Making Dreams of Digital Inclusion Come True in 2021
“I think of what the world could be, a vision of the one I see, a million dreams is all it’s gonna take.”
Hopes & Dreams
With a new year, comes new hopes and dreams. And sometimes – like the above lyrics from our TECH4ALL video – dreams are what we need to create new ways to make our planet a better, more equal, and more sustainable place.
TECH4ALL started as our dream to create a fairer, inclusive world through digital technology. Even the smallest, simplest use of technology can improve life for many when it’s applied to the environment, education, health, and development – the four domains of TECH4ALL.
We believe that technology can be a force for good, a driver of social progress and sustainable development.
And we need that now more than ever. 2020 has likely been the most disruptive year that many of us have ever experienced. For me, it’s also reinforced that acting together in partnership is the best way to respond to a global threat. If we act alone, we achieve so much less. Partnerships are at the heart of TECH4ALL. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together since we launched the digital inclusion initiative in early 2019 and what we’ve accomplished against all odds in 2020.
While I know we need to do so much more in 2021 on the journey to digital inclusion, we have a strong and meaningful foundation to build on, to do more and to achieve more, with more partners.
In the education domain, TECH4ALL is committed to two things: First, connecting schools to make learning more accessible and effective for disadvantaged groups, especially children living in poverty and remote communities. Second, expanding digital literacy and ICT skills through training.
Lockdown and school closures in 2020 forced us and our partners to quickly adjust our strategy and focus on enabling remote education – connecting students with teachers and course materials. This year we launched online learning platforms and application projects in Senegal and Bangladesh to ensure learning continuity during the pandemic. And Huawei ICT Academy Kenya helped students at Zetech University transition from face-to-face learning to online learning using our cloud platform under Huawei’s “Learn ON” program.
Also in 2020, we launched the Open School System with UNESCO as a continuation of our ongoing collaboration under the Global Education Coalition. The three-year project will cover Egypt, Ethiopia, and Ghana, providing schools and homes with the connectivity, devices, and applications that can make remote learning possible during and after the pandemic.
In 2021, we hope to resume and expand our “skills on wheels” programs. The mobile classroom DigiTruck will move into France. Launched last year with our partners, including Close the Gap and Computers for Schools Kenya, DigiTruck is a converted, solar-powered shipping container that can drive to remote communities and provide training in digital literacy.
These communities otherwise have little access to training facilities and sometimes lack power supplies. In Bangladesh, we’re working with the Bangladesh Government and Robi Axiata on the Digital Training Bus project. Six buses, each equipped with 23 workstations, were custom built for one main mission: to bring digital skills to women in the heart of rural Bangladesh – so far over 63,000 women have received training, and we hope to expand the total number number to more than 200,000 by 2023.
We believe that everyone has the right to education and access to lifelong learning. To learn is in our nature, and high-quality education plants the seed from which every child – and society – can grow.
Read more about our education programs on the education page of our TECH4ALL minisite, including our DigiSchool initiatives, remote education solutions for rural and underserved schools, the Smart Bus for children in Europe, and StorySign – our app for teaching deaf children to read.
In the environmental domain, TECH4ALL projects aim to use technology to conserve natural resources, mitigate the effects of climate change, and protect the planet.
Safeguarding Rainforests by Listening
To protect rainforests, we’re deploying solar-powered “Guardians” with Rainforest Connection (RFCx) and other partners. Each solar-powered Guardian covers 3 km2 of forest 24/7 using adapted cell phones and cloud AI. They detect animal sounds and the sounds of the chainsaws and trucks that are indicative of illegal logging, which causes up to 90% of all deforestation and decimates habitats. The system currently protects rainforests in 11 countries, including the Palawan rainforest in the Philippines, Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, and forests in California.
In the Philippines, for example, the Palawan rainforest is a treasure trove of biodiversity. But it’s shrinking by about 5,500 hectares of rainforest every year – the equivalent of 7,700 football pitches. So, we’ve deployed Guardians to prevent illegal logging and animal poaching in five protected areas across Palawan.
This year, we expanded the Guardian project to cover 6,000 km2 of forest.
In 2021, we will apply similar technologies in the Celtic Sea on Ireland’s south coast to deliver real-time detection and alerts to protect marine life, including whales and dolphins, from threats that can seriously injure or kill them, like ship strikes.
The Return of the Big Cats
Habitats and species aren’t just under threat in rainforests. Fewer than 600 Amur tigers – the largest of the remaining tiger species – remain in the wild. Their home on the Russia-China border is under threat, a threat that also affects the Amur leopards that share their habitat.
In 2017, the China Northeast Tiger and Leopard Park was established to restore 14,600 km2 of forest into an ecosystem conducive for the cats to repopulate – each female tigress, for example, requires 500 km2 to thrive. Current advances in technology are pivotal for their survival: with our partners we built an advanced telecommunications network, connecting 3,000 monitoring stations to a cloud-based big data and AI analytics platform.
Source: National Forestry and Grassland Administration Amur Tiger and Amur Leopard Monitoring and Research Center. Since deployment, 1 million images of wildlife have been captured in 18 months.
Today, rangers and scientists can respond in real time to threat events, including poaching, to ensure the cats can repopulate. And it’s working. Last year, litters of Amur tiger and Amur leopard cubs were caught on camera.
In 2021, we will be launching Tech4Nature to focus our efforts on the environment. With 1 million species facing the threat of extinction and climate change a planet-level threat, we cannot relax when it comes to the health of the Earth.
In the healthcare domain, we’re focusing on ensuring equitable access to healthcare, telemedicine, and enabling medical research through the use of digital technology. Our focus in 2020 has been on the global pandemic, with telemedicine, AI, and 5G proving their worth in detecting, diagnosing, and slowing the spread of COVID-19.
To build a remote diagnosis system for fighting COVID-19 in China, Huawei teamed up with the National Telemedicine Center, completing system set up in just four days and connecting 147 hospitals specifically designated to deal with the virus across 108 counties and 18 cities. The system was able to allocate resources, conduct remote diagnosis, share treatment solutions, and provide treatment guidance.
As of March 20, 2020, the telemedicine system had diagnosed more than 2,000 cases of the coronavirus in towns and counties. The system was also used to remotely check patients in isolation wards and organize online workshops with coronavirus experts, greatly improving the capabilities of smaller hospitals to fight COVID-19.
In New Zealand, we rolled out MaiPODs last year with our partners under the MaiHealth initiative. MaiPODs are mobile clinics that can reach rural areas and make up for the acute shortfall in healthcare workers in the nation’s rural regions. During the COVID-19 outbreak, MaiPODs were part of the response that contributed to New Zealand’s exemplary response to the pandemic.
Our other ongoing healthcare projects include promoting digital inclusion by helping to prevent or cure visual impairments in children with the TrackAI solution and also the Trouble-free Hearing app, a cloud-based solution that provides resources for deaf people such as real-time subtitles for videos and podcasts and also sign language interpretation services.
We believe that the well-being of humanity and the health of the planet are a collective responsibility that we all share. 2020 may have been a year of disruption, but we won’t give up on the TECH4ALL journey. In 2021, we look forward to reaching more people and touching more lives by using technology for good.
Learn more about TECH4ALL and find out how you can join us.
Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.