General Assembly this week, Amina Mohammed said there is “huge momentum” from governments and stakeholders. “The 2030 agenda is urgent, and we really do just feel that there is a movement to make that happen. There's a sense of determination … too many people are at stake.”
And there’s one elephant in the room when discussing climate change and tech advancements: China. One big issue, Bremmer notes, “is that China is really distracted by very significant domestic economic challenges and that has put real constraints, material constraints, on their foreign policy strategy over the long term,” he says.
After a terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, was live-streamed on the internet in 2019, the Christchurch Call was launched to counter the increasing weaponization of the internet and to ensure that emerging tech is harnessed for good.
Since its inception, the Christchurch Call has evolved to include more than 120 government and private sector stakeholders. The organization, pioneered by the French and New Zealand governments, will hold its next major summit at the Paris Peace Forum in November.
Dame Jacinda Ardern, former Prime Minister of New Zealand who led the response to the Christchurch attack; Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media; and Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft sat down with CNN’s Rahel Solomon for a Global Stage livestream on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. The event was hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft.
Reflecting on the catastrophic attack that prompted the formation of the Call and its mission, Dame Ardern recalled how, on that day, ”I reached for my phone to be able to share that message on a social media platform, I saw the live stream.” She notes how that became a galvanizing moment: In the “aftermath of that period, we were absolutely determined … we had the attention of social media platforms in particular to do something that would try and prevent any other nation from having that experience again.”
That led to the formation of the organization in a mere eight-week period, Ardern said. But identifying hate speech and extremism online that can fuel violence is no small feat, Ardern acknowledges, adding that while the goal can indeed appear “lofty,” the group’s focus is on “setting expectations” around what should and shouldn’t be tolerated online.
But what did tech companies learn from the Christchurch experience about their own roles in moderating content, overseeing algorithms, and mitigating potential radicalization and violence?
One major development that came out of the Christchurch Call, Smith notes, is what’s known as a content incident protocol. “Basically, you have the tech companies and governments and others literally on call like doctors being summoned to the emergency room at tech companies and in governments so that the moment there is such a shooting, everybody immediately is alerted.”
Emerging technologies – most notably artificial intelligence – mean that the Christchurch Call must remain nimble in the face of new threats. Still, Ardern says that’s not necessarily a bad thing because AI presents both challenges and opportunities for the organization. “On the one hand we may see an additional contribution from AI to our ability to better manage content moderation that may be an upside,” she says. But “a downside,” she notes, “is that we may see it continue to contribute to or expand on some of the disinformation which contributes to radicalization.”
Bremmer shared this view of AI, calling it both “a tool of extraordinary productivity and growth, indeed globalization 2.0,” while also acknowledging the threat of disinformation proliferation: “Fundamental to a democratic society, an open society, a civil society, fundamental to human rights and the United Nations Charter is the idea that people are able to exchange information that they know is true, that they know is real,” he says.
Four years after the Christchurch attack, there is indeed a sense of urgency surrounding the need for governments to better understand emerging technologies and their powers over politics and society. “Governments understand that this is systemic, it is transformative, and they're not ready,” Bremmer says, adding that “they don't have the expertise, they don't have the resources, and we don't yet have the architecture … we're late!”
The threat of the Russian bear has been putting its neighbors on edge for years, and while plenty has been spent on beefing up their militaries, there’s now a whole other line of defense: digitization. Kyiv has harnessed its digital technology to provide government services to a whopping 19 million Ukrainians, despite daily bombings and devastation.
How has digitization helped Ukraine navigate first a pandemic and now a war? What lessons can be learned by other countries? GZERO asked geotech experts in a livestream event, presented by Visa, about the challenges and opportunities that nation-states face when it comes to digitization, and how it could shape a more inclusive and resilient future. The event was moderated by Goodpods' JJ Ramberg. Watch the full discussion above.
