Katherine Maher: Web Summit’s role ‘more urgent now than ever’

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An image of Katherine Maher, CEO, Web Summit. Katherine is smiling and appears to be speaking on Centre Stage at Web Summit 2023.

Web Summit, above all, is a space for “critical conversations about technology, society and innovation,” said Katherine Maher, in her first event address as the company’s new CEO.

Speaking to an enthusiastic Opening Night crowd, Katherine said that Web Summit will continue to be a place that “brings together and connects people”, while advancing important discussions at the intersection of technology and society.

“Over the last decade, as Web Summit has grown, we’ve brought together tens of thousands of people who have used this week in Lisbon as a springboard to do remarkable things – to launch companies, find investors, unveil projects and advance a vision of this world that is worth debating,” added the CEO.

This was the first time Katherine took to Centre Stage as the new CEO. However, it wasn’t her first time experiencing the event.

“I was here as a speaker in 2019, astonished at the size of this crowd,” noted the new CEO.

“It was up here, on this stage, where I was able to really see Web Summit’s impact, and be inspired by its mission to connect people and ideas that change the world.”

Katherine then addressed the hopeful – yet potentially divisive – nature of rapid technological progress, adding that “Web Summit’s role as a place for connection and community is more urgent than ever”.

“It is the only event where tens of thousands of us meet to tackle these issues through the technology that you build, the companies that you found, and the ideas that you champion,” added the CEO.

Katherine praised “the incredible people, the founders; the companies; the contributors, that fill Web Summit’s stages with new ideas, our heads with fresh perspectives and our hearts with the promise of progress”.

The CEO envisioned the future, highlighting the vital role technological progress plays in tackling everything from climate change and the future of work to politics and society.

“I find myself genuinely awed by technical advances that will continue to propel us forward,” said Katherine, noting that AI technologies in particular will “create access to education, personalised healthcare, humanitarian aid, and drive us towards a more connected, prosperous and sustainable future”.

The Web Summit CEO went on to remind us that, over the next few days, “there will also be robust debates about the peril of AI, and how we think about serving humanity rather than serving technology”.

Main image: Web Summit

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