For the past few months we have been witnessing the great return to physical meetings and conferences both in the country and worldwide. The already iconic Web Summit in Lisbon, the biggest event dedicated to business, startups and technology, is one of them. After a year’s break in its organisation, we decided to see what the industry’s standard representatives would be discussing at a time of great changes in our lifestyles, working practices, relationships and, last but not least, in the global economic and environmental conditions. Here is what we have brought for you.
What is Web Summit?
The Web Summit is an annual international technology and business conference, held since 2016, which aims to discuss global trends with the best male and female experts in their fields. The event also brings together the technology industry’s diverse communities by enabling them to discuss and meet at accompanying events. This year’s Web Summit attracted more than 42,000 attendees from 128 countries – and that’s only half the pre-pandemic turnout.
The organisers proudly announced that their efforts to balance gender participation at the conference had been achieved for the first time – 50.5% of attendees were women. To achieve this and, at the same time, to foster gender diversity in the industry, they have set up a special community, Women In Tech, whose tens of thousands of users are gathered, inter alia, in an active Facebook group.
Photo: Eóin Noonan/Web Summit via Sportsfile | CC BY 2.0 | Source
Web Summit – what topics has this year’s edition covered?
The three-day Web Summit 2021 agenda features 23 topics, 1333 speeches and 748 keynote male and female speakers. Regardless of the topic addressed, all the guests strongly emphasised the impact of the last few months’ developments. This year’s Web Summit is the first edition of the event after a year’s break and probably the first such large offline event in Europe. While the event revolved largely around business, and related technologies and trends, a number of issues referring to social aspects of our lives, sustainable development, interpersonal communication, trust and tolerance were raised.
Web Summit – Tech For Good and social issues in the light of new technologies
As Sektor 3.0, we headed to Web Summit to get inspired, look at the cutting edge trends and meet interesting people from the industry from around the world after a long break from physically attending events of this type. We are very committed to make sure that the upcoming edition of Sektor 3.0 Festival #sektor2022 is prepared as well as possible for you.
Below, we present our subjective selection of the most interesting trends, speeches, startups or phenomena that we have heard about and met at Web Summit 2021 in Lisbon. On various levels, they connect with the Tech For Good theme that has invariably guided us in our sector-based activities for years.
Zero waste – the future of event management
If you, like us, are an event organisers, you certainly know how many aspects of the participant experience you need to take into account while embarking on a venture. Logistics and production are large-scale activities, and their level of sophistication tempts us to resort to shortcuts.
It’s not the case with Web Summit, though. The organisers demonstrated high attentiveness and sensitivity to the idea of a sustainable model for developing an event of this scale and a zero waste approach. As part of the event, we succeeded in not wasting 1283 kilograms of food. In cooperation with grassroots organisations Zero Desperdício and the Plastic Pollution Coalition 566 meals were distributed to over 250 people. Moreover, with this action we managed to prevent the emission of 5,388 kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Furthermore, attention was drawn to using as many biodegradable materials as possible, from ID badges, through the boards and walls used to build the startup exhibition area to water cups. During the first edition of the event, it was calculated that participants used more than 220,000 of the latter during the 3 days. With the changes, almost four tons of plastic were saved.
Startup business with social sustainability implications
As we have already mentioned, sustainability was mentioned by many names at the Web Summit. The strongest innovative potential could be found in the startup exhibition zone, where many bold and revolutionary projects were showcased. The “fad” for projects in this field has certainly been growing recently, not only due to the expanding need for smart climate and social solutions, but also, inter alia, to the recent COP26 climate summit in London.
One such company we met was EcoTree. They boast a very unique sustainable forestry model that enables customers to purchase trees instantly worldwide, tracking their growth and monetary value. When the tree is ready to be felled for sustainable timber, the profit goes back to the customer.
In addition to purchasing individual trees, it is possible to purchase a ‘forest subscription’ from as little as EUR 19 per month – with an estimated growth value of EUR 540 – thus capturing 7.2 tonnes of CO2. And EcoTree guarantees that every time one tree is cut down in a sustainable forest, three new trees are planted.
