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By Charles Yang, President of Huawei Middle East

The information and communications technology (ICT) sector has a vital role in building a more resilient, sustainable future. Innovation within this realm is about more than just addressing the challenges we face as local and even global communities – we innovate in order to create a brighter tomorrow. While COVID-19 is our priority for today, the post-pandemic world will need an innovative approach towards economy recovery and improving quality of life, making businesses smarter, and creating a more inclusive world in which everyone has the opportunity to thrive, thereby enabling greater prosperity. However, to create the most value in a society empowered by connectivity, it is essential that innovation is focused on not only means of achieving economic growth and strength, but on bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots by fostering digital inclusion on a national, regional, and even global scale.

It’s impossible to deny that COVID-19 has had a massive impact on individuals, businesses, and countries across the world, however, the positive side is that technology has played a significant role in enabling businesses and public services as close to usual in many situations via accelerated digitalization initiatives, as well as in combatting the disease itself through innovation in healthcare and scientific R&D. The past year has emphasized just how important a solid ICT foundation can be, but it has also created new requirements for digital infrastructure. According to a recent study by the market intelligence and advisory company IDC, various senior executives highlighted that the COVID-19 have positively led to an impressive 76% of manufacturers in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META) region to engage in or about to start, a formal Digital Transformation (DX) program, and that 65% of Global GDP will be digitalized by 2022, driving Over $6.8 Trillion of Direct DX Investments from 2020 to 2023.

Huawei has worked closely with carriers to ensure stable operations of more than 300 networks across 170 countries, while successfully deploying 140 commercial 5G networks in 59 countries with over 50% of these were built by Huawei, in addition to helping entities within the public and private sectors to rapidly adopt digital solutions that enable continuity during a time of massive societal upheaval. Huawei also ranked first in the number of SEPs filings among 5G companies worldwide. The 5G standard essential patents (SEPs) which is filed by the Chinese technology giant accounted for about 15.05% of the global total, making it a leader in the era of 5G communication field and in tech markets.

Technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud are more in demand than ever before. They form the bedrock of a digital economy, enabling intelligent and flexible operations. When combined, 5G, AI and cloud create a solid combination with the potential to drive immense productivity gains, especially during the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic.

Digitalization on this level also creates opportunities. By 2025 for example, Huawei predicts that 97% of all large companies will use AI, the digital economy with drive prosperity, and 60% of global carrier revenue will be derived from industry customers. In order to achieve digital transformation on a scale that will boost economic recovery and establish a solid footing for sustainable growth in the future, industries in particular need to focus on improving their capabilities, building the ICT ecosystem, and creating value with digital technology.

Investment in 5G innovation is helping to drive digital transformation across all industries. Huawei, for example, is focused on innovation in the three key areas of technology, products, and applications, which will help to breakthrough ICT-related challenges at a company and industry level. Through joint innovation and strategic partnerships with our customers, we aim to drive a 1 to N expansion of 5G applications for business, while also working to develop devices targeted to meet specific industry needs.

5G also stands to benefit society as a whole. For example, the convergence of networks, devices, and technologies such as augmented reality (AR) can create new immersive virtual experiences that elevate our interactions with the world. This has significant applications in education in particular, but the potential expands far beyond that – there are almost limitless ways in which the high precision integration of virtual and physical realities can create growth opportunities. In addition to the obvious educational uses, industries such as entertainment, tourism, transportation and navigation – amongst others – can benefit.

Countries with established ICT ecosystems have the ability to leverage technology to overcome the pandemic and spur economic recovery, but societies with less developed digital capabilities will lag behind even more. The effect of COVID-19 will expand the digital divide, making it even more imperative that we address the gap to produce greater social value and empowerment through technology. Partnering with entities in countries that have less-developed ICT infrastructures with the aim to help deploy new technologies, especially with a focus on mobile coverage and digital literacy, will help to bring communities online, giving individuals the opportunity to leverage connected solutions that can augment their lives and enable them to prosper. 5G can improve access to education, boost business opportunities, and enhance medical care by connecting people to remote doctors.

The deployment of 5G is accelerating worldwide. The forecasts about 5G network deployment that were made one year ago have all become a reality. The number of 5G users globally has reached 200 million, and 800,000 5G sites have been constructed worldwide. This technology is becoming part of core production processes in industries. 5G applications have been deployed in more than 20 industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, education and logistics.

The pandemic has revealed the value of cooperation in overcoming one of the greatest challenges the world has seen in recent times. We need to take this lesson and apply it to our future, because while COVID-19 may have closed doors, it has opened new windows of hope. Collaboration can empower the progression of global society, building new opportunities for economic growth, sustainability, and prosperity. This is what the future of ICT is – and Huawei intends to continue working alongside customers and partners across the world to help drive digitalization in ways that will make life better, businesses smarter, and the world more inclusive.

We all share the challenge to reach an honest consensus on whether technology is an engine of human progress. The other challenge will be taking resolute action to make technology truly effective and create value for all. If we claim that technology is critically important but its development is ideologically wrong, this will only result in division, confusion, and regression.

We must reach a global consensus on this issue and believe in the power of technology to leverage it for the benefit of the society.

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