Data is the new natural resource that will fuel economic growth in the future, and analytics is the key to refining it, IBM Europe vice-president Caroline Taylor told the forum.

She said four billion people already use a smartphone - more than the 2.5bn who use a toothbrush - but technology only had a value when it was integrated into our personal and working lives.

Analytics had reached a new peak with Watson, IBM's cognitive computer which could speak English, was learning Spanish and Japanese, and "knows that while vegetarians eat vegetables, humanitarians do not eat humans". Watson could analyse 600,000 pieces of medical research, 2m other texts and 1.5m patient records, "in seconds", for the benefit of a US oncology centre, "making the physician more efficient and productive". At Kilmarnock Prison, analytics had been used to identify and control criminal network activity, "in this case reducing the productivity of the principal player".

IBM was now offering a system that organised and executed e-mail responses quickly and automatically, "to free you from the tyranny of the e-mail inbox".

It had also devised a "spoken web" for low literacy users of the internet in developing countries, Ms Taylor said. "Technology enables new ways of living and working, people of all ages and backgrounds can benefit from it."