What Is the Davos World Economic Forum?

The Davos World Economic Forum brings together business leaders, investors, politicians and journalists from across the globe to discuss current global economic and social issues. It is the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and is held in January in the small ski town of Davos in Switzerland. It is one of the best-known events of its sort. The forum is among the most popular, well-attended and high-profile events globally and focuses on “shaping the global, regional and industry agendas.”

Understanding the Davos World Economic Forum

The Davos World Economic Forum was first conceived in 1971 when Professor Klaus Schwab founded a nonprofit organization in Switzerland known as the European Management Forum. This was the start of a process which drew business leaders primarily from Europe and other places for an annual meeting in January each year at Davos. In 1974, political leaders were invited to Davos for the first time to attend the event. In 1987, the European Management Forum changed its name to the World Economic Forum. At this time, the vision of the forum was broadened to include a platform for dialogue. The Davos Declaration signed by Greece and turkey in 1988 was a milestone for the Forum.

According to the WEF, the annual meeting “engages the most experienced and the most promising, all working together in the collaborative and collegial spirit of Davos.”

Davos World Economic Forum 2018

Each year's Forum has a theme, and the theme of the most recent forum held from January 23 to 26, 2018 was “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.” The fractures referred to Brexit, the Trump presidency, the rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), and the re-emergence of China. These subjects were highly visible on the conference agenda. The 2018 Davos World Economic Forum had record attendance and was the 47th Forum since its inception.

Advancing technology, particularly AI, and the impact that automation will have on jobs was a prominent item of discussion. The discussions at Davos concluded that although some jobs will undoubtedly disappear over time, there will still be many jobs for humans in the future; the work will just be quite different.

In an optimistic forecast, one technology company that attended Davos estimated that approximately 20 million jobs will be created in the next decade as AI and automation are integrated with human skills in future technology advancements. Digital transformation of organizations was also encouraged to meet the growing digital environment. Despite the need for firms to embrace new digital technologies, the WEF found that only 7% of firms have done so, according to research by Forrester.

How the World Economic Forum Helps Commerce

An example of how the WEF helps businesses navigate the current and future commerce environment, companies host various sessions on the forum themes. For example, Cognizant, a technology company, hosted a lunch session and discussed how to leverage AI and automation. The session discussed jobs that the company believes will show significant employment growth as a result of AI.