Franki Chamaki via Unsplash

Towards Contextual Intelligence

An interview with Nigel Willson

Tooba Durraze
4 min readJun 3, 2020


Nigel Willson is an advisor on Artificial Intelligence, Innovation and Technology with over 20 years as the European Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft and now an independent voice on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. He is also a co-founder of Awaken AI .

While robotics and artificial intelligence were once used only for dull and difficult work on factory floors, today, this technology is everywhere — powering drones, surprisingly-realistic humanoids and in knowledge management. In the realm of knowledge and information management, Artificial Intelligence(AI) and Machine Learning(ML) are more than just buzz words. Even in their infancy, these technologies made a huge impact in how we surface and consume information. AI is not only used to simplify knowledge discovery, but it also connects data from disparate sources and creates contextual intelligence, previously impossible, given the volume of information.

In recent times, the ability to sift through large amounts of information and knowledge is gaining momentum. There is a realization around the importance of using data and text analytics to gain competitive advantage. As the proliferation of structured and unstructured data continues to grow we will continue to have a need to uncover the actual knowledge contained within these resources. Strategy and inter-organizational aspects of decision making supports claims that research on new technology and academic endeavors in this space will continue to provide insights on how we process information to enhance decision making.

I talked to Nigel about the important role AI plays in creating a strategic advantage given the volume of information around us.

What is the value of contextual information in this digital era?

In this digital era there is a vast amount of data and information available to us, more than at any other time in history.

The challenge we now have is in the extracting value, as much the data goes unprocessed or valuable information passes us by.

Being served with contextual information and the ability to filter that information is critical and will become even more critical as the volumes of information we create increase.

How have you seen the evolution of AI in reference to consumption of knowledge?

AI will become increasingly important to help us process growing volumes of information and help turn that into valuable knowledge. This has been highlighted with the current pandemic as we are overwhelmed with information and stories around COVID-19, and much of it misinformation or fake news. Some of the big social media content providers (like Twitter and Facebook) have even used AI to identify and remove false information. One field of AI still evolving is that of ‘language understanding’ this is where the AI understands the meaning, context and intent of things, such as an article or book. This will better allow us to automatically provide contextual and even summarized information.

As an expert, how do you filter through the noise?

There is no lack of quantity of information in my area (artificial intelligence and frontier technologies) but much of that information can be repetitive, poor quality of even factually incorrect. The challenge becomes in finding quality and original information, in the past this has been a manual and labour-intensive process reading and curating content. There are now several content aggregators, but the challenge is although they can collate topic information there is still no qualitative process, which still must be completed manually.

How have you used Strategic Intelligence to aid you in your research of important topics?

The World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence Platform has helped me in a number of ways, firstly, in providing curated and quality of information from a source that I trust, this has been a huge time saving and also provides reassurance that I am using or sharing information from validated sources. Also the ability to combine and compare intersection of topics is incredibly useful, my particular area of interest is in the fair and ethical use of Artificial Intelligence and the platform allows me not only to filter that specific information but intersect with other topic areas, such as COVID-19 or a particular geographic region such as Africa, to see very specific contextual information and also to be able to save that view for easy future reference.

Strategic Intelligence is an online digital platform that helps individuals and organizations decipher the potential impacts of accelerating global complexity, while counteracting the misleading and unreliable information that is circulating. The Strategic Intelligence tool helps you understand the global forces at play and make more informed decisions.

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