This week, I attended the Global Forum 2007 in Venice, Italy. I am member of the Global Forum Steering Committee, and through the Data Governance Council IBM was a sponsor of this year's event. The meeting took place on a private Island off the Grand Canal in Venice. The Island had been home to a monastery, which is now used by the Giorgio Cini Institute for Music and Art. The meeting rooms were spectacular, with scores of Veronese paintings adorning the walls, columned cloisters, and magnificent paneled rooms. Participants included the Mayor of Venice, the former Prime Minister of France, the Chancellor of Geneva, commissioners from the FTC and FCC, presidents of Universities, and 5 members of the IBM Data Governance Council...
This was my third Global Forum event. I chaired a panel on Data Governance, and gave a brief presentation on global competition, innovation, and governance. Both were extremely well received, with many commenting that our panel on Data Governance was the most substantive and interesting of the conference. I owe a special thanks to Ed Keck, Richard Livesly, Cengiz Barlas, Paul Welti, and Jacques Bus for their fantastic presentations. On the evening of the first night of the event we had a private chamber concert at the Venice Opera House, a beautiful gilded Colosseum. Following the concert (Hayden and Tchaikovsky), there was a dinner in a private dinning room with a pianist. It was lovely and inspiring. I dined with the very charming CIO of San Francisco and the Deputy Mayor of Paris.
At the end of each year's Global Forum I am reminded of how very complex and difficult such a conference is to organize. It is not just the fantastic venues or beautiful entertainment and dinner. Most importantly it is the arrangement of all the various interests and specialties that such a global network brings together in one spot for two days. This is no small feat, and I have learned from the event's very special host, Sylvianne Toporkoff, that networking is an art and she is the absolute master.
This year's Global Forum was a triumph. It reached across the international divide and brought more leaders from Asia and the US, business and government, than at any past event I have attended. But what I also saw this year was more transatlantic tension, misunderstanding, and competition than before. For this German/Danish-American, those are troubling trends indeed. They simmer below the surface, and come out in subtle phrases and indirect cuts. But they are there and they threaten many things we all believe in. Next year I hope the Global Forum will take these issues on thematically in because it is only through direct discussion that substantive understanding can be reached. Truth is we need more global forums, as the world is growing ever more competitive.