A taste of tomorrow: embracing change in The Lab at ITU Telecom World 2013

telecom-innovation-blogInnovation in technology, new products, services and applications have been on the agenda at ITU Telecom World since the very first event, over forty years ago. In an industry that changes as fast as this one, there’s always plenty to see, learn about and explore each year. But ITU Telecom World 2013 promises a particularly exciting experience: the InnovationSpace.

Featuring the winners of the annual Young Innovators Competition alongside the cutting-edge technologies of The Lab, the Innovation Space is a corner of the event showfloor dedicated to the future. The ICT sector may be the behind the scenes infrastructure of society, daily life and economies, the backbone to our work and entertainment today. But its presence and influence in our tomorrow will be exponentially greater, shaping life on this planet in ways we are only beginning to understand.

The Lab brings us a taste of this tomorrow in the form of provocative installations and interactive demonstrations combining art, science and technology. This is the convergence of previously discrete disciplines, echoing the debates in the main forum at World 2013. There, the focus is on the implications of sector convergence between ICT and other industries, such as finance,  transport, media and education, and the need to develop new regulatory approaches in response.

The Lab experience throws up questions of where technology stops and art starts – in Oribotics, for example, a breathtaking display of robotic origami that explores the use of mathematical code in the physical and digital worlds. The blurring of the human and organic in future robotics, and the sociological implications, the new moral and ethical paradigms that ensue. How a new generation of artists are influencing society through technology, such as the stunning simplicity of Solar Sinter, exploring manufacturing using the natural resources of the desert environment alone, or Gravity Light, bringing power to the unlit homes of millions through just a handful of rocks, cogs and gravity.

I am particularly looking forward to the demonstrations of 3D printing, not just to follow through the process from design to output, but also to explore the future of digital fabrication and its impact, empowering the end user at the edge of the network, opening up issues of creativity, intellectual property, the open source community, the role of the expert in society. These are issues that resonate throughout the ICT industry and will form our futures. So the meeting of artists and industry experts in a series of Creative Conversations  on the connections between technology and art, on big data’s impact on our urban lives and on 3D printing and its implications, promise  fascinating and important insights for us all.

The future on display in The Lab is embodied in the inspirational vibrancy of the Young Innovators showcase, ten technopreneurs selected from hundreds of entrants to an open competition seeking innovative technological solutions to six specific developmental challenges. Ranging from online educational and employment platforms to apps redistributing wasted food to the needy, translating Siswati to English, or providing up to date emergency and disaster information, these are ideas – and young people -with the power to change the world for the better.

So our conversations on innovation and the future in the forum debates, roundtable discussions and workshops at World 2013 – as well as informally in the lounges, lunches and networking breaks – will be informed by the realities of today and tomorrow in the InnovationSpace. It’s inspirational, thought-provoking and highly relevant. It’s a great place to start embracing the change of the digital world!

judja-satoBy Blaise Judja-Sato

Blaise Judja-Sato is the Executive Manager of the Telecom Secretariat at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and oversees the leading ITU Telecom World event, an annual highlight in the global ICT events calendar.

Throughout his career he has been involved with organizations and projects which use information and technology to address global societal challenges and provide economic opportunities for all, working with the likes of  AT&T International, the Craig and Susan McCaw Foundation, Google.org and VillageReach, a US-based social enterprise with field operations in three African countries.

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