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IEDC Annual Presidents' Forum addressed the topic of "AI: How Small Countries Can Compete Against Big Players."
The event was attended by 130 leaders, ambassadors, and IEDC graduates.

Bled, October 2023: The IEDC - Bled School of Management hosted the IEDC Annual International Presidential Forum titled "AI: How Small Countries Can Compete Against Big Players." The event was attended by 130 leaders, ambassadors, and IEDC graduates.

The forum was opened by Dr. Emilija Stojmenova Duh, Slovenian Minister of Digital Transformation, and Dr. Danica Purg, President of IEDC - Bled School of Management. In her speech, Dr. Purg highlighted: “The choice of the topic for this year was easy. Artificial Intelligence is a hot topic in society, a phenomenon that is affecting our lives in many aspects, our work, management and leadership. AI has become an invaluable tool for organizations to optimize operations, lower manufacturing costs, and achieve other corporate goals. With the use of forecasting, natural language processing, and other AI capabilities, managerial choices will depend more and more on technology. While AI can automate tasks, analyse data, and augment decision-making, it cannot replicate the qualities and skills of human leadership. Leadership remains a uniquely human endeavour that encompasses vision, empathy, values, and the ability to inspire others.”

Minister Dr. Stojmenova Duh in her speech, said: “In Slovenia, Artificial Intelligence is one of the high priority areas when it comes to digital transformation. We have more than 40 years of research and more than 30 years of higher education experience in the field of AI. Our educational programs in AI are advanced and academic research in AI contributes to fostering innovation. One of our strategic goals is that by 2030 at least 75% of businesses will use cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence. The latest data show that the share of companies using big data in our country is around 10%, while AI is used by just over 11% of companies and cloud services by 42%. Slovenia is well prepared to use Artificial Intelligence for the benefit of people. We have a clear, long-term vision and strategy for AI development. As a small country, we are agile and focused, enabling us to progress rapidly.

The keynote speaker at the event was Professor Philip Parker, INSEAD in Singapore. In his lecture, he presented the project Botipedia, which will be released in 2024, an encyclopedia powered by AI that aims to provide equal access to information in one's language while ensuring verified facts. He further explained the importance of establishing national laboratories and institutions and using already-developed methods and knowledge. “We don't need to reinvent the wheel if we already have it. Let's remain ethical and ensure procedures are correctly regulated because only then will people not doubt the purpose of sharing their data,” he summarized. “For everything else, courage is required!”

The event featured two roundtable discussions with renowned domestic and international leaders, entrepreneurs, and experts who shared their views, ideas, and experiences related to the main topic. In their addresses, they tried to predict the direction of AI's development over the next decade. They foresaw the growth of virtual personal assistants and emphasized the need for companies or countries to invest in human resources and to develop and retain talent.

The Bled Institute for Leadership in Digital Transformation and Artificial Intelligence - BILDAI was officially established during the event. Its founders are the IEDC–Bled School of Management and Roche Slovenia. Prof. Stjepan Orešković, the majority owner of M+ Group and the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of IEDC – Bled School of Management, who is also the initiator of BILDAI, discussed the institute's future at a roundtable titled "Developing Modern Institutions to Lead Digital Change and Manage AI." The discussion revolved around the institute's goals, which are the development and design of new educational programs and research projects in the fields of digital transformation and artificial intelligence. Ms. Eva McLellan, General Manager of Roche Slovenia, sees the future of the BILDAI Institute in connecting various ecosystems. Prof. Igor Rudan, Director of the Centre for Global Health Research and WHO Collaborating Centre at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, added that he believes AI will also contribute to healthcare's evolution by focusing on disease prevention rather than cures.

The event concluded with the award ceremony for the Alumni Achievement Award for 2023. This year's recipients are Robert Ljoljo, President of the Board of Management, Lek d.d. and Sandoz Country President Slovenia) Slovenia; Zoran Mitreski, President of the Management Board, Konzum plus and Executive Director of the retail business area, Fortenova Group, Croatia; Mona Neagoe, Partner, Board Member and the Head of South-Eastern Europe, Pedersen & Partners, Romania; Aleksandar Raić, Vice President of AI Transformation, Infobip, Croatia; Lidija Žigić, CEO, NLB Banka d.d. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.


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