MWC24 opens its doors to the future

MWC24 opens its doors to the future

Lara Dewar, CMO of event organizer GSMA, expects it to be the biggest iteration of the show in half a decade and around 95,000 attendees are expected

Dewar, at the organisation for four years, acknowledged the event is invariably compared to “our last best year” which was 2019 in terms of attendee numbers, but it really was a case of “splitting hairs”.

She explained it was more important to ensure the big Barcelona event continued to be a newsmaker, accomplishes networking, dealmaking and attracts the key decision makers.

“Every year we hope to create a conference programme that reflects both the current trends in our industry and in the realm of technology,” Dewar told MWC Daily News. “But we also hope that we’re slightly ahead of those by having conversations and debates that are leading us somewhere. I think those measures are very important to us.”

After joining the GSMA in 2020, Dewar feels like she has been part of the comeback story of MWC, but this is the year she has truly been able to make her mark.

“I’m finding my feet in this role as the CMO of this organisation, so I feel like I have more experience. You get more opinions, you’re more active in ongoing conversations about planning, you have more credibility and hopefully more influence.”

Walk the talk

One area Dewar is particularly passionate about is diversity. The executive believes the event has always been progressive in highlighting women in the industry but added she took it as her personal responsibility to get a certain percentage of female speakers on the keynote stage and ensure it reflects “the global community that we represent”.

With more than 1,100 speakers to feature across 17 stages in total, Dewar said attendees can also expect a “wide spectrum of geographies, industries and points of view” reflecting diversity in every way.

‘I really appreciate that the GSMA is walking the talk. I’m a huge supporter of our Diversity4Tech (D4T) programme as I think the industry suffers from a lack of diversity. I see that platform as our opportunity, and it is our responsibility to influence the direction of travel.”

On to the wider conference programme, Dewar said having five keynotes on the opening day instead of the standard three “is a sign that speakers want to use the platform because they think it’s important”.

She highlighted Keynote 2: The Digital Vision For Telcos session as one to watch out for, set to feature mobile operators Ethio Telecom, Telstra Group and Veon, all of which represent different geographies and operate very different business models. The session will be moderated by Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture, someone Dewar says is really inspiring given her approach to leading one of the largest organisations on the planet.

Future First

Dewar revealed MWC24’s overarching theme - Future First - reflected the speed at which technology is changing. “We feel we’ve got some responsibility to be not just mobile first, not just digital first but future first”.

She explained the tagline really aimed to inspire thought around what problems and challenges are now solvable that was not possible a decade ago, largely because “the technology or the networks didn’t support it”.

After being mobile first and digital first, “the desire is to talk about tomorrow and to ensure exhibits and demonstrations and thought leadership at the show reflects forward thinking on every plain”.

The Future First mantra in many ways complements what Dewar and much of the industry anticipates as one of the biggest talking points. Dewar expects MWC24 to be the stage for a host of AI conversations, covering ethics, the potential impact on jobs and what’s possible from the technology.

AI aside, Dewar understandably expects a lot of focus on 5G, along with the Open Gateway initiative which is a key priority for the GSMA and operator members. She also pointed to the investment gap in Europe, likely to generate lively conversation, in addition to the usage gap.

“It would be irresponsible of this organisation to not highlight the fact that 3 billion on this planet benefit from coverage, but don’t benefit from access,” she said.

Drought

Finally, Dewar noted that Barcelona as a city is so synonymous with MWC, hailing the fact that attendees and people associated with the show really respect the city.

This year, that respect perhaps is even more important, given the fact that the city is currently struggling with a water drought.

“My personal ask to anyone coming in to Barcelona as a guest is to be respectful of that. Let’s not be wasteful. Let’s raise some awareness to be a little more intentional about our water usage,” she added.

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