My colleague Michelle and I attended WebSummit conference recently. It was hectic, inspiring, and thought-provoking, set against a backdrop of Lisbon’s gorgeous tiled buildings and rickety yellow trams.

The vast majority of the focus was on AI, so much so that it deserved its own post. Read my thoughts about what the AI revolution means for the world and the tech for good community.

There were plenty of other takeaways too – in no particular order, here are my top four:

Technology in government

Government has a reputation for moving extremely slowly overall to catch up with the digital world, and the tech deficit in government is only getting bigger. This is of particular concern when it comes to things like regulation: many governments simply don’t understand what they’re trying to control – something that got brought up a couple of times was the UK’s Online Safety Bill, which highlighted a huge gap in understanding how technology works right up to the very top.

It’s not all bad though, and digital government teams shouldn’t shy away from new technologies. There’s a gaping potential for small, fast-moving and independent tech companies who aren’t paying millions on lobbyists to be leading the charge in approaches to regulation and GovTech that actually works. Open data and principles of open government will help different countries compare and contrast approaches, and help them learn from each other when it comes to things like ethical uses for AI in government. (Some suggestions: AI will be transformative for medicine, as well as things like virtual assistants and clearing administrative backlogs.)

Greenwashing is getting worse. Let’s push back

Michelle and I were pretty dismayed to see that Shell, one of the world’s largest fossil fuel emitters, had a huge stand at the Summit. It was nauseatingly greenwashed, with plenty about how much it was investing in green tech and absolutely nothing about how it’s both one of the largest accelerants towards catastrophic climate change and one of the companies that’s profited the most from the global cost of living crisis. It made for an uncomfortable elephant in the room considering how many talks there were about climate change, and yet only once did I witness someone speaking up against them: Jolyon Murphy, British satirist, gave an excellent talk on satire. As a company that has its roots in satire and holding truth to power via internet jokes, I feel it’s important for Delib to take a stand on this.

Journalism is facing threats from all sides

Stella Assange, human rights lawyer and wife to Julian Assange, was one of the closing keynote speakers. While it was clear she preferred to be speaking in court and not to a stadium full of tech workers, she had some cutting remarks about the threat faced by journalists globally if the US government gets its way in the Assange case. Associated Press emphasised the importance of remaining, first and foremost, a facts-reporting organisation in a world of misinformation. AI-generated content is a real concern, especially given how much it could increase the sheer volume of misinformation to sift through, but on the flip site, AI could also be leveraged to help with this.

It was a good reminder that journalism, and the public’s right to know the truth, is as functional to democracy as the ballot itself.

AI and the jobs of the future

A robot probably won’t take your job – but someone who knows how to use one will. This was especially relevant to design: what’s a graphic designer to do when programmes like Canva, MidJourney and Kittl can generate design files in a fraction of the time? The answer is learn how to write a really good prompt. Jobs of the future might look like “Design technician” rather than straight up “Designer”. There’s plenty of indication that wordsmiths might soon find themselves operating more within the visual design space than they’d expect, and vice versa.

Did you go to WebSummit? Let us know what your takeaways were.

Don’t forget to read my article on the future of AI and what that means for the Tech for Good community.