While the IAA premiered in the Bavarian capital Munich, around 200 invited guests gathered at the BMW World, to discuss one of the most pressing topics of our time: sustainability.
"What are you adding?" The motto of DLD Munich is a both wake-up call and a call to action. DLD founder Steffi Czerny and Yossi Vardi, Chairman of DLD, Europe's most important digital conference, asked the participants during their opening speech: “Last year, I stood here and asked for more optimism and courage. This year, we are taking it one step further, and now I am asking you: What are YOU adding? Look at your daily life – what can you contribute to the world around you? The big picture is important, but every journey begins with a first step. Do not be afraid to take it!"
The idea for this year's motto originated from a conversation between Steffi Czerny and Clara Barnett, Digital Inclusion Consultant at the UK Department for International Development. In her lecture, Barnett recalled that technology has the potential to be inclusive for everyone: “Almost half of the world's population is still offline. Only a small group can take advantage of the many benefits of this development. It doesn't have to be that way, but if it stays that way, we risk leaving billions of people behind. Ask yourself: How do your products and services solve major global issues?”
"Without truth there is no trust"
“If a lie is repeated a thousand times, it becomes the truth. Without truth there is no trust.” Maria Ressa can speak from personal experience: The Filipino journalist is tirelessly committed to democracy and the freedom of expression in her home country, even sacrificing her own personal freedom. She has been detained several times for her reports on the war on drugs and corruption in the Philippines.
"Journalism sheds light on the truth"
With courage and determination, Ressa told DLD participants about her work: "The job of journalism is to shed light on the truth." She went on referring to this year’s DLD motto suggesting an concrete answer: "What are you adding? Start with what is around you – look at where you get your information and uncover misinformation."
Person of the day
"Time Magazine" named Ressa “Person of the Year” in 2019 – but at DLD Munich, Ressa was “Person of the Day”, garnering thunderous applause and standing ovations.
In a follow-up panel with Sinan Aral, the leading social media expert at MIT, and former "The Pirate Bay" spokesperson Peter Sunde, Ressa delved deeper into the topic of democracy and freedom of expression in the digital age. All participants agreed that journalism is of particular importance in light of the shifting flow of information in the digital age.
Keeping our fingers on the pulse
Paul-Bernhard Kallen, CEO of Hubert Burda Media, also emphasized this in his speech: “We media people have our fingers on the pulse of what is changing in the world. We see the changes faster and want to make our contribution and start important discussions with platforms like DLD."
The discussions on stage and between the participants themselves continued throughout the first day of DLD: In a panel, MEP Axel Voss, Li Xin from Caixin Global and author Andrew Keen spoke about the future of the internet and what role Europe will play in this. "What are you adding, Europe?"
The answer from everyone was clear: "Democratic standards!" China is very agile and can adapt quickly to new markets, Xin said, but the USA is a pioneer in terms of digital infrastructure and innovation. And Europe's strength is in its approach to democracy – for instance the impressive implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation, which Axel Voss helped negotiate.
Digital future of the healthcare industry
Health Minister Jens Spahn spoke on the main stage about Europe's future in the field of digital healthcare. Although many people unknowingly share their health data with corporations like Google through health trackers like Fitbits, it is still difficult to convince some members of society to provide health data to scientists: "We have to explain to people that the use of data for health research can really make a difference."
Stefan Vilsmeier, whose company Brainlab revolutionised brain surgery using big data, then presented what would be possible with this kind of anonymous data. Brainlab produces a software-based navigation system for neurosurgery. In his speech, Vilsmeier addressed Health Minister Jens Spahn directly: “In order to advance our developments, we need patient data. There must be a public debate about the use of patient data so that science and research in this area are not hindered.” He discussed opportunities and risks for the healthcare industry together with Florian Weiß from Jameda and Rjesh Jena from the University of Cambridge.
As a science fiction author and expert for future technologies and geopolitics, Jamie Metzl tends to provoke the crowd with statements like this: "Thousands of genetically modified babies will be born soon." Currently, one of his biggest topics is genetic engineering. He recently was appointed to the WHO's Advisory Committee of Experts on Human Genome Editing. His new book, The Designed Man, also involves the possibilities of genetic engineering and the responsibilities that come with it.
A view from above
Sometimes it helps to get a new perspective and look at things from a different angle. Catherine Coleman is a woman who literally did just that: The former astronaut has flown into space three times. Her greatest insight from this experience: "It doesn't matter where someone comes from up there. Blurring national borders – we can all learn something from that."
A few other panellists discussed the implications of space: Harriet Brettle from Astroscale, Moriba Jah from the University of Texas, Regina Peldszus from the German Aerospace Centre and Daniel Porras from the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. Over the last few decades, mankind has shot a multitude of satellites into space, some of which still orbit the earth in an uncontrolled state. This development must be observed, otherwise the space debris will eventually fall back to earth. This situation resembles the plastic waste polluting the oceans.
The seas are not only polluted by plastic waste, but also by broken trawls that float in the oceans and pose a danger to animals. Maren Lee from the WWF has developed a sonar-based app to find these types of waste in the oceans. This is just one of six projects that use technology to help protect the environment.
Free image material from DLD day 1 for editorial use can be found here on Flickr.