It is not easy comprising in an editorial what happened at the “Digital Economy Forum. Now is Next” which was held in Milan on March 22.

Let’s start with the figures: over 4,600 participants in the conference room tailored at the MiCo, over 40 speakers who took turns on stage from 9 am to 6 pm facilitated by webstar and top journalist Marco Montemagno as well as by Sky TG 24 anchorwoman Stefania Pinna, who, after driving former Italian Minister for Public Administration Brunetta furious a few months ago, pressed Labour Minister Poletti, connected via Skype, on vouchers and unemployment.

But politics played a marginal role: the focus was on digitization in communication and marketing as well as on industry 4.0, which means the same digitization – yet also automation – processes applied to the manufacturing industry.

First things first. Luca Colombo, country manager of Facebook, and Marco Gay, nascent Italian entrepreneurial star and President of Confindustria Giovani, did the honours. All started off with a slide: 500 billion euro. It’s the value of “Made in Italy”, that with proper coordination would be the third brand in the world.

«We are the third manufacturing country in the world, behind Germany and Japan, but we rank only 25th in the European charts for digitization», said Gay. In Italy 40 thousand companies now sell online (7% vs. a European average of 19%). In France it’s 200 thousand of them.

Gay continued on automation: «By 2055, 50% of current jobs will be taken over by robots. This will generate a 1.4% increase in global productivity and will help create wealth as well as new job opportunities», though, added Gay, «we can’t make predictions, we can just get prepared to a sea change».

Today 22% of open positions in the digital sector don’t find appropriately skilled employees, while the European Union estimates that in the next three years more than 500 thousand jobs in the digital sphere will turn available in Europe.

These are the parameters disclosing the importance of the digital revolution and of industry 4.0 – it’s an ongoing revolution in which Italy is forced to chase as quickly as possible.

Roberto Viola, Head of European Commission’s Digital Connect, said via Skype later: «The Union has invested 15 billion through both Deposit Loans Credit and the European Investment Bank, in order to break down the digital barriers». Such investments are intended to bring broadband to large and medium-size cities. A one billion private-equity “Fund of Funds” has also been created for small-size ones.

In addition to broadband, another project underway is related to knowledge infrastructure, large robotic brains calculating and filing big data, which in future will be able to map the entire human brain, thus setting the stage to cure diseases such as Parkinson-Alzheimer’s and cancer. «The doctor of the future», stated Viola, «will be a data analyst».

This is what happened in the early hours. In the rest of the day managers and entrepreneurs took turns on stage representing start-ups, industries and multinationals that grow with digital and hold high the Italian flag in the world.

Obviously tourism, as a vertical sector, played a leading role too.

Next week I’ll tell you everything. Now is Next.

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