• International experts such as Jeff Merritt (World Economic Forum) and Ed Vaizey (former UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries) will analyse the use of biometric data and the challenges it will raise in future


Barcelona, 11 November 2019.- On 19 and 20 November, Digital Future Society, which is promoted by the Ministry of Economy and Business and Mobile World Capital Barcelona (MWCapital), will stage the Digital Future Society Summit as part of the Smart City Expo World Congress 2019. The summit will bring experts from all over the world together in Barcelona so they may analyse the ethical and legal repercussions of the use of facial recognition and biometric data in smart cities, and the role and implications thereof for the public.

The first session (19/11) will involve Ed Vaizey, former UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, and Lisa Witter, co-founder and CEO of Apolitical, a network that introduces policy makers to solutions for shared challenges with a view to establishing excellent governments for citizens. Both will subsequently appear on a round table with Jeff Merritt, Director of IoT, robotics and smart cities at the World Economic Forum and former Director of Innovation of the City of New York, and Natalia Olson-Urtecho, former advisor on innovation to the Obama administration and Director of Innovation at Smart City Works & Disruptive Factory. They will analyse how civil society can implement new facial recognition technologies and interact with them.

Rumman Chowdhury, Artificial Intelligence Lead at Accenture Applied Intelligence, will give the main talk on Wednesday 20. This will be followed by analysis of cutting-edge facial recognition technology and an exploration of the opportunities and challenges it represents, accompanied by examples of its implementation with different results. Chowdhury will be joined by Jiun-Huei Proty Wu, Director of the United Kingdom Office of the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan; Mary Haskett, co-founder and CEO of Blink Identity; Catherine Luckhoff, co-founder and CEO of 20fifty, and current advisor and former director of UN-Habitat and former mayor of Barcelona, Joan Clos.

During the summit different parallel sessions will also be held on issues such as the regulation of this technology and its limitations; design criteria for algorithmic decision-making in the public sector; how to increase cities’ appeal to high-potential women technology entrepreneurs and how to encourage public participation, data governance and the use of responsible innovation tools. Consult the programme here.

Digital Future Society is an international initiative promoted by the Ministry of Economy and Business and MWCapital that was established to evaluate the impact of the technological revolution on society and the economy. During 2020, Digital Future Society will hold a world summit in Spain on technology governance. The goal of this forum is to analyse the major challenges raised by technological transformation, to establish recommendations, and to seek public and private commitment to promote better governance of the digital future and thus build a more inclusive, fair and sustainable society.


Main profiles:

Jeff Merritt, Director of IoT, Robotics and Smart Cities at the World Economic Forum. He was the first Director of Innovation of the City of New York and has worked to promote social change in the USA for over two decades . Acknowledged for his work in smart cities, the internet of things (IoT), emerging technology and governmental innovation, he heads the alliance promoted by the World Economic Forum on the responsible and ethical use of smart city technologies.

Ed Vaizey, UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries from 2010 to 2016 and currently a member of the UK Parliament. During his time as minister he played a key role in attracting investments in the United Kingdom’s technological economy and was in charge of deploying the rural broadband programme, the introduction of 4G and the creation of tax credits for the culture sector (animation, video games, etc.). At the Summit, he will defend legislation and regulation in technological matters and the need for public and private stakeholders to cooperate in order to improve it. The United Kingdom is a pioneering market in the smart cities sector and, according to Glasgow University, London leads the world ranking for smart cities. The streets of the UK capital have over 600,000 cameras.

Jiun-Huei Proty Wu, Director of the United Kingdom Office of the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan. Taiwan is a world power in technology that is now addressing itself to the Artificial Intelligence industry and software. Taiwanese companies manufacture the iPhone (Foxconn) and hardware for Amazon, HP and Samsung. The country is also progressing as a digital society: for 10 years now all bureaucracy has been performed using a card with a chip and AI and big data are being introduced to prevent disease. Taiwan has also resolved the conflict between taxi drivers and vehicles for hire through the use of a digital tool: a platform similar to Uber’s for booking taxis with which  both drivers and clients are protected by the same regulations.

Lisa Witter is an award-winning executive, serial entrepreneur, writer and speaker. She is also co-founder of Apolitical, a network that places governments in contact with inspiring technological ideas so they may improve their service to the public and deal with future challenges. At the Summit, she will analyse political trends in the use of facial recognition technology, lessons learned and future challenges. Witter is an expert in the connection among technology, politics and the gender gap. She has advised CEOs, politicians, scientists and academics.

Natalia Olson-Urtecho is a former advisor on innovation to the administration of Barack Obama. She is a collaborator of Digital Future Society and considered one of the best international experts in public innovation and enterprise policies. She speaks regularly on smart cities, the digital divide and the gender gap in the world of technology. She is co-founder of The Disruptive Factory, an incubator for projects in Silicon Valley, where she lives.

Rumman Chowdhury is one of the world’s most acclaimed experts in Artificial Intelligence.  Since 2013, she has focused on data analysis and the development of Artificial Intelligence. She currently works at Accenture, which creates cutting-edge technical solutions for ethical, explicable and transparent Artificial Intelligence and also advises international organisations and governments.

Mary Haskett, co-founder and CEO of Blink Identity, which offers biometric facial recognition solutions for preventing queues. Entrepreneur experienced with previous biometric identity startups such as HCI Training, which offered comprehensive biometric solutions to US and other governments. She is a champion of personal privacy and at Blink Identify offers biometrics solutions based on transparency.

Catherine Luckhoff, co-founder of 20fifty (her fourth company) that offers AI and innovation on the cloud solutions for forward-looking companies. She is a mentor at LocumBase.com and SeedMoney.africa, and an advisor on investment strategy, on product development and on how to launch and scale a startup. She has received different acknowledgements such as the Most Innovative Woman in Cloud Innovation – South Africa (Influential Businesswoman Awards).