TECH4ALL: Collaboration Is the New Innovation

ByKevin Zhang

November 25, 2019

Kevin Zhang

Last month, Huawei’s annual Mobile Broadband Forum landed in Zurich, bringing mobile technology leaders together in a nation that boasts one of the world’s most developed ICT infrastructures.

Unsurprisingly 5G was at the heart of MBBF 2019, giving the industry’s major players the opportunity to dive deep into the progress, projects, and partnerships that are shaping the 5G ecosystem, including Europe’s first commercial “3D” 5G network, a result of the combined efforts of leading Swiss operator Sunrise and Huawei.

The success of this partnership is a milestone that will help accelerate 5G’s rapid rollout in Europe. It’s also one that supports our prediction in the Huawei Global Industry Vision that by 2025, 58% of the world will be covered by 5G.

While 5G is landing far faster than previous wireless generations and its potential for both society and productivity is phenomenal, let’s step back and think about the people who aren’t included, who aren’t connected, and who aren’t yet benefiting from digital technology.

Not just from the potential of 5G rollout, I mean the people who are completely off the connectivity radar.

This is something I’ve been thinking about more as our digital inclusion initiative TECH4ALL expands in scope. In my last post, I outlined the thinking that underpins the initiative. In this one, I want to explore the fuel that powers its engine – collaboration. More specifically, the conditions that collaboration need to be effective so that digital technology can reach and empower everybody.

GSMA and ITU at MBBF

At MBBF 2019, I sat down with GSMA’s Head of Subharan Africa Akinwale Goodluck and Dr. Eun-Ju Kim, Chief of the Digital Knowledge Hub at ITU, to discuss current barriers to digital inclusion and the collaborative framework that can break down those barriers.

One often overlooked barrier we identified in relation to Sub Saharan Africa is misconception – specifically, the misconception that everyone is online and that everyone has a mobile. And moreover, that everyone who’s covered by a network is by default online and empowered by digital technology.

That’s not only untrue for developing economies, it’s also untrue for Europe.

A Fact That May Surprise You

According to the EU’s latest Digital Progress Report, 43% of EU residents lack basic digital skills, like searching for and evaluating information online. Moreover, 17% have no digital skills at all. The same report states that by 2020, 90% of EU jobs will require digital skills.

Now you’re probably not alone if you did a double take at the first two stats. Potentially, the gap in digital skills could become a major bottleneck in the EU’s economy and to basic economic inclusion for its citizens.

The Right Partners, the Right Mix of Strengths

Collaboration is at the heart of formulating solutions for issues like digital illiteracy. No one can go it alone. Various stakeholders bring expertise in different areas and also different perspectives – that’s why, for example, if you ask a vendor, an NGO, and a policymaker about the biggest single barrier to digital inclusion, you may well get three different but equally valid answers, all of which need solutions.

I believe that cooperative innovation is crucial as a collaborative framework. It comprises three dimensions:

  • Industry insights
  • An innovation mechanism
  • An open and cooperative innovation platform

In a digital inclusion context, cooperative innovation sets the stage for policymakers, vendors, NGOs, organizations, and other stakeholders to define their objectives and play to their strengths in terms of value add, from political will, policies, and regulations, to the technologies and local knowledge needed for project execution on the ground.

Our collaboration on DigiTruck in Kenya is a good example. Designed to deliver training in digital skills to remote areas in the shape of a converted, solar-powered shipping container, the project is the result of collaboration between the Kenyan government’s ICT department, UNESCO, GSMA, the NGOs Close the Gap and Computers for Schools Kenya, and local operator Safaricom. Empowerment is also at the heart of DigiTruck – it’s designed so that those who acquire digital skills can in turn become teachers.

Equally, raising digital literacy in Europe requires a broad partnership approach to bringing digital skills to young people, professionals, senior citizens, and also to encourage more women and girls to go into STEM. To underpin this, governments need to ensure that digital skills are part of education, while businesses should work with schools and training organizations to ensure that tomorrow’s workforce is digitally literate.

What We Bring To the Table

Huawei’s strength is obviously technology. And not just rolling it out ourselves – equally important is providing a digital platform that others can use to bring their technology innovations to fruition, and creating the partnerships that bring the right mix of strengths into play when it comes to using that technology.

The Huawei Developer Ecosystem, for example, is an open and cooperative innovation platform that delivers the tools for anyone to develop applications that can make a difference. In September, we launched our Developer Program 2.0, investing US$1.5 billion to support 5 million developers – both enterprises and individuals – to build a computing ecosystem.

Example of applications within the TECH4ALL domain are TrackAI, StorySign, and Rainforest Connection’s “Guardians”, each of which apply AI and other technologies to prevent blindness, teach deaf children to read, and protect rainforests, respectively.

Collaboration can deliver the technologies and projects that deliver empowerment. Empowerment can deliver the potential for everyone to benefit from digital technologies. And TECH4ALL is the collaborative framework under which we’re working with our partners to make that happen.

Click the link to read more about TECH4ALL.

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Kevin Zhang

CMO, Huawei ICT Infrastructure Kevin is Huawei’s CMO of ICT Infrastructure. He is responsible for developing and implementing the company’s overall ICT brand and marketing strategies, building technical leadership in ICT, and promoting sustainable business growth. Kevin is also in charge of communicating Huawei’s brand strategies and corporate vision, and he leads the company’s digital inclusion initiative TECH4ALL.

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