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HPE’s Antonio Neri on data privacy, AI, and diversity in tech

Hewlett Packard Enterprise President and CEO Antonio Neri shared his vision of the future of one of the world’s largest technology companies at a recent Reuters Newsmaker in San Francisco.

Neri has a 23 year history with the company, having started in 1995 as a call center agent. In February, he took over as head of HPE, which Neri refers to as the “fourth job” he’s ever had in his life.

His background in and enthusiasm for technology was apparent during the nearly one-hour interview, in which Neri touched on a variety of subjects, technological and otherwise.

Neri emphatically touts the potential of edge computing, which is, in simple terms, a means of data processing in which data collected by local equipment is compiled locally instead of at a central data network.

While discussing HPE’s recent $4 billion investment in the technology, Neri claims that edge computing represents a “huge opportunity for Hewlett Packard Enterprise,” and that the area is “potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Edge computing discussions eventually gave way to another hot technology topic: artificial intelligence, which Neri describes as a critical part of HPE’s edge computing technologies.

Responding to a question from an audience member about addressing human acceptance of AI, Neri notes that AI acceptance is happening now by virtue of how it is being used in our personal lives.

Although he cautions that we must “constantly monitor how AI is used,” Neri explains that, in his experience, “[AI] is going to happen, whether you like it or not.” He also adds that “AI is totally complementary to human beings; it’s not a replacement.”

The interview also ventured into policy matters related to technology – specifically, data privacy.

Neri recognizes the importance of data privacy, and that it is “becoming one of the key components of our lives.” 

In discussing California’s recent privacy law, Neri was asked about the potential fragmentation of data privacy laws by state. Neri indicates that HPE works with lawmakers to help find common solutions, but that the company typically takes a state-by-state approach, and doesn’t generally adhere to high standards such as those of the GDPR as a baseline unless required by law.

Policy discussions veered outside of the tech realm, with Neri being asked about the underrepresentation of minorities in the tech industry. Neri concedes that “the IT industry has a tremendous amount of work to do” in this regard.

Within HPE, Neri notes that a third of the employees are female, with 21 percent being managers and executives, and 15 percent being in the engineering and technical fields. Even while offering those numbers on something of a positive note, Neri maintains that there’s a lot more that can be done.

Neri contends that workplace diversity needs to be a “strategic imperative,” and pointed out that one of the metrics used to assess annual executive performance at HPE is how the executive is advancing workplace diversity, or what Neri calls “the workforce of the future.” Indeed, the future seems to be at the forefront of Neri’s mind: What technology will bring, and how HPE will harness it.

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View the full conversation on Reuters TV, and access additional insights with tech leaders on our Tech Talks hub.

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