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By Charles Yang, president of Huawei Middle East

Information and communications technology (ICT) continues to drive economic and social value around the world. As countries in the Middle East shift their focus towards enhancing their ICT ecosystems, the contribution of the sector towards national development and economic diversification will only continue to grow as businesses are digitally empowered.

The full potential of the ICT sector will be best achieved through cooperation; a collaborative approach that will lead to unlocking new opportunities and contribute towards shared progress. Building a digital, intelligent world takes joint effort.

To this end, Huawei believes in the power of dissolving boundaries and working together to build an ecosystem that thrives on shared success. By advancing the development of the digital world – and by extension, an intelligent world – we can bring the benefits of digital life to everyone.

New and emerging digital technologies are reshaping user expectations and changing the way businesses are providing solutions to their customers. By 2020, networks and devices will have evolved beyond recognition, with the advent of the super-phone, 5G connectivity and high performance video. This presents a golden opportunity for businesses to create new products and services within this period of digital transformation over the next four years.

However, only through open collaboration can we meet people's demands and bring the benefits of new technologies to more people at lower costs. Looking back at history, the Silk Road is a great example of how collaborating across borders can help nations to achieve collective progress. As the name suggests, silk was a major commodity traded along this international route, but certainly not the only one. Our ancestors not only exchanged goods, but also culture, philosophy, science and innovations – such as Arabic numerals and paper.

Looking back, it’s clear that this international exchange had a formative role to play in the development of our modern nations. Applying that lesson to today, no single nation or single company can expect to reap the benefits of a fully-connected, intelligent world without partners.

While silk and spices were the in-demand goods of the past, the most desirable commodities in today’s world are knowledge and technology. We entered the digital intelligent era where we see all things sensing, all things connected, all things intelligent. All industries now require a new approach to digitization and intelligence. At Huawei, we also realize that the value of digital requires a holistic view of ICT, embodied in our Platform + AI + Ecosystem strategy which has proven to be a key factor to enabling our partners’ successful digitalization. We should continue in the spirit of the Silk Road to ensure that these new commodities are exchanged amongst all people.

In particular, there are three immediate priorities for strengthening our new Silk Road.

It starts with knowledge transfer and education to create the required ICT talent ecosystem. This is the core foundation for supporting digitalization, such as that outlined in the aforementioned Platform + AI + Ecosystem strategy. Huawei alone hopes to transfer a cumulative of more than 700,000 ICT professionals to the industry by 2023. A revitalized ICT industry will require building new talent alliances, talent standards and communicating talent value. This is something that Huawei is keenly pursuing through initiatives such as our ICT Competition, ICT Job Fair and Huawei ICT Academies. These initiatives see promising students from around the world be provided with opportunities to expand their understanding of the ICT sector and to take new-found knowledge back to their home countries where they can contribute to the evolution of their local ICT industry. In the 2018-2019 Huawei ICT Competition, for example, over 14,748 students registered for the competition from the region, with students from 13 universities chosen for the international final. 

The development of ecosystems that support innovation - and key technologies such as 5G and AI - is another pillar of the new Silk Road. If we just look at telecommunications, for instance, commercial deployment of 5G networks around the world has sped up because companies like Huawei have worked with global partners. Earlier this year, Huawei and more than 30 industry partners jointly established an industry alliance and industry innovation base on 5G deterministic networking. The establishment of a 5G OpenLab in the Middle East, the Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) Ecosystem, and bespoke innovation initiatives - such as the Huawei Wireless X Labs - all contribute to shared value for the ICT industry. Such ecosystems are all the more important in the 5G era, in which operators, third parties and vertical industries can better understand each other’s business models and develop services of shared value.

The third priority of the new Silk Road is the responsible development of ICT infrastructure. Included within this is digital inclusion, or providing all communities with the opportunity to participate in technological development. Cyber and data security is an equally important part of responsible development. Governments, standards organizations and the ICT industry must work together to foster trust in a world where more people’s lives are digitally connected.

Connected through intelligence

In addition to the aforementioned three priorities, nations today must understand the value of emerging technologies. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already leading us into an intelligent world where all things are sensing, all things are connected and all things are intelligent. In the new decade ahead, this intelligence will be supported by two principal technologies: 5G and AI.

If prosperity in the past was based on how quickly physical goods were shipped from one place to the next, then tomorrow’s economies will be based on how fast data can be transmitted – and this will be powered by 5G. Huawei believes that many countries in the Middle East have the potential to become the world’s leading ground when it comes to 5G deployment, where high speed, low latency and high bandwidth will provide a boost to economies and societal development alike. The Middle East is taking rapid steps in the deployment of 5G, and that momentum will radiate out into surrounding regions in the year to come.

This is a result of organizations now being provided with all the tools needed to thrive in the 5G era. End-to-end offerings in the 5G arena are now available to regional telecom operators as well as industrial pioneers. This has been the result of extensive R&D investment. Huawei alone has invested USD$4 billion dollars in 5G over the past 10 years. This has led to the development of enterprise-to-enterprise (E2E) 5G solutions, as well as 3,045 5G core standards, 5G chipsets, 5G devices and 5G base stations which operate on one tenth of the energy consumption compared to their 4G predecessors. 

With the advancement of 5G commercial progress, business applications are emerging in an endless stream. This is where the deeper integration of the 5G ecosystem and AI becomes critical to value creation.

AI has become a new general-purpose technology and will change all industries and organizations on earth. According to Huawei's own Global Industry Vision 2025 report, global data volumes are predicted to increase from 32.5 ZB in 2018 to 180 ZB in 2025, with enterprise demand for AI computing power doubling every three months and adoption rising to 80% by 2025. It is also reported that AI will contribute US$320 billion to the Middle East economy by 2030, which indicates the large impact AI will have on the region with the governments’ support and implementation.

Moving forward, smart media, manufacturing, agriculture, intelligent transportation and more will all be supported by AI. It is already used in core IT infrastructure such as data center networks, storage and datacenter facilities, and the cloud. When applying AI on 5G networks, for example, telecom carriers with large regional footprints can achieve higher levels of automation, self-maintenance, increased intelligence, better network planning, and smoother operations and services.

By the end of Q3 2019, more than 700 cities, 228 Fortune Global 500 companies and 58 Fortune Global 100 companies had selected Huawei as their partner for digital transformation leveraging these kinds of integrated capabilities.

A mindset for the future

Taken as a whole, it is clear that we as an industry have made great progress in building a more connected and intelligent world. Yet, the spirit of cooperation embodied by the Silk Road is one we must continue to value. We should accelerate this vision by increasing knowledge transfer, building stronger ecosystems and developing ICT in a truly responsible manner.

These priorities are all the more important given that technologies like 5G and AI are not just minor steps in our industry’s development; they play a completely different role in people’s lives. As leaders in this sector, we all need to have a fresh mindset to drive its future development.

We are moving towards an intelligent world, where all things will be able to sense and connect. Huawei is one of the few players in the industry to provide a complete set of ICT solutions with ‘cloud-pipe-device’ synergy, leading the way in the integration of physical and digital worlds.

Huawei’s vision is to bring digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world. Through closer collaboration, I am confident that we can shape a digital world that everyone can trust - and which everyone benefits from.

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