Bridging the digital divide: How digital inclusion breeds sustainable development
Efforts should be made to increase access to fast, affordable and reliable Internet services
27 July 2020 | 0
In association with Huawei Technologies
Digital advances have generated enormous wealth in recent years, but that wealth has been concentrated around a small number of individuals, companies and countries. The United States and China currently create the vast majority of wealth in the digital economy, while Europe struggles to catch up. Under current policies and regulations, this trajectory is likely to continue, further contributing to rising inequality. We must now work jointly to close the digital divide, where more than half the world has limited or no access to the Internet as inclusivity is essential to building a digital economy that delivers for all.
The digital economy will require a range of new and different skills and a new era of digital participation. Most importantly, we need a major investment in education, rooted not just in learning but in learning how to learn, and in providing lifelong access to digital learning opportunities for all. Affordable connectivity remains a major challenge in many countries of the world, especially in their rural and remote areas. In order to accelerate access to adequate ICT services, efforts should be made to increase access to fast, affordable and reliable Internet services. Digital enterprises rely on creative, skilled staff, such as software developers, designers and data scientists, resulting in the emergence of a new class of professionals. Yet a major problem for local digital enterprises is the ability to recruit and retain talent that is locally available.
Where does Huawei stand on these issues? First, technology serves as the foundation. Huawei aims to build a fully connected, intelligent world using innovative technologies in connectivity, computing, AI, cloud, and mobile devices. Second, we believe that applications are the key to unlocking inclusion. Huawei will empower ecosystem partners and help developers create customized applications for different regions, communities, industries, and groups. Third, skills provide assurance. Huawei will work with organizations, such as local governments, universities, and communities, to enhance digital skills and develop digital talent for the future.
By working with global partners such as UN agencies, NGOs, research institutes, governments, carriers, and enterprise customers, we will promote digital inclusion by focusing on four high-impact domains: driving equity and quality in education, protecting the environment, enabling inclusion and equity in health, and driving balanced development. At present, we have only made a small step forward. We hope that more individuals and organisations will join the TECH4ALL digital inclusion initiative to promote the achievement of the UN’s SDGs.
In these key stakeholder initiatives, industry alliances, and other regional and global sustainability platforms, we encourage innovation and collaboration to achieve sustainability goals. To address cyberbullying and privacy protection, Huawei has worked with children’s rights and cyber security training organisations in Europe to roll out the SmartBus project. SmartBus is a mobile, Wi-Fi-equipped digital classroom that provides an engaging, interactive, and fun learning environment for children between the ages of 11 and 15. It is currently active in Belgium, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. To date, 126 schools in 79 cities, and more than 20,000 students, 5000 parents, and teachers have participated in interactive learning with SmartBus.
Finding qualified ICT professionals remains a key challenge even for major industry players. Huawei has launched the ICT Academy, providing training on ICT technologies to university students worldwide and encourages them to participate in our certification programmes. Having trained more than 45,000 students in 2019 alone, the academy aims to develop local ICT talent to meet future demand and build a sustainable talent ecosystem. Currently, we partner with 938 universities in 72 countries and regions to provide services such as textbook development, teacher training, lab construction, and student certification.
Twenty years ago, Huawei established its first presence in Europe. This was the first step of many that has seen a strong and lasting collaboration emerge. Building on our common history, values, and interests, we can take this partnership further to develop sovereign digital leadership for Europe and a better future for everyone.
Building on business sustainability, we will make long-term, non-profit investments that ensure the sustainability of digital inclusion. Committed to open collaboration, we will continue working with our global partners to build out the industry ecosystems that thrive on shared success. Together, we can promote inclusive and sustainable development. As part of these efforts, we believe that equipping people with the skills they need is the key to sustainability and to driving the digital economy forward, so we are working with our partners to develop a more robust digital talent ecosystem and bridge the digital divide.
Frank Shen is vice president of PACD, Western Europe, for Huawei Technologies