The World Economic Forum held its first Summit on the Global Agenda in Dubai between 7-9 November, 2008. The summit was attended by over 700 specially invited participants from 68 countries.

I attended as a member of the Global Advisory Council on Technology and Education, one of 68 GACs, as diverse as global governance, illicit trading and nanotechnology, that make up the Summit on the Global Agenda. The GAC on Technology and Education has 19 members, of whom 14 attended the Dubai meeting (click for list of members).

As well as meetings of the Technology and Education group, I also met with members from other GACs, as follows:

•     the Future of the Internet
•     the Future of Mobile Communications
•     the Future of Entertainment (with respect to possible synergies between the video games industry and education)
•     the Welfare of Children.

The 68 councils were basically given two tasks:
(1) describe the current state of the world within the area of each council
(2) suggest what should be done to improve the state of the world in this area.

The reports will go to the meeting of world leaders at Davos, Switzerland, in January, 2009.

First, it should be realised that this global summit was very much focused on the impact of the current financial crisis, and what could be done both to alleviate it and to prevent possible future global financial collapses. Indeed, I found the plenary session on the final morning by far the most interesting part of the meeting. The reports of the 68 GACs were grouped into eight main headings, each with a rapporteur. The eight  areas were finance, economic development, environment, global governance, society and values, technology (which included our GAC), health, and regional development.  If you have any interest at all in the major financial and environment challenges facing the world at the moment, I strongly recommend you read these highlights. Click here for a copy of the summary statements.

However,  the GAC on Technology and Education was very much a pimple on the flea of the dog. Technology and education was seen as one of many areas that impact on economic development, but which in reality has little direct or immediate relevance to the current world financial crisis. Thus you will see that in the final summary reports of the global summit, technology and education was not even mentioned, it being considered a subsidiary area of technological innovation. Nevertheless, there was general recognition at this meeting that more extensive and innovative applications of technology in education could have a strong influence on future global economic development. Therefore, the context of economic development is important in understanding the selection of members of the GAC on Technology and Education, and hence the nature of its discussions and recommendations.

To read the full report of the GAC on Technology and Education, click here.

To be honest, apart from one or two contentious statements with which I personally disagree (I do believe there are plenty of examples of good practice regarding the use of technology in education – it’s just that they are not often known about or applied, and in any case do not guarantee innovation), I doubt if many people with any knowledge of technology in education will be surprised by the conclusions of our group. The emphasis on creating a single collection of resources of open educational resources came mainly from two members of the GAC, one from MIT and one from Yale, both with a strong personal interest in this topic, and none of us had strong objections to this.

The main point to come out (at least for me) was the general consensus of the Technology and Education GAC that although technology has great potential to improve the quality of education, and to make education more relevant to the needs of the 21st century, this potential has yet to be realised, because of systemic barriers to innovation and change in education.

If technology is to bring about systematic improvement and innovation in education, there must be better rewards and incentives for innovative teaching. At a post-secondary level, this requires two fundamental actions: innovative teaching should have as much value for appointment, tenure and promotion as research; and systematic changes to the training of teachers and instructors are needed, that include mandatory training in both best teaching practices and the strength and weaknesses of technology for teaching. What is not clear to me is whether the WEF is the best route for bringing about these changes. On the other hand, I do not see systemic change coming from within the post-secondary system.

I would be particularly interested in your comments on the report of the Technology and Education group. Our work continues, and if you have answers to the two questions above (the current state of technology and education, and what can be done to improve it) I would be delighted to hear from you at I will make sure your comments are passed on to the group.

Further information about the Summit on the Global Agenda can be found here.


  1. hi there,

    I hope you don’t mind, I’ve cited this article in my blog post on ‘The Global Financial Crisis: connecting the dots — tech, cultural + gender context’.


    It was quite surprising that reports out of WEF2009 didn’t include any discussions on how governments and companies can co-ordinate their efforts to harness technology to possibly prevent a future recurrence of a financial crisis.

    I’m interested in the concept of The Global Brain, whereby intelligent machines connect and facilitate collective human collaborations to solve some of the world’s major issues. The Global Brain also has a link to current developments in the Semantic Web:



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