In 2020, Ukraine launched Diia, a mobile application that connects Ukrainians to more than 120 government services – from digital driver’s licenses to business filings to tax payments, says Mohamed Abdel-Kader, who helms the Innovation, Technology, and Research Hub at USAID. He and his teams help countries adopt new technological innovations in effective ways. Since the war, the app – also forged in partnership with UK Aid, Eurasia Foundation, and private sector partners – has also helped address wartime needs. For example, it has helped Ukrainians claim benefits for war-related property damage, and, at times, has been used to broadcast news and video when other networks are down. It has also helped with Ukraine’s mobilization and enabled the reporting of Russian troop sightings.
Unsurprisingly, it was another former Soviet republic, Estonia, that emerged as a pioneer in digitization back in the 2000s. Being so close to that Russian bear – it’s just a three-hour drive from St. Petersburg to the Estonian border town of Narva – helped focus the digital mind. The country was already a digital leader, but in 2007, Estonia withstood a month-long cyberattack that crippled its government systems and digital infrastructure. There was speculation of Russian involvement, but it was a “blessing in disguise,” says Carmen Raal, a digital transformation adviser at e-Estonia, the country’s electronic government services. This is because it forced the country to focus on cybersecurity before it was of critical importance to private and public sectors. The resulting innovations, she adds, have made Estonia a world leader in cyber security.
Today, Estonia offers 99.99% of its services online, Raal says, including universal online banking solutions and super-quick business setups. It takes “less than three hours to establish a company and, of course, it can be done fully online,” she adds.
What’s more, Estonia offers something called e-Residency, enabling individuals from anywhere in the world to apply online for a digital identity with which they can establish businesses in Estonia. “We have over 100,000 e-residents, and they have established over 27,000 Estonian companies,” Raal texted me after the event.
When it comes to digitization, both Ukraine and Estonia offer models of early investment, evolution, responses to security crises, and government-citizen relations, while the Estonian services reflect how governments can help residents (near and far) embrace economic opportunity. But globally, there remains plenty of work to ensure access, equality, and trust.
Digitization, after all, is great for those in the game, but as the rich get richer, governments need to ensure everyone has access. Last year, 60% of global GDP was generated by digitally enabled businesses, and in the last five years, the world has added two billion new internet users.
As the trend of digitalizing continues, with technology transforming businesses and work, says Eurasia Group's Geotechnology Director Alexis Serfaty, “it’s absolutely going to create new opportunities and new wealth, especially, I think, in emerging markets with younger populations and with more robust digital public infrastructure." In other words, there has been record growth in access, but there are still 2.5 billion people worldwide who are not online, and better systems and expanded access could translate into exponential growth – if done well.
Expanding trust in digital systems is also essential – only 62% of those GZERO surveyed before the livestream said they had faith in tech companies protecting their data.
Challenges of building secure public infrastructure that expands participation in inclusive ways, says Priya Vora, CEO of Digital Impact Alliance, are universal, and there’s a lot more work to be done. “I don’t think any country has figured it out yet,” she says.
Digital accessibility and digitization of services, along with digital skills, government oversight, and user trust need to grow in tandem to foster greater economic growth.
Hitting the right balance of government oversight will be key to getting this all right, says Rajiv Garodia, Visa’s global head of government solutions, who works with governments around the globe on digitization. He calls for a sound economic model and infrastructures designed with operational resilience, along with clear roles and responsibilities laid out for both the public and private sectors.
Global crises, like the ongoing war in Ukraine, also present opportunities for innovation and growth. Despite its current plight, Kyiv is making strides in a key sector that’s only becoming more important.
Watch the video above to hear the experts discuss the power of digitization – both amid war and for public and private sector growth.
As we approach the grim first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – which came on the heels of last year’s Munich Security Conference – GZERO is back in Germany, discussing the past year since the war began, what’s likely to come next, and what it means for the world.
