Good morning from Rome, where my Fortune and Time colleagues are hosting an unusual and exciting event: our annual global forum to discuss the most pressing issues affecting top business leaders around the world. Just a few of the brightest lights of the corporate and non-profit sectors joining us include IBM’s Ginni Rometty, Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation, and Yang Yuanqing of Lenovo.
This year we are honored to have perhaps our most distinguished speaker ever at a Fortune conference: Pope Francis. In fact, we will be his guests at the Vatican tomorrow. The Pope asked us to convene a group of business leaders so they could assist him in one of his core missions, alleviating global poverty. Our seemingly counterintuitive task is to ask a cohort of elite executives who typically devote their time and resources to making money to suggest how those with the least can get just a little bit more.
Technology will play an important role in our discussions. In fact, later today I will host a working group that will explore how technology and innovation can boost employment for those who need it most.
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It is a topic that giant companies like Google (goog) and Facebook (fb) already focus on, partly out of self-interest and partly just because it is the right thing to do. That may well be a theme of our conference. Never has it been truer than in this time of global political turmoil that businesses can’t thrive if consumers, current and future, aren’t prospering too.
The working group I’m hosting will ask attendees to offer their suggestions for how to solve these problems. James Manyika of the McKinsey Global Institute, the giant consultant’s in-house think tank, has offered a few starting points for our discussion, which he will publish in full at the conference. They include some familiar goals: improving education, teaching technology skills, investing in digital infrastructure for all, and so on.
Our goal will be to turn these broad themes into concrete proposals that can affect people’s lives.