Another popular sustainability startup at this year’s Web Summit was 44.01. Founded in London in July 2020, the 44.01 project is an exciting venture undertaken by environmentalists who are determined to make a difference.
The 44.01 team’s target is to have one gigaton of CO2 eliminated from the Earth’s atmosphere by 2030. This will be achieved by capturing the carbon dioxide emissions generated by global passenger and freight traffic and mineralising the resulting CO2 in rock.
The environmentally-oriented startup claims to only work with companies that use Direct Air Capture or other similar processes to remove carbon. It also states that the partners must “demonstrate a legitimate interest in decarbonising their processes, i.e. they are committed to reducing emissions and storing CO2 associated with unavoidable emissions”.
Q&A with Syiabulela Mandela
W trakcie wydarzenia mieliśmy możliwość ponownie spotkać Siyabulelę Mandelę, dyrektora Journalists for Human Rights w Afryce, który gościł na Festiwalu Sektor 3.0 jako mówca w 2020 roku. Wówczas, razem z Bartoszem Węglarczykiem z portalu Onet.pl, poruszał kwestie długofalowej zmiany społecznej oraz to, jak technologie oddziaływają na rozwój społeczno-gospodarczy w Afryce.
Fot. Siyabulela Mandela and Wiktoria Nycz from Sektor 3.0 team
This time, during an interactive Q&A session at the Web Summit, he noted that activism doesn’t go far enough to define the lengths that people need to go to stand up for oppressed peoples and causes. He also said that social media campaigns aren’t the same as taking real action:
“We can use social media to mobilise one another, but it doesn’t stop online. People need to come down into the streets for change to happen.”
In his speech, Siyabulela brought matters closer to home. He decried a political environment on the African continent built by leaders who choose corruption over development. He also did have words of hope for the gathered male and female attendees, pointing to knowledge as a powerful source of inspiration for change.
“The only way we can elevate people is through education.”
– he said.
Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Web Summit via Sportsfile | CC BY 2.0 | Source
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on togetherness in the quest to solve problems
It can feel as though the world is continuously straying from progressive ideals and from a more sustainable future for all of our planet’s citizens. Actor and UNDP ambassador – Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – shared his thoughts on why he thinks we are falling behind in our fight to make a positive difference.
“I think everybody is very good at pointing fingers at each other. What we’re trying to do with this is say, let’s focus on dialogue; let’s include everyone. We’re all in this together. We need to find solutions”
– Coster-Waldau concluded.
Photo by Harry Murphy/Web Summit via Sportsfile | CC BY 2.0 | Source
Startup Key2Enable with accessibility assistive technology
Key2enable startup is geared toward digital accessibility, empowering those with disabilities to further develop their skills and hone their unique strengths. Based on creative projects that began in Brazil in 2015, Key2Enable is driven by the goal of harnessing exponential technologies to broaden the horizons of people with intellectual and/or motor disabilities worldwide.
At the Web Summit, the startup showcased its Key-X multi-functional smart keyboard on its stand, which enables people, especially children, with motor and learning disabilities to use a computer, learn to type and other more advanced technical activities.
With just eleven touch-sensitive keys that can even be activated in the blink of an eye, the Key-X does much more. When paired with Simplix software and its accessories, Key-X provides an incredible platform for school integration and rehabilitation, capable of developing the motor and cognitive abilities of students and patients with physical and intellectual limitations.
In 2018. Key2Enable became a portfolio company of Singularity University, the world’s leading school for innovation and entrepreneurship. The company’s portfolio of other assistive solutions includes blink-operated glasses for the visually impaired and software for computers and mobile devices for both products.
Web Summit 2021 – summary
We’re already through three days of endless inspiration. The subject matter of this year’s event clearly demonstrated that among trends, technological novelties and the pursuit of business or competence summits, what matters most is people and caring for our surroundings – it was with this idea that the key event guests left us.