LIVE FROM WEB SUMMIT 2019, LISBON: Microsoft president Brad Smith (pictured) outlined the importance for technology companies in delivering privacy protections to address new challenges raised by the digital era.

He said with a new wave of technology there must also be a “new wave of privacy protection, security protection”, along with measures to safeguard ethics. “We need to recognise as technology moves forward, we need to stop leaving people behind”.

“Today cloud computing is ubiquitous all around the world. It reduced the cost of access to technology, it has led to an explosion in data. We will start the next decade with 25-times as much digital data as we had in 2010”, Smith predicted.

Other trends the executive expects over the next decade include a combination of traditional computing with emerging quantum efforts, and a rise in the number of data centres along with innovations in how data is stored and processed.

“We are going to see 5G become 6G and computing will become ambient, it will be in every device, every corner, every part of our homes”.

Role of AI
In a keynote, Smith addressed concerns around AI, predicting the conversation would move on to address more general deployments of the technology.

He noted “any tool can also become a weapon”, including AI, therefore, companies need to “think as never before about what it means in terms of broader societies”.

“We need to ask what computers shouldn’t do. We are the first generation in the history of humanity who will empower machines to make decisions…If we get it wrong, every generation that follows us will pay a price”, he said.

Smith appealed for technology companies to work more closely with governments to address new challenges around accessibility and environmental sustainability and show the industry is “committed to use technology to solve the world’s problems”.

He cited the use of AI to gather and analyse data to prevent illegal fishing as an example.

Smith also called for the reach of technology to be broadened, noting that more than 20 million Americans still lack broadband access.