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Key Takeaways From Dublin Tech Summit

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A version of this post appeared in Edelman UK Magazine.

Just over 18 months ago, the Web Summit announced it was leaving the Emerald Isle and relocating to Lisbon. This saw an enormous event take place in 2016, which I attended and covered here.

However, this left a not-so-small hole in Dublin; a city that made great strides to build a vibrant tech community around some of the flagship regional HQs it had managed to attract to the area.

Up stepped a local events-based entrepreneur to rebuild the event in Dublin. Could it rise from the ashes like a phoenix from the ashes left from Web Summit? I attended to find out.

For a year one event, I was pleasantly surprised with the organization of the summit. It was claiming 10,000 visitors, but felt more like 5,000. American serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk featured as one of the speakers. Despite some mixed standards of presentation, I left confident the event would be bigger next year and that the technology community in Dublin will continue to grow (perhaps a little faster pending Brexit negotiations).

So, having attended many of the speaker sessions, met with start-ups, academics and investors these are some of the key takeouts:

1. Humanizing IT and surfacing people benefits. We were reminded by Accenture that technology is made by people for people; this “rise of the robots” rhetoric, they argued, is missing the point. This isn’t about creating artificial intelligence to replace our intelligence, rather creating augmented intelligence. They noted that this will mark a breakthrough year for the sector as both the economics of technology (speed of development has never been this fast) as well as the economic context (Brexit/Trump/fear) means we are poised for tectonic movements.

2. Not all things get faster with progress. Despite the world generally feeling faster and us living through exponential times, the web is actually getting slower. This is a measure of end user experience by looking at the download speed of web pages. As web pages and content are becoming increasingly richer, the technology can’t keep pace to improve speeds using its own network data (as the web is not yet built for mobile), so said the CEO of Akamai.

3. The Chinese are coming. Ali Express (the international arm of Alibaba) has a clear mission to grow globally. Within ten years, the company wants 40% of its business to come from outside of China. It doesn’t want to be Amazon, it wants to enable every company to become Amazon. I wouldn’t bet against this firm, it has the data behind it to win.

4. Technology can make the world smaller. UNICEF presented its innovation investment fund and the role technology can play to enable fairer societies. The shocking example in Liberia of teachers asking for sex in exchange for grades was used. UNICEF had heard of reports and rumors of this taking place and wanted to see if this was a small problem or a bigger issue. The organization was able to better understand the scale of the problem and call for change at the government level through a polling application it developed and funded. Through this app, UNICEF was able to instantly reach a large student population and discover this was, shockingly, a systemic issue

5. The kids are getting faster. Steve Hatch of Facebook presented findings that showed the older you get the slower you scroll. Consumption of information is speeding up; what we think of fast today will seem slow tomorrow.

6. Quantum Computing is a race. This technology could just break it all (future post on this, I believe we are heading into a technology Cold War – quite literally – on quantum computing as it nears a reality). The idea is that we are near to a new paradigm in computing due to breakthroughs in the understanding of physics (quantum mechanics) – which will deliver processing speeds and capacity beyond our current spheres of understanding. A quantum computer once plugged online would be able to break any and all security protocols in a matter of seconds – including blockchain by the way – and nuclear codes.

7. Cities are the next trillion-dollar industry opportunity. There was an urge from a number of IoT companies as well as people like the CTO of Palo Alto City for entrepreneurs to think about cities as customers; to serve the growing demand to solve issues in cities through technology.

Justin Westcott, managing director at Edelman UK.

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