WEF: First Governance Rules for Quantum Computers

WEF: First Governance Rules for Quantum Computers


The still young quantum computing industry is booming. According to the World Economic Forum, more than $ 26 billion was invested in 2021 alone. The World Economic Forum has now defined best practices for future technology. […]

National governments and venture capital firms have invested over $26 billion in quantum computing in 2021 – more than in the last three years combined. According to the World Economic Forum at its annual meeting in 2022, quantum computing promises to change the future of business, science, government and society itself, so a fair framework is needed to manage future risks.

As part of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which is taking place virtually this year due to the coronavirus, the most important politicians and business leaders will discuss global challenges and future technical developments as well as their impact on the economy and society. The WEF was one of the first organizations worldwide to deal with the effects of Industry 4.0 as the fourth industrial revolution and, for example, founded the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017.

After Industry 4.0, the World Economic Forum now sees quantum computing as a technology that could fundamentally change the economy and society. For example, the WEF ranks quantum computing as one of “perhaps the most exciting emerging technologies of the 21st century”, which is also becoming increasingly relevant for national, geostrategic and economic considerations. The Forum has now published a roadmap for these new opportunities in the public and private sectors in the form of the Insight Report “Quantum Computing Governance Principles” at its virtual conference.

In view of Omikron, the World Economic Forum 2022 will only take place virtually in Davos (c) World Economic Forum/Pascal Bitz

“At the beginning of this historic change, the decisive opportunity is to address ethical, social and legal concerns long before commercialization,” says Kay Firth-Butterfield, head of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum, commenting on the possible changes that quantum computers will bring to us. “This report is an early intervention and the beginning of a multidisciplinary, global discussion that aims to guide the development of quantum computing for the benefit of society as a whole.“

With a view to the upcoming hybrid model of classical, multi-cloud and soon quantum computing, the forum has now defined a framework for best practice principles and core values. These guidelines are intended to form the basis for a new paradigm of information processing, while ensuring equal treatment of stakeholders, risk reduction and benefits for consumers.

In the current Insight Report “Quantum Computing Governance Principles”, the World Economic Forum provides recommendations for action in the field of quantum computing (c) World Economic Forum

The governance principles are divided into nine thematic areas and are underpinned by seven core values, thus forming recommendations for action. The topics and the respective goals define the principles:

  1. Transformation: Using the transformative capabilities of this technology and applications for the benefit of humanity with appropriate risk management.
  2. Access to hardware infrastructure: Ensuring broad access to hardware for quantum computers.
  3. Open Innovation: Promote cooperation and a pre-competitive environment to enable faster development of technology and realization of its applications.
  4. Creating awareness: To ensure that the general population and the actors of quantum computing are sensitized, engaged and sufficiently informed to enable a continuous, responsible dialogue and communication; the actors with supervisory and decision-making powers should be able to make informed decisions about quantum computing in their respective field.
  5. Staff training: Building and maintaining a workforce prepared for quantum computing.
  6. Cybersecurity: Ensuring the transition to a quantum-safe digital world.
  7. Privacy: Prevention of possible data protection violations due to data theft and subsequent processing by quantum computers.
  8. Standardization: Promote standards and roadmaps to accelerate the development of technology.
  9. Sustainability: Developing a sustainable future with and for quantum computing technology

In principle, the development and use of quantum computers should be based on the following seven principles from the point of view of the World Economic Forum: common good, accountability, inclusion, equality, no maleficence, accessibility and transparency.

The principles were co-created by a global stakeholder community composed of quantum experts, ethics and legal experts on new technologies, decision-makers and policy makers, social scientists and academics. “This report is an important step in initiating the discussion on how quantum informatics should be designed and regulated for the benefit of all,” comments Heike Riel, IBM Fellow, Head of Science and Technology and Lead, Quantum, IBM Research Europe. How quantum computers are changing the world is explained by research director Riel in the podcast IDG Tech Talk.

According to the WEF, the next steps of the quantum computing governance initiative will be to work with other stakeholders to adopt these principles as part of a broader governance framework and policy approaches. “Governments and companies around the world are increasingly investing in the research and development of quantum computers,” said Derek O’Halloran, head of Digital Economics at the World Economic Forum. “This report is the prelude to a discussion that will help us to understand the opportunities, to create the conditions for ethical guidelines and to avoid socio-economic, political and legal risks well before the worldwide deployment.“

*Jürgen Hill is Chief Reporter Future Technologies at COMPUTERWOCHE. The graduated journalist and computer scientist is currently dealing with current IT trend topics such as AI, quantum computing, digital twins, IoT, digitization, etc. In addition, he has a long-standing background in the field of communications with all its facets (TK, mobile, LAN, WAN).

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