Over half of world's tech pioneers come from outside US, says report

More than half of the world's technology pioneers come from outside the United States and a quarter of them are led by women, according to the World Economic Forum's (WEF) latest list of tech pioneers.

In all, 61 early-stage firms have been recognised for developing and deploying world-changing innovations and technologies, in WEF's annual list of Technology Pioneers for this year, announced last Thursday. Fifty-four per cent came from emerging markets and 25 per cent were female-led, the report said.

These pioneers addressed many societal challenges, said WEF, and their innovations are a hopeful sign that technology will be a force for good in the Fourth Industrial Revolution - a term coined by WEF founder Klaus Schwab. It is marked by technological breakthroughs meant to tackle many of today's real-world problems.

The list of pioneers this year includes firms working to use artificial intelligence in drug discovery, improving the development of autonomous vehicles, advancing cyber security and reducing food waste, as well as those applying blockchain for voting.

Said Ms Fulvia Montresor, head of technology pioneers at WEF: "Technology and start-ups are not just about computer software, consumer apps and social networks.

"Technology Pioneers 2018 are tackling complex challenges such as environmental sustainability, efficient energy use and access to healthcare."

WEF launched its Technology Pioneer community in 2000. Firms picked in the past include home-sharing platform Airbnb, online search giant Google, Mozilla, the firm behind free and open-source Web browser Firefox, digital music service Spotify, and Twitter.

TACKLING COMPLEX CHALLENGES

Technology and start-ups are not just about computer software, consumer apps and social networks. Technology Pioneers 2018 are tackling complex challenges such as environmental sustainability, efficient energy use and access to healthcare.

MS FULVIA MONTRESOR, head of technology pioneers at WEF.

Among the pioneers in this year's list is Agrosmart, a Brazil-based company working to help producers be more productive and sustainable by getting them to focus on irrigation and crop management.

Founded by Ms Mariana Vasconcelos in 2014, the Agrosmart team develops agronomic models of the farmers' crops based on seed genetics, soil type and microclimate data. Using sensors and satellite data, the company monitors crops in real time, and makes recommendations that are sent daily to farmers either through an applications or SMS.

Social Cops, a data intelligence company in India, is another firm on the list. It aims to transform data into intuitive insights and better decisions, to solve critical problems and build smarter cities.

Last year, the World Food Programme created Maano, a pilot application that used Social Cop's platform to monitor and evaluate how the app connected farmers in Zambia directly to their buyers. As a result, about 1,200 farmers closed 100 transactions through the app, trading 150 tonnes of pulses, which had a total value of US$47,000 (S$64,000).

Founded in 2013, Social Cops has so far worked with 150 partners in 26 countries.

Also on the list is Drive.ai, a firm founded in 2015 by Mr Sameep Tandon, a graduate research assistant at an artificial intelligence laboratory at Stanford University in the US.

The firm uses artificial intelligence to create self-driving systems, which includes sensors such as radar, high-definition cameras, and light detection and ranging. These sensors offers a vehicle a full 360-degree understanding of its environment to ensure safety.

In September, the newly selected Technology Pioneers will meet for two days at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2018 in Tianjin, China. Next January, some will take part in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2018, with the headline 'Over half of world's tech pioneers come from outside US, says report'. Print Edition | Subscribe