Sync Summit

Cautious optimism urged at Sync Summit 2024

More than 70 speakers from varied backgrounds sound off on “Confronting the Digital Paradox.”

Cautious optimism urged at Sync Summit 2024

The Sync Digital Wellbeing Summit 2024 held May 22 and 23 at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran was a call-to-action about a critical topic at a time of momentous change. 


The summit featured an illustrious program of more than 70 speakers — industry professionals, academics, scientists, health-care providers, government officials, and innovation experts — from around the world, ranging from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Wired magazine co-founder Kevin Kelly to the renowned Portuguese football manager José Mourinho and artificial intelligence (AI) data scientist Rumman Chowdhury.


Sync is a digital well-being initiative launched by King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) with a vision to create a world where we are all in control of our digital lives. The initiative is guided by extensive research in collaboration with global entities to understand the amplifications of technology and how it’s affecting our lives, and translate the knowledge gained into awareness campaigns, tools, experiences, educational content and programs aiming to raise the global public awareness around the topic. To sync with Sync: X, or Facebook


Confronting the Digital Paradox

Filled with 13,000 visitors, Ithra had a full house for the Sync Summit. 


The summit’s primary theme was “Confronting the Digital Paradox,” with the goal of considering “whether we have the power and intention to ensure that the future of technology is serving us, rather than us serving it.” 


The speakers and panels took a largely optimistic view about the opportunities for progress if we — the global, digital community — are ethically cautious and carefully informed about how we employ, regulate, and interact with the expanding role of digital technology in our lives. 


The most commonly consumed representations of digital culture, including by reputable news outlets, tend to focus on the negative: addiction to social media, cyberbullying, increasing isolation and the effects on mental health by the ever-more effective online platform-driven “attention industry.” 


Many of the summit’s conversations revolved around harm reduction by focusing on education, physical and mental health, and decreasing the impact of bad actors on the lives of the online innocent. 


For a number of attendees, the most moving presentation was the heroic truth-telling of Kristen Bride, whose 16-year-old son committed suicide after being cyberbullied. In response to this tragedy, Bride became a social media reform advocate who works tirelessly to save the lives of others.

Cautiously optimistic

A large part of the summit’s discussion, however, took a cautiously optimistic tone. A pervasive idea of the summit was that our problems are real, but that they are opportunities because innovative solutions propel progress. 


The audience was encouraged repeatedly to be positive — even optimistic — and take a long-term view of societal change because that is a perspective that can perceive the slow march of persistent progress, rather than getting caught in the news and its over-emphasis on the latest attention-grabbing crisis of the moment.


One of Sync’s recent achievements is the Global Digital Wellbeing Survey published this year and completed last year by more than 35,000 adults from 35 countries around the world. 


The study, the largest of its kind, seeks to provide data and insights about “how to reap the benefits of the information age while simultaneously promoting health, safety, social cohesion, and more.” 


While digital well-being is increasingly a hot global topic, Ithra’s Sync is seeking to ensure that the conversation and related policy research are informed by robust data. Sync’s research and the international gathering of experts and cutting-edge ideas at the 2024 Sync Summit are a model for the world as we step, however incrementally or exponentially, toward the future. 


For more information on Ithra’s Sync Digital Wellbeing Initiative, visit


Caption for top photo: The summit was designed to provide a sort of dialogue examining the challenges and opportunities of the current and future digital ages.


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