Date: Sep 21, 2019

In recent years, technology has become both the source of and the solution to many of the challenges confronting our society. The onset of the information age will require communities to leverage emerging technologies to enhance economic growth, promote political freedoms and ensure national security. However, there are a range of apprehensions that require resolution: the right to privacy, the power of technology platforms, the future of digital markets, encryption and national security, and the implications of social media on democracy.

Our Tech Futures, a collaborative initiative by Observer Research Foundation, Facebook and Newslaundry in association with the South Asia Association, SIPA, will bring together a global community of experts to discuss and debate these issues at the Columbia University, New York. Participants will include leaders from government, industry, media, academia and civil society. Panelists will explore the current state of affairs in EmTech, highlight political, legal and technological solutions, and debate the future of digital democracies.

Please note that the event is being held in New York.




States are increasingly aware that leadership in emerging technologies will translate into power to the shape the 21st century world order. As a consequence, most nations are racing to protect their innovation ecosystems. Led by the US and China, the international system is fracturing into incompatible and competing technological subsystems. This panel will interrogate the high stakes behind the new politics of geotechnology in the 21st century.

Whose data is it anyway

Does data belong to the individual who generates it, the company that analyses it or the state that governs it? The answer to this question will shape domestic and global regulatory choices relating to data protection frameworks, competition laws and national security doctrines. This panel will debate the competing paradigms that will define how data is conceptualised.

The nation and I

The convergence of the real and the virtual will heavily implicate the relationship between citizen and state. Will hashtags compete — violently — with flags for loyalties and ideologies? Or will technology enable a new nationalism that provides purpose and a sense of community to individuals. This panel will discuss the interface between technology, identity and community.

The future of work

AI and robotics will undermine development models that have successfully provided ladders for social mobility and economic growth. States must revisit the skills, education and social protection frameworks that have thus far guided industrial growth. This panel will imagine a future of work where new technologies complement human skills and abilities to create new opportunities for mobility and growth.

FemTech: Bringing inclusion to markets

Technology is re-scripting the social norms and relations that define our lives. This process will heavily implicate women’s rights and freedoms. Without explicitly designing ethics and values into these technologies, they will reinforce structural patterns of oppression that remain inherent to societies. This panel will ask how emerging technologies can be designed and deployed to break free of these patterns.

Countering violent extremism

Information communication technologies have democratised speech as much as they have abetted violent narratives. The battle for mind space and ideas is increasingly intensifying in the virtual world, with adverse spillovers into our political systems. Recent efforts, such as the Christchurch call, demonstrate that countering violent extremism is now a global agenda. This panel will ask how states, business and communities should respond to this challenge.

Digital narratives

Hollywood globalised American knowledge, culture, history and values at an unprecedented scale. It infused a common cultural meaning into the world at large. The birth of local entertainment industries and the rapid diffusion of the internet will challenge the commercial and cultural weight of Hollywood. This panel will ask whether our global collective understanding of the world will change as emerging technologies democratise story telling.

The timing of this event is from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST.

Venue Address

Columbia University, New York