Davos 2011: Networking The World


At a Jan. 27 meeting of high-level information technology industry executives and government officials the World Economic Forum garnered preliminary industry support to create a prototype cloud computing platform for low income countries to access health, education and agriculture applications.

 Eight companies and organizations expressed interest in working on the initiative at a breakfast meeting in this snowy Alpine resort. The initial WEF-sponsored pilot will need private sector funding  and government support. If successful, low income countries could reap the first benefits.

 The World Economic Forum, which has been looking at policy issues around cloud computing for two years,  believes that such a project could also help cloud services to develop globally by testing the ability to leverage applications and data across multiple cloud providers and deal with multiple access technology constraints, language and connectivity issues.

Cloud computing is expected to grow five times faster than the rate of the IT industry as a whole in 2011, becoming a  $55 billion market by 2014. The move to cloud computing technology is expected to make companies more efficient, create new jobs and help improve education. But the shift to storing data in the cloud is being slowed by concerns around data privacy, supplier lock-in and security.

The Forum is bringing high level government regulators together with top level industry executives to figure out the best way to boost consumer and business confidence in cloud computing without over-regulating.

Meanwhile, VNL and Boston-Power, two World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers, announced at an opening dinner in Davos that they are teaming to bring mobile telecommunications to a greater number of people in rural areas.

Fellow 2010 Technology Pioneer Award winners Rajiv Mehrotra, founder, chairman and CEO of Vihaan Networks Limited (VNL) and  Christina Lampe-Önnerud, founder and CEO of Boston-Power, were first introduced in January 2010 at the 40th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.

VNL makes a solar-powered GSM and broadband system optimized for the more than two billion people who live in rural areas outside of the mobile telecommunications network footprint and have less than $2 a month to spend on a mobile service.

At the heart of the VNL’s technology is a compact solar-powered base station that draws no power from the electricity grid and is designed for easy set-up in just hours by individuals without technical expertise. It requires no air conditioning or shelter and runs on the power of a light bulb. Boston-Power’s lithium-ion battery system is currently being tested by VNL for deployment in customer field trials to provide a long life option for energy storage. 

Boston-Power’s lithium-ion technology will store the solar energy collected by the VNL’s base stations, supporting its existing ability to operate for at least three days when solar energy is not available.  The U.S. company’s technology extend battery cycle life and was designed to give dependable performance in extreme climates, making it a compelling alternative for providing cost-effective  reliable energy storage for VNL’s base stations.

 VNL systems powered by Boston-Power are currently undergoing testing; larger scale deployment is expected to start in various geographies in 2011.

The World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer award recognizes the most innovative start-ups from around the world that will have a critical impact on the future of business and society.

On Jan. 24, the day before the WEF’s Technology Pioneers meet for dinner in Davos, Medicine in Need (MEND), a 2011 tech pioneer with operations in Cambridge, Mass. and Pretoria, South Africa, announced a collaboration with global pharmaceutical company Merck, Britian’s Wellcome Trust charity and India’s Hilleman Laboratories, on an oral vaccine that will aim to protect against diarrhea-causing rotavirus infections and could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in poor countries.

Rotavirus, the leading cause of severe diarrhea, is believed to sicken millions of children annually, resulting in the deaths of a 500,000 children each year, according to news reports. Thanks to MEND’s formulation technology, thin strips that dissolve in the mouth and can be easily transported, stored and administrated will eventually replace the vaccines Merck now sells in the developed world, which need to be refrigerated, says MEND CEO Andrew Schiermeier.

 By crowd sourcing the right technologies from researchers outside of big drug companies, MEND aims to reformulate existing  drugs and vaccines to adapt them to harsh environments, providing the world’s poorest people access to life-saving treatments. It also tries to ensure that new discoveries aimed at emerging markets yield sustainable products that can be commercialized.

The identification of the Technology Pioneers is the result of a vigorous selection process for which the Forum received hundreds of applications from around the world, evaluated by a panel of dozens of global technology experts. Informilo editor-in-chief Jennifer L. Schenker has been a tech pioneer judge since 2000.




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