In its second year Toronto’s Elevate Tech Fest had a long list of speakers and companies but none were more impressive than Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt and former U.S. vice president Al Gore who closed off today’s presentations in their matching red and white maple leaf socks.
The famed climate change activist had a call to action for the Toronto audience saying, “I came here to recruit you. I want to directly ask that all the people working on tech in this fast growing tech hub that is Toronto, to find solutions to climate change.”
After outlining many issues the planet faces in terms of fast-changing weather and climate, he ended with the inspiring message saying that he believes current technological advancements will be able to make a difference. Gore said fast-growing tech “gives legitimacy to his faith” that people can and will address climate change issues.
One story he discussed with Schmidt, the technical advisor and board member of Google’s parent company Alphabet, was how after the Paris climate agreement, countries like India started to consider investing in solar energy rather than coal plants because renewable energy technologies are becoming more affordable. “When these costs get lower the forces of tech can create change,” he told the audience.
Schimdt also addressed Alphabet’s growing connection to Toronto through its Sidewalk Labs project, rejecting concerns surrounding the project about data privacy and big companies like Google taking tech talent away from Canadian firms. He called the pushback misplaced, saying the fears over Google collecting data go against the tech giants core values of protecting data, noting that unlike other large tech companies, Google has not been facing any recent problems with data breaches or ‘interference’ from international governments.
And on the topic of Google possibly taking away the limited Canadian tech talent from local companies or startups he said, “building strong digital ecosystems like the one in Toronto creates benefits locally and for corporations, we’re stronger when there’s a local competitor.”
So far the idea of retaining Canadian tech and tech talent has been a big focus of Elevate so far this year; encouraging the continued growth of tech talent and companies imploring them to that stay and grow in Canada.
The event even started off with the minister of innovation, science and economic development Navdeep Bains and Spotify chief executive officer Tobias Lütke talking about the newly released digital economic strategy and how Canadian companies should be leaders in the industry in order to develop and create tech that have Canadian values, such as diversity already built-in.
Continuing on this theme of creating tech based on values, the event also featured a number of executive level speakers, and founders like Whitney Wolfe, chief executive of Bumble, talking about her inspiring story that led her to create spaces that empowered women in the world of dating, relationships and work.
Elevate also focused on youth in tech, with this year’s theme being about the ‘next generation’ which was emphasized with a speech by 16-year-old developer Ananya Chadha who delivered some interesting insights into the not so far off future of brain-computer interfacing.
Elevate continues through to Thursday, with more than a dozen ‘tracks’ that focus on things like artificial intelligence, blockchain, tech in cannabis and digital transformation.