Have you wondered how investment in technology can bridge the digital divide? There is hardly a government around the world that is not implementing a digital agenda plan in some shape or form. There is a very compelling reason indeed as to why this is the case. Governments and policy makers acknowledge that the greater use and engagement in technology can assist in tackling key economic and social problems. Technology is now modernizing the provision of government services and how the transport, energy, manufacturing, and agriculture sectors will operate in the near future.
Two Halves of the Same Coin
But people need to be connected to the Internet. They need access to high speed Internet services. And they must be trained and equipped with the skills to use these technologies.
These are the key challenges that governments face. One can analyze both the challenges and opportunities from the use of technology as if it were two halves of the same coin. On the one hand, governments can clearly see the economic and social upturn from investing in the technology sector. On the other hand, to ensure the optimum results from financially supporting technological innovation, all people in society must be capable of connecting and accessing high speed Internet services. The principle of universal access to broadband services is of a paramount importance. It means that people living in rural and urban areas will both be able to advance economic performance and tackle key social problems in equal measure.
Regulators in some countries – in allocating spectrum licenses – look very carefully at how spectrum will be used to ensure that people and businesses from both rural and urban populations can connect and access high speed Internet services. Within the digital agenda plans of many countries, clear targets are now set to guarantee that broadband services can be deployed in the widest possible context.
Within the existing five year economic plan of China, there is a clear policy objective that by the end of 2019, 98% of the Chinese population will have access to broadband services. Similarly, enshrined within the digital single market strategy of the European Union is the principle of implementing policies to guarantee universal access to high speed Internet services.
This ensures that the benefits of e-governance can be shared by all people. Better efficiencies via the use of technology can guarantee that people can make tax payments, process visas and passports, and drawdown grant support in a more streamlined and structured manner. For example, overlaying cloud architecture onto existing IT infrastructure can remove silos between departments and enable a once-only model whereby people have to register just once for all government services.
Teleconferencing facilities can guarantee that people can take part in broad-ranging, remote educational courses with teachers and lecturers living hundreds if not thousands of kilometers away. The same principle applies to health. People living in remote and rural areas can have medical consultations with doctors and specialists on the other side of the world. In fact, advances in the use AI, big data, and higher connectivity speeds also means that operations can be overseen and supervised by doctors remotely.
Innovations within the field of mobile communications are clearly assisting rural communities to fully connect to broadband networks.
5G: A True Game Changer
5G is set to start to be rolled out next year and will become the next standard for the mobile communications industry. It will be a game-changer in terms of the products and solutions that it will help deliver for global society.
Imagine for a moment that 5G will ensure that information-related products and solutions can be transmitted via telecom networks at a minimum of 30 to 40 times faster than is the case under 4G telecom systems.
The implications from the arrival of 5G are far reaching indeed.
The drone industry will take off (no pun intended) under 5G, with high-powered drones able to deliver medical and agriculture products to remote and rural areas.
The United Arab Emirates is seeking to put in place the first human taxi drone service in advance of the Dubai Expo in 2020. Latency levels under 5G will ensure that self-driving cars will become a reality. Technological advances will develop the drone industry and autonomous driving vehicles at a rapid pace.
Yes – policy makers will face challenges in terms of how best to regulate for the provision of drones and autonomous vehicles. This isn’t going to be an easy task.
When one talks about 5G, one can be primarily talking about the end product and the end services that can be provided. But there are many steps in the process before 5G is successfully delivered. It requires substantial investment from both the private sector and governments to ensure that 5G does become a reality.
Governments that strongly invest in research, innovation and science deliver positive economic returns in the medium term. Studies carried out by the European Commission, the OECD, and the World Bank all point to the positive results that investment in research and science can bring for society. But 5G is not being brought about by financial investment alone. It requires a high level of collaboration between private companies, governments, the education and research sectors to make 5G a success. No one country has a monopoly on innovation. Delivering innovative services does not stop at any one defined geographical border. International collaboration is an intrinsic and central element of a successful policy framework if innovative products are to be delivered into the marketplace.
The EU’s Horizon 2020 is the largest publicly funded research and science instrument in the world. Enshrined within Horizon 2020 is the requirement for international collaboration. Applications for funding are approved on the basis of the excellence of the application in question and on the criteria of excellence alone. Horizon 2020 supports basic scientific efforts, but it also backs projects that deliver innovative solutions and products into the marketplace. Equally, it supports many research and innovation projects that seek to tackle broader societal challenges via the use of information communication technologies.
Governments can learn best practices from one another. International organizations can and do play a key role in this learning process too. The Broadband Commission of the United Nations, the policy division of the ITU, the science, research and innovation section of the OECD, the European Commission, the Telecommunications working group in APEC and the ASEAN organization have all published compelling recommendations to support the development of the economy.
All stakeholders must continue to do more to bridge the digital divide that exists in the world today. Learning best practices, implementing strong digital economy plans, and guaranteeing that high speed Internet services are available to communities living in both urban and rural areas must all be supported if this digital divide is to be arrested.
Click the link for more information about Huawei’s Global Connectivity Index, which charts nations’ progress with intelligent connectivity in terms of the digital economy.