Benedetta Berti, NATO’s head of policy planning in the office of the Secretary-General; Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media; Comfort Ero, president and CEO of Crisis Group; and Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft, sat down with CNN’s Nic Robertson at the Munich Security Conference for a Global Stage livestream, hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft.
Taking stock of the past 12 months, the panelists discussed Western unity and Ukraine’s resolve while warning against underestimating Russia’s possible next moves. The West gets a top grade for its response to the invasion, Ian Bremmer says. But much depends on sustained unity and keeping war fatigue at bay. “I think it's always more difficult for a democratically elected government to sustain that kind of political support and public support,” says Brad Smith.
While many overestimated Russia’s military prowess and underestimated Ukraine’s agility to embrace technology and stay the course, Benedetta Berti warns that it ”would be a real strategic mistake if we started to underestimate what Russia could do in the future.” Could spillover be a threat to Europe and the world?
Bremmer notes that the West cannot afford to assume that the Russians are incapable of doing anything to NATO simply because they haven’t done so yet. “Russia is becoming the most powerful rogue state in history, and we have seen that a much less powerful Iran has caused an enormous amount of problems in their backyard.” What form could Russian aggression toward NATO take? “I think that we should recognize,” says Bremmer, “that we will start to see asymmetric attacks from Russia against NATO.”
Comfort Ero, meanwhile, was careful to point to the global ramifications of the war, noting how it has disrupted food supplies while distracting many from other major crises. “Everybody's got Ukraine in their headline, but the most deadly violent conflict last year was not Ukraine,” she says. “It was Ethiopia.”
The panelists also reflected on the power of technology, addressing whether it is making the world a safer or more dangerous place. Smith noted how quickly and flexibly Ukraine has used technology to its advantage – both on the battlefield and particularly “President Zelensky's ability to use [it] to really rally the support of the world.”
But can tech make the world a safe place? How will the US-China AI race impact its development and use?
Bremmer says that technology has certainly made the world wealthier, making people safer by pulling them from poverty. But while 8 billion people worldwide are better off because of it, “they feel like technology is becoming more dangerous” because of its speed of development.
As for the future of Ukraine, the biggest worry, says Bremmer, is that we’re “not seeing even a remote possibility of an exit ramp, a remote possibility of negotiations getting started.” This means the West has no idea of what things might look like after the war.
“I've never seen the fog of war feel this thick.”
Artificial intelligence is on everyone's mind these days.
But while some people are using tools like ChatGPT to write a college essay, others are thinking about how to deploy the same tech to beat the stock market — or, if you're a sneaky politician, perhaps rig an election on social media. The potential for AI to mess up democracy is scary, but the truth is that it can also make the world a better place.
So, are bots good or bad for us? We asked a few experts to weigh in during the Global Stage livestream conversation "Risks and Rewards of AI," hosted by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft at this year's World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO, shares his thoughts on why we're at a tipping for AI as a geopolitical risk, why the threat of disinformation has displaced the digital divide in Davos conversations, and why AI is our best shot to fight climate change. Also, he asks, what'll happen when the use of bots becomes so widespread that we start treating humans like them?
Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, explains why he thinks 2023 will be an inflection point for AI and why the tech can actually help everybody if it's developed correctly — for instance by spurring critical thinking. In response to a tough question, he defends Microsoft's recent decision to invest big in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT.
Eileen Donahoe, executive director of Stanford University's Global Digital Policy Incubator, wades into the debates over who should regulate AI and if should be banned. She’s as worried about the actual implications of AI for human rights as the menace of bots becoming smart, if not someday smarter, than humans.
Azeem Azhar, founder of the Exponential View newsletter, digs into how corporations are tooling up to be ready to go nuts on AI when the time is right, why open-source AI is a non-linear technological advancement, and why democracies are still ahead of China in the race to dominate AI in the future.
