Keynote 1, Tuesday 23 Jun 09:30-10:45 (GMT+1)


ICT helped beat Covid-19. What can it teach us about tackling climate change?
The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the potential for digital tools to help tackle global crises. China engaged in an all-out response at a political and societal level and digital technologies were used widely for contract tracing, a rapid shift to home working and home schooling, drone delivery and vaccine development. Many of these innovations were in development before the crisis but COVID-19 accelerated their development and, crucially, their social acceptability. In the face of even bigger planetary crises looming on the horizon, how can we take inspiration from these innovations and adopt digital technologies to tackle climate change and other sustainability challenges? What can the crisis teach us about the limitations of digital technology? How can digital technologies transform industries on the sustainability frontline (including energy)? And what can it teach us about the kind of world we want to live in?

David Ferguson is a digital innovation leader and sustainability strategist working for global electricity company EDF. David recently relocated to Beijing to build a new digital innovation team having previously led a similar team in the UK. His mission is to deliver research & development on behalf of EDF Group in digital technologies such as AI, blockchain, quantum computing and to build a new digital business for EDF in China. David has over a decade of experience in exploration of cutting-edge digital technologies emerging from the best academic research centres and technology labs. Having trained as an environmental scientist, he is particularly interested (obsessed!) by the potential for digital tech to solve environmental challenges. David has an MSc in Environmental Technology from Imperial College London. He is a Fellow of the RSA, a visiting lecturer at the University of Exeter Business School and a mentor at Plug and Play Beijing. Formerly, he was a Non-Executive Director of Exeter Science Park and was on the advisory board of the UK Government’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Artificial Intelligence.

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Keynote 2, Wednesday 24 Jun 09:00-10:15 (GMT+1)

Prof. GORDON S. BLAIR (Lancaster University)

A Tale of Two Cities: Reflections on Digital Technology and the Natural Environment
Contemporary digital technologies can make a profound impact on our understanding of the natural environment in moving towards sustainable futures. Examples of such technologies included sources of new data (e.g. an environmental Internet of Things), the ability to storage and process the large data sets that will result from this (e.g. through cloud computing), and the potential of data science/AI to make sense of this data alongside human experts. However, these same trends pose a threat to sustainable futures through for example the carbon footprint of digital technology and the risks of this escalating through the very trends mentioned above.

Prof. Gordon S. Blair is a Distinguished Professor of Distributed Systems at Lancaster University. His current research interests are in how digital technologies such as the Internet o, cloud computing and data science can help environmental scientists to achieve a better understanding of the natural environment. He holds a 5-year EPSRC Senior Fellowship in Digital Technology and Living with Environmental Change and is co-Director of the Centre of Excellence in Environmental Data Science (CEEDS), a joint initiative involving Lancaster University and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH). He is also a member of the UKRI Digital Environment Expert Network.

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Keynote 3, Thursday 25 Jun 09:00-10:15 (GMT+1)

MARINA JIROTKA (University of Oxford)

Is it time for a ‘responsible’ revolution?
It has become increasingly important to recognise the impacts on the planet, not just of humanity, but of the information and communications technologies we so easily take for granted and frequently rely on to live and work. We tend to act as though the planet’s resources are infinite. The environmental impacts of the digital revolution require us to think in new ways about our relationships with each other and with all planetary life. This rethinking - on the design, development and deployment of our technologies - must be holistic and involve not only technologists, academics and policymakers but voices from many sections of society.
We argue for a foundational Responsible Innovation (RI) mindset that acknowledges the value of anticipating and responding to environmental concerns at all stages of the innovation process. This requires action and change from business as well as researchers, policy makers and individuals. This may be hard to achieve in an economic environment that prioritises profit over human and planetary wellbeing. However, we believe that now is the moment to embed environmental responsibility into all the processes of technological innovation.

Professor Marina Jirotka is Professor of Human Centred Computing in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford. She has been a thought-leader in Responsible Innovation (RI) in the UK and EU for over 15 years, researching new forms of RI governance, developing new methods of RI practice, and co-creating the UK’s first training body to teach RI methods to postgraduate researchers (the Observatory for Responsible Innovation in ICT - ORBIT). Her research interests lie in investigating ways to improve the development and deployment of information and communication technologies such that they are aligned with the needs of society .
Marina holds an EPSRC Established Career Fellowship to carry out research into Responsible Robotics for the Digital Economy. She also led the RI for Quantum Technologies project (RRI-NQIT) and is PI on the EPSRC Digital Economy TIPS project ReEnTrust. She sits on the Programme Advisory Board for the Digital Economy for EPSRC and is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Data Analytics.

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