Why We Like WCIT 2019: IT Leaders, Lightning Rounds, and Kim Kardashian

Author: Casey Gale       

World Congress on Information Technology

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian (from left), Giphy founder Alex Chung, PicsArt co-founder Hovhannes Avoyan, and business woman and media personality Kim Kardashian West take part in the WCIT’s Marketplace of Ideas panel with facilitator Magdalena Yesil, founder of Broadway Angels. (Photos courtesy WCIT)

Now in its 40th year, the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) gathers more than 2,000 tech CEOs and investors, policymakers, academics, and technologists from 70-plus countries to discuss the state of the information technology industry and its future.

The 2019 congress took place Oct. 6–9 in, for the first time, Yerevan, Armenia. The World Information Technology & Services Alliance, a consortium of information technology associations from 83 countries and representing 90 percent of the industry, hosted the event at the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concert Complex.

What It’s All About

WCIT gathers heavy-hitting speakers from all around the globe, representing all different sides of the industry. This year, speakers included Katherine Sarafian, senior vice president of Pixar Animation Studios; Michelle De Bella, vice president of finance strategy for Lyft; Gilberd Verdian, founder and CEO of Quant Network; Mike Butcher, editor-at-large for TechCrunch. In a departure from that lineup, media personality Kim Kardashian West also presented.

This year, the event’s focus was “The Power of Decentralization: Promise and Peril,” and explored through educational sessions how “decentralization empowers the individual and offers the promise of more resilient, open, and democratic networks,” according to WCIT’s website. In addition, the event explored the “unintended consequences when technology, however well-meaning, disrupts conventional cultural, economic, and social expectations, and creates new problems as it attempts to solve old ones.”

Why We Like It

Much like the industry it represents, WCIT is constantly innovating and finding new ways to improve its program. This year, the event kicked off with a performance of the world’s first AI-composed piece of music, which was performed live in Yerevan’s Republic Square by the WCIT Orchestra, a symphony orchestra comprising 100 musicians from the 15 countries that hosted WCIT in the past 40 years, including Japan, France, Denmark, Mexico, Brazil, Greece, the United States, and Canada.

Another first at this year’s WCIT was the introduction of Lightning Rounds. Over three days, representatives from 15 technology startups — many of which were Armenia-based — gave three-minute presentations about how their ideas demonstrated innovation and global applicability before a jury of successful venture capitalists and technologists. The six winners — including Krisp, an AI startup that removes background noise from conference calls; ForgeFiction, a community-driven writing platform; and Embry Tech, a company that turns shoes into biometric tracking devices — received prizes of $25,000 or $10,000 from the Armenian Tech Community Prize Fund.

Casey Gale is an associate editor at Convene.

World Congress on Information Technology

The World Congress on Information Technology opened with an outdoor concert in Yerevan’s Republic Square featuring the WCIT orchestra performing the first AI-composed piece of music, and a performance by Dutch DJ and record producer Armin van Buuren.