Hewlett Packard's Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Shane Robison is responsible for crafting HP's technology agenda—everything from overseeing M&A to steering the company's multi-billion dollar research.
His perspective from Silicon Valley equips him to address the question: how information can be harnessed to create a more efficient, equitable world. Techonomy conference leader David Kirkpatrick brought Robison to the stage for an "Changing the Equation" interview. (HP is a sponsor of the event.)
Robison says the challenge—and the opportunity—is growth. And Robison says believes we'll be in a period of growth in the not-too-distant future. While population expansion is a challenge in terms of the stress on the planet, he also sees that growth, of the middle class in particular, as an opportunity. Robison even sees the potential in tackling the problem of our carbon footprint, and it all comes back to Information Technology.
"Information is the most important natural resource of the 21st century," Robison declared. "Policies and mechanisms for managing that information are going to be crucial. People who can make the best use of the information they collect are going to be critical." It's information, Robison says, which if used properly will be able to address issues like education and health care.
Privacy was the hot-button topic in the question-and-answer session. While HP believes who you are and where you are adds value to your web experience, Robison says he's a firm believer in the "opt-in" approach.
That's only part of the privacy solution—he also says the company's prioritizing working with government agencies and the technology community to address privacy concerns.
But a number of attendees raised questions about whether access to private information is ever really opt-in. CEO of Global Cyber Risk, Jody Westby, said she's concerned that once users opt-in, companies think they can use consumer data any way they want. Robison stressed that managing privacy issues will be a balance between policy and technology, advocating for a set of standards around privacy. He acknowledged that addressing privacy concerns is crucial for companies like HP to be able to expand the way they should.
Kirkpatrick asked why HP bought Palm. Robison says Palm gives the tech giant a web-oriented, connected operating system and the ability to connect with the user interface. Kirkpatrick posited that this is a strategy that takes on Apple head on, and could be "much cooler" than Google's android software platform, because it integrates hardware and software. Yes, Robison, said, a well-integrated, seamless experience is what consumers want, and what HP wants to give them.
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