President of the ETH Zurich Joël Mesot,
President of the ETH Lausanne Martin Vetterli,
Chairman of the Board of Novartis, Jörg Reinhardt,
Director of Digital Transformation and Data at the ICRC, Charlotte Lindsey
Member of the National Council Kathy Riklin,
Member of the National Council Eric Nussbaumer,
Member of the Council of States Pascale Bruderer,
State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch,
CEOs, managers and representatives from innovative businesses and initiatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Tech4Good is part of Switzerland’s DNA
Thank you for joining me today at the House of Switzerland. I know you all have very busy schedules, which is why I am particularly glad to see so many of you here, ready to celebrate Swiss innovation and technology. Technology, may I add, that not only serves Switzerland, but also people in countries less prosperous than our own. I have seen numerous examples of innovative technological solutions during my recent travels, and I have come to realise that Tech4Good is part of Switzerland’s DNA.
Switzerland stands for innovation and quality. Year after year, Switzerland figures high in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness rankings. Our outstanding political and economic stability - increasingly rare in these volatile times provides an excellent environment for innovation to thrive. And there is no shortage of highly-qualified people with a wealth of expertise. But favourable conditions alone are not enough – we also need companies and universities that are able to drive innovation. So I am extremely glad to see so many representatives from such organisations in the room this evening: from universities and the federal institutes of technology, start-ups – some of them indeed university spin-offs – and large Swiss companies from different sectors, ranging from nutrition to pharmaceuticals to financial services. I am particularly interested in hearing how these organisations contribute to a better world while still pursuing their own goals. These two objectives are not a contradiction. Companies can be highly competitive and profitable while still serving the public interest. Universities can drive innovation in the stratosphere and apply that technology to help people here on Earth.
But let’s not forget that deploying cutting-edge technology for good causes does not happen just like that – to make it a reality, we need to work together towards a common set of goals.
The role of the public sector
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is where our government and public institutions also have an important role to play. We need to safeguard the public interest at all times and in every political constellation. Digitalisation and new technologies not only generate hope, but also apprehension. People still expect governments to provide services even in today’s rapidly changing environment. Some ask what the world of work will look like in a future where machines and algorithms are taking over many of today’s jobs. Others are concerned that social media is sapping the attention of our younger generation, making them unfit for the real world. Yet despite all these risks, I believe that the potential for good is much greater. And to realise this potential, the public sector has to be proactive; it needs to reach out to the public and show how they too can play a part in creating remarkable solutions that help to improve people’s lives.
I know that our public institutions have already been working hard towards achieving this. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation actively approaches the private sector and the scientific community, encouraging them to make new technology available for international development. Although the agency often works in very difficult contexts, it is able to tailor ideas to local conditions in our partner countries, and transform opportunities into concrete initiatives.
Concrete examples of Tech4Good
This is part of what Tech4Good does. It is not about making lofty declarations; it is about putting in place solutions that work. Let me give you a few examples:
Think of mobile phone technology that combines weather forecasting with agricultural training for coffee farmers in Vietnam;
or of Swiss mobile dam technology that helped prevent floods in Hungary, thereby protecting 350,000 (three hundred and fifty thousand) people.
Consider the surprising combination of satellite technology, Swiss insurance expertise and agricultural research that helps smallholder rice producers in Asia.
Picture the use of open data to enhance public health systems in five Asian and African countries – insuring 715,000 (seven hundred and fifteen thousand) people in Tanzania alone and over 400,000 (four hundred thousand) in Nepal.
And, to give one last example, imagine fighting corruption in Ukraine through more transparent e-governance systems.
Thanks to the joint efforts of academic institutions, private companies and start-ups, these fascinating ideas have become reality. You will find further examples of what Tech4Good does around the room, and I invite you to talk with our Tech4Good representatives during the networking sessions.
All of these examples are the result of close collaboration – collaboration between the public and private sectors, between individuals and institutions, and between researchers and practitioners. Working together for the common good is a crucial part of the DNA that we – as citizens of Switzerland and the world – have in common, whether enshrined in our constitution, or as part of the global community’s 2030 (twenty thirty) Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals.
Reflections on Switzerland’s system of part-time public service
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to close with some reflections on Switzerland’s system of part-time public service; one of the foundations of this country’s success. In particular, I would like to mention that this success is a result of bringing together ordinary people from diverse backgrounds. They may be entrepreneurs, trades people or public servants. They may not be experts in their public role, but what is important is that they are willing to exercise their civic responsibility for the common good and work together in order to achieve certain goals. We firmly believe that their broad range of expertise will have a strong impact. Be it in the armed forces, in Parliament, the fire service or in local commissions. The system works thanks to a collaboration of committed minds that want to improve life in their communities. We have great confidence in citizenship – when people from different walks of life work together, innovative ideas emerge that shape life for the better.
Anyway, that’s how we do things here in Switzerland. Perhaps it can serve as a source of inspiration for other countries too.
Invitation to work together
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are now in the twenty-first century and our approach to development cooperation needs to move with the times and reflect that. Great progress has been made, but there is still much more to do. Technology can enable us to make great strides, so we need to ensure that we make the best use of it.
Today’s event can serve as inspiration for what we want to achieve here: each and every one of you is a leader in your respective field. But we will achieve little by working alone. By harnessing our efforts we will spark the ideas that we need. So let me invite you to challenge each other and work together. Let’s make technology available for the greater good. Why not begin right now, here in Davos! I very much look forward to our discussions.