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Huawei Building a better
connected world:
Leading new ICT

How to Thrive in the Global Digital Economy

Imagine the economy of the future: the entire world, from the biggest of cities to the smallest of villages, will all be digitally connected, rising to compete and thrive in the global marketplace. As countries reach optimum connectivity, the era of Augmented Innovators will be born: cloud AI computing will utilize big data analytics to achieve a scale of innovation never before possible--one that transcends physical barriers and the limitations of the human mind.

This world is not far off. The first Augmented Innovators, as defined by Huawei's Global Connectivity Index (CGI), are due to arrive by 2020, when cloud AI and big data analytics will be embedded into IoT systems and used to empower machine-assisted innovation in the form of virtual assistants, advanced robotics, and driverless cars, and even immersive virtual realities.

In today's world, connectivity using information and communications technologies (ICT) is a necessity for countries and consumers alike, and building a strong digital infrastructure is the prerequisite for economic growth. Broadband lays the foundation, but it's only one of five ICT enablers; the others are data centers, cloud, big data and IoT. These form the digital infrastructure of tomorrow. Investing in these technologies--especially broadband--lays a muscular infrastructure for digital transformation and long-term economic health, competiveness, innovation and productivity.

The Internet has the power to be the great equalizer, providing access to communications, information and opportunity.

According to a report from the Brookings Institution, the Internet can transform developing economies, enabling businesses to access services, improve productivity and increase their competitiveness both domestically and in the global market. In January 2016, World Bank released its annual World Development Report, which unequivocally shows that Internet connectivity can boost economic growth across the developing world when accompanied by good Internet policies. Indeed, Huawei's Global Connectivity Index 2016 reveals that investing in ICT infrastructure correlates with economic dynamism, efficiency and productivity--a one-point increase in a nation's GCI rating correlates with a 2.3 percent increase in competitiveness, a 2.2 percent rise in innovation and 2.3 percent jump in productivity.

Key opinion leaders have made connectivity a priority. The U.S. State Department has launched the Global Connect Initiative in an effort to bring an additional 1.5 billion people online by 2020. Going one step further, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to connect 5 billion people throughout world with "Connectivity is a human right," he told CNN.

Countries that don't embrace the new digital economy risk economic stagnation or decline, with no means of competing in the global economy. Case in point: According to a report published by the International Trade Centre, a joint venture of the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations, limited access to broadband Internet is crippling the spread of ICT in the developing world, and is widening the already significant digital divide. In fact, a study of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) around the world found that many small businesses in poorer countries underperform because they make too little use of the Internet. For instance, the report discovered that SMEs in Brazil are three times less productive than big firms, while those in India are 10 times less productive.

For developing markets, it's crucial to build accessible broadband and data centers. This is already happening: The Chinese government recently completed a two-year, 2.92 billion Yuan project to dramatically build out the country's core Internet infrastructure, and through its Broadband China strategy, promises to provide access to broadband Internet services to all Chinese villages, towns and cities by 2020. In mid-2015, the Chinese government unveiled Internet Plus, its plan for boosting growth by infusing mobile Internet, cloud computing, big data, and IoT into manufacturing. Internet Plus aims to develop e-commerce, industry networks and online banking, and raise the profile of Internet companies on the world stage. A key part of the initiative is to expand broadband Internet access, which is expected to ramp up e-commerce growth in the country.

Another example is Nigeria, a beginner on the connectivity voyage, which is taking positive steps toward becoming a participant in the global economy. Recognizing the importance of connectivity for economic growth, the Nigerian government has initiated its National Broadband Plan to increase broadband penetration fivefold by 2017 over the 2012 level. As a consequence, Nigeria boasts a burgeoning Internet technology space and is also receiving support in entering the global economy. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg recently partnered with Airtel Africa in an enterprise called Free Basics in Nigeria, which will allow Nigerians free access to news, information and other services on their mobile devices.

Developed markets, which already have the foundations of broadband and data centers in place, are shifting their focus to cloud, big data and IoT, which will push these countries to new levels of innovation.

The United States, which has one of the most advanced ICT infrastructures, has unveiled a series of smart city initiatives to help communities tackle local problems and improve public services using current readiness levels of the five technology enablers: broadband, data centers, cloud services, big data, and IoT. In 2015, the US government allocated $160 million for federal research involving more than 25 new technology collaborations. Issues of focus include traffic congestion, crime, economic growth, climate change and public service delivery. For example, U.S. law enforcement agencies across all levels are deploying big data analytics to predict, anticipate and prevent crimes, using automated license plate recognition software to identify people with outstanding warrants, and predictive analytics to foresee possible crime flashpoints and link crimes to repeat offenders.

Britain is also a good role model for other countries to follow. Britain is reaping the benefits of early investments in broadband and cloud assets and a well-thought-out strategy to drive the adoption of big data and IoT. In 2014 the government committed #42 million to the Alan Turing Center for research into the collection, organization and analysis of big data. A further investment of #40 million was announced in September 2015 for the IoTUK program, with #10 million set aside for a single, collaborative urban R&D project.

"This development is prompting new solutions and highlighting the need for fundamental change."

Today, the world is knitted together in a fabric of connectivity that 10 years ago was unimaginable. Every aspect of commerce is global: currency markets, trading systems, job creation, and financial activity are linked in ways that affect consumers and businesses in virtually every country. Huawei's view of a Better Connected World envisions 100 billion connections by 2025, driven by the demand for full connectivity of people, things, and businesses.

As the world continues to connect, the possibilities are limitless: from fully automated cars, to smart homes and virtual offices. As we reach the level of Augmented Innovation, computers will contribute to the process of innovation through AI. Connectivity will be the catalyst for advancements that will impact all our lives from home to leisure and work, and, ultimately, will reshape our world. For countries that don't embrace the global digital economy, the outlook is bleak. With traditional approaches to industries like oil and gas, commodities, financial services and manufacturing becoming less and less competitive, now is the time to digitize to ensure positive economic growth and a sustainable, connected tomorrow.

GCI Connect Where it Counts Imagine the possibilities when you know what, where, when and how to connect

The 2016 Global Connectivity Index is a study that benchmarks where a country stands within its journey to connectivity.

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