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CES: Tech’s Role Is to ‘Act, Innovate and Unite’

CES 2021 Gary Shapiro
(Image credit: CTA)

ARLINGTON, Va.—The last year has brought numerous, massive shifts in how people conduct their daily lives—professionally and personally—because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost nothing has been untouched by this impact. However, on the positive, technology has leapt to the forefront in many situations and provided new ways to adapt not only to our current challenges, but provide new opportunities forward as well.

This was part of the key message from Gary Shapiro, Consumer Technology Association president and CEO, as he officially kicked off the virtual CES 2021 (after an exclusive media day on Jan. 11) during a live early morning presentation on Jan. 12.

“The last 12 months have been a challenge like no other for everyone in the world,” said Shapiro. “But in this time of uncertainty, technology has been a stabilizing, unifying force, keeping us connected to our schools, our jobs, our doctors, our families and our friends. The pandemic has sparked astounding innovation in technology.”

He specifically cites technologies like AR/VR, videoconferencing, digital health and more. Many of these technologies will be areas of focus during the 54th, but first virtual, CES conference.

Providing brief previews to some of the main areas of focus for the conference were Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and IBM Global Chief Technology Officer Bridget Karlin. Nadella spoke on the new realities of working and how people and companies will need to adapt, while Karlin shared some details on just how far AI technology can reach.

Other technology trends that Shapiro mentioned during the presentation were the need for high-speed broadband and 5G deployment to more homes, the increased development of IoT technology and the removal of what Shapiro called “unneeded and outmoded rules.”

Beyond innovation, the technology industry has also been making a concentrated effort to increase diversity. CTA announced in 2019 that it would invest in female and minority-focused investment funds to help support this push, with Shapiro saying they have invested in five such funds since then. In addition, he announced a new investment in Plum Alley, a New York-based firm that focuses on advancing technology and health care companies.

Karen Chupka, executive vice president of CES, announced during the presentation the winners of CES’ “World Bank Global Tech Challenge,” a series of programs of competitions designed to showcase how technology impacts sustainable development, with a specific focus on healthcare and bridging the gender divide. After receiving more than 1,000 applications, which were whittled down to 15 finalists, Butterfly Networks, Tricog and Micromentor were announced as the winners.

Chupka also announced that CES is expanding its partnership with World Bank Group to recognize individuals that advocate for the advancement of technology in the developing world for CES 2022.

“Tech is our tool. Let’s get safer, smarter, healthier and happier. We can be more resilient, more compassionate and more empowered,” Shapiro concluded. “And now, we must act, innovate and unite. Technology enables this transformation. An opportunity for our industry to show the world that tech is solving some of today’s and tomorrow’s biggest challenges.”

The full presentation is available to watch on demand through CES 2021’s virtual home