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Diving Into Davos: Mobile Takeaways From the WEF Annual Meeting

What if I told you that in the not so distant future we could be living in a world where emerging nations are the central hub of innovation, introducing new technologies to the developed world? Indeed, the notion of who is and who is not an international power player is beginning to turn on its head. And nowhere was this sense of expanding business models and worldviews more palpable than at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which I recently had the pleasure of attending along with several member of the executive team.

I had the good fortune of participating in a CNBC brainstorm session about how to bring electricity to the world’s population within 20 years. It might sound like a daunting task on the surface – how can we ever get power to every single person on Earth? However, if you take a page from the wireless industry, it may actually be more achievable, especially when you consider that today there are over 6 billion wireless connections globally and the total global population is 6.9 billion. What we took from the brainstorm was that when it comes to making an impact in emerging markets, we need to start by substantially shifting our traditional paradigms and bringing unconventional thinking to these issues.

Given how much I enjoyed my experience in Davos, I volunteered to serve in any capacity the World Economic Forum thought I could be helpful in. I recently received the honor of being asked to serve on their Connected World Project. This initiative will examine how travel, transportation and supply chains will be affected by connectivity.

I strongly believe that new ideas and jobs will soon start developing in emerging markets at increasingly high rates. Because of their need to be incredibly efficient, these markets often produce distinctively innovative solutions to complex problems. As a result of this creativity, many emerging markets will begin actually driving new technologies into the developed world.

At Qualcomm we have started to witness this technological transformation over the past few years. Some of our chipsets, originally designed for entry level handsets in emerging regions, now became key components in smart energy solutions, such as those being implemented by SmartSynch in its smart grid and meter modernization program in Michigan. M2M is a primary driver of smart energy initiatives, which will play a critical role in fulfilling the aforementioned goal of generating/conserving power worldwide. As the largest technology platform in history, mobile is a natural catalyst in spurring this growth and innovation in these markets.

After all, emerging markets now represent 80 percent of the world’s population, and by 2014 it is expected that they will account for 50 percent of the global GDP. In these regions, we believe that mobile will be one of if not the biggest drivers of innovation and growth in the years ahead. With our strong emphasis on emerging markets, Qualcomm’s business model is particularly well equipped to address this trend as well. We’ll help enable new and existing players in the wireless ecosystem by leveraging the leap to next generations of wireless networks and providing access to mobile devices for millions of new users, as well as open the door to new set of mobile services and applications.

So if Davos 2012 was about identifying emerging trends and finding new solutions to address them, what will Davos 2013 look like? I personally believe that the agenda will not be substantially different. The big issues that the Forum addresses evolve slowly. Therefore, I believe the right approach is to break down big societal issues into a series of small, solvable challenges. Each year we’ll solve some of those challenges and gain a bit more knowledge on how to reach the end goal of solving the broader issue. By embracing the responsibility we have as individuals and as a company we can foster the next wave of innovative solutions for the world.

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