- Be very scared of AI + social media in politics ›
- Can we control AI before it controls us? ›
- Be more worried about artificial intelligence ›
- Kai-fu Lee: What's next for artificial intelligence? ›
- Larry Summers: Which jobs will AI replace? - GZERO Media ›
- Global Stage: Global issues at the intersection of technology, politics, and society - GZERO Media ›
What should the world fear more: an increasingly unhinged Vladimir Putin or an unbound Xi Jinping? Will most of the global economy enter a recession next year? And what happens when autocrats master the use of artificial intelligence to undermine democracy around the planet? Eurasia Group experts share their view on the top 10 geopolitical risks for 2023 in this livestream conversation.
- Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group and GZERO Media
- Cliff Kupchan, Chairman, Eurasia Group
- Anna Ashton, Director, China Corporate Affairs and US-China, Eurasia Group
- Franck Gbaguidi, Senior Analyst, Climate, Energy & Resources, Eurasia Group
- Rob Kahn, Managing Director, Global Macro-Geoeconomics , Eurasia Group
- Evan Solomon, Publisher, GZERO Media (moderator)
2022 has been the year of converging crises: the ongoing pandemic, climate change, economic turmoil, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Lots of gloom and doom, indeed.
But in all these crises, there is an opportunity to bounce back with solutions to make the world a better place. Think of how the war in Ukraine united the West more than ever against a common enemy.
How? Good question. We asked several experts during the Global Stage livestream conversation "The Road to 2030: Getting Global Goals Back on Track," hosted by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft.
For Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO, the main reason for hope in 2023 is that this year some people realized that there are big problems worth fixing. Although we definitely live in a G-zero world with a vacuum of global leadership, he adds, we've also seen unprecedented Western unity that would not have happened without Russia invading Ukraine. Ian believes that resistance to a negotiated solution to the war will come from the developing world and that Elon Musk is definitely complicating things with how he's running Twitter.
Microsoft President Brad Smith discussed the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which at their halfway point he sees as a "glass half full, half empty" but questions how progress is being measured. Also, Smith sees Russia turning to civilians in Ukraine because its military is losing against Ukrainian soldiers, which he regards as the opposite of what the world agreed to do after World War II. On climate, he doesn't see things in good shape after COP27 but hopes today's multiple ongoing crises will push us to do more things together.
Melissa Fleming, the UN's Undersecretary-General for Global Communications, laments there is so much more to be done to make the world a better place next year, but there's so much lethargy amid all the gloom and doom. She also braces for Ukraine's tough winter as Russia targets the country's energy infrastructure. Fleming is worried about a disturbing spike in climate change disinformation, which has returned to the denial narrative when people most need to be informed about what's happening to the planet.
Khadija Mayman from the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative underscores the need for young people in her community to get mental health support. Other types of support would be welcome, too — youth want to do the work, but they can't wait forever for jobs, so we need to help create businesses that'll employ them.
Hindou Ibrahim, co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, says that we can't protect biodiversity without first recognizing Indigenous peoples' rights to land and access to finance. We must all be partners, she adds, and Indigenous peoples are the "CEOs" (chief ecological officers) of the planet's biodiversity.
Dr. Omnia El Omrani, Youth Envoy for COP27 and SDG Champion, resents how young people's voices are excluded from the global climate conversation while they are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. She wants to create a space for young people to be able to shape their own futures without killing their dreams.
This livestream is the latest in the Webby-nominated Global Stage series, a partnership between GZERO and Microsoft that examines critical issues at the intersection of technology, politics, and society.
- COVID's impact on education and its long-term geopolitical consequences: Gerald Butts ›
- Who can solve the world's "emergency of global proportions"? ›
- Is the world coming apart? Drama at Davos ›
- Top Risks 2022: We’re done with the pandemic, but the pandemic ain’t done with us ›
- Russia freezing out Ukrainian civilians because it can't beat military, says Microsoft's Brad Smith - GZERO Media ›
- We can't fix climate change without protecting biodiversity, says UNFCCC official - GZERO Media ›