YEREVAN – The second day of the 23rd annual World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) conference featured speakers and panelists from various industries, mostly related to tech who discussed a myriad of topics from cyber security to artificial intelligence to crypto currency and beyond.

The first group of panelists included various governmental leaders in the areas of communication and technology, including Hakob Arshakyan, Minister of High Tech in Armenia. The panelists discussed the role of technology in the public sector and how it may transform the level of efficiency in government including smart cities and how to mitigate possible obstacles that they may present to human populations.

The next keynote speaker, media mogul Kim Kardashian West, expressed her excitement to be at the conference and stated that she is so proud that an IT event of this caliber is held in Armenia. She added that she is interested in investing in Armenia and is currently looking into having her products manufactured there. Kardashian West shared her experience as a successful businesswoman and encouraged other women to be confident in themselves and their business ventures. She ended the discussion by adding that during her visit, she has come up with four business ideas, some of which involve fragrances inspired by Armenian flowers.

Joining Kardashian were Alexis Ohanian, Co-founder of Reddit, Alex Chung, founder of Giphy and Hovhannes Avoyan, founder of PicsArt. The panel discussed the inception of their respective websites and apps and how they grew as businesses with millions of users. Later that day, Ohanian was joined by Serj Tankian, Eric Esrailian and Dr. Yervant Zorian in a press conference where Tankian introduced HyeConnect – A Pan Armenian, non-profit, digital platform that connects Armenians throughout the world. Tankian declaring that it is essentially a digital Armenia.

In a talk discussing Defense, Information and Cyber Warfare, Richard Clarke, Chairman of the Middle East Institute of Global Change, emphasized that in order to create public trust, governments and news media need to work closely together, not against each other, to identify fake news and to label it as such quickly.

“Social media needs to spend the time and money to identify fake accounts and fake news and block them before they are ever posted,” said Clarke. “It’s not a matter of taking them down quickly, it’s a matter of taking them down before they are ever posted.” He added that every industry has a dependency on IT systems and that leaders in all industries need to be retrained to have at least a fundamental expertise on IT.

Moderater Vago Muradian, Editor-in-Chief of Defense & Aerospace Report asked panelists how IT could be used to protect nations against cyber attacks.  Avetik Kerobyan, an official from the Ministry of Defense in Armenia stated that cyber warfare and cyber terrorism are two very different concepts and when it comes to cyber warfare, no system is vulnerable and every system is vulnerable.

“When you think about using technology to your advantage, you have to look at how effective and how efficient you can use that technology and when we talk about artificial intelligence, for example, you can find small military applications and you can look at a broader perspective at how you can prevent your adversary from attacking you,” said Kerobyan. “There are ways to employ the technology, but you have to look at where you are most vulnerable and where you can affect your powers more efficiently.”

Keynote speaker Peter Beshar EVP and General Counsel of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc led the discussion on the Black Swan, Businesses Interrupted talk. Beshar explored the idea of data manipulation in government, finance and alternative reality.

The next discussion dealt with the reliance of businesses on technology in order to advance. Moderator Mike Butcher, Editor-at-Large of TechCrunch asked how technology has helped shaped the business model of products and services. Mikayel Vardanyan, Chief Product Officer of PicsArt stated that there is a direct correlation between input from users and the way they shape the products and services they offer users. “We are constantly working with our community and getting feedback from our users, so it’s part of our daily job to define our strategy.”

Author Mike Ford conducted a presentation on how technology will make certain jobs obsolete in the future and how individuals need to always evolve so that they are not unemployed due to tech advancements, introducing universal basic income as one solution to that problem. He then joined the last group of panelists who delved into the issue of Disruption and discussed whether disruption by means of technological advancements are generally negative or positive changes affecting the general public.

Moderator Monty Munford, tech writer for Forbes Magazine asked all the panelists to talk about their personal experiences and how they had to evolve in their careers to remain relevant.  All the panelists, including Vahe Kuzoyan, Co-Founder & CEO of Service Titan talked about their humble beginnings which eventually led them to become business owners and tech leaders. Tigran Khudaverdyan, Deputy CEO of Yandex added that their drivers are given the opportunity to participate in a loyalty program where their children receive grants in tech education to become programmers and developers.

Munford expressed that people are no longer interested in boring, mundane jobs. Khudaverdyan agreed, stating that many Yandex drivers are asking to receive educational grants for themselves to  advance their careers. Munford questioned whether the drivers can be creators to which Khudaverdyan replied, “I think that anybody can be a creator.”

Photos Courtesy of WCIT-2019


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