Huawei: World faces risk of K-shaped post-Covid economic recovery

MWC keynote sees Huawei deputy chairman warn that innovation is not just about solving current challenges, but about ‘lighting up tomorrow’ with innovation to make businesses smarter and create a more inclusive world

Even though the global roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines is generating optimism for countries to get back to planning for economic growth, there is a risk of a growing divide between organisations and people that actively benefit from digital technology and those that do not, Huawei deputy chairman Ken Hu (pictured above) warned in a speech at Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2021.

In his keynote on the first official day of the event, Hu spoke about the huge impact the coronavirus has had on countries, enterprises and people around the world, as well as the role technology is playing in combating the pandemic.

Hu spelt out how the Covid-19 outbreak has created many new requirements for digital infrastructure. He noted how, over the past year, Huawei has worked with carriers to ensure the stable operations of more than 300 networks across 170 countries.

In Indonesia, Huawei employed a new digital delivery technology to rapidly deploy more than 50,000 base stations. In Ningxia, China, the company’s integrated routers were said to have enabled multicloud access for enterprise users, helping them move to cloud more rapidly.

Hu’s address also pointed to the role in recent years that technologies such as 5G, cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) have begun to play in manufacturing, accelerating the transition to more intelligent and flexible operations. Hu described how Huawei’s own Dongguan South Factory was currently using 5G networks with cloud-based AI applications in its 5G smartphone production lines to drive huge productivity gains.

Hu revealed that, overall, in collaboration with its partners and regional carriers, Huawei had signed more than 1,000 contracts for industrial 5G applications in more than 20 industries.

He said he was confident that opportunities abound in the digital transformation space. Huawei predicts that, by 2025, 97% of all large companies will use AI.

Other estimates for 2025 include that 55% of China's entire GDP will be driven by the digital economy, and 60% of global carrier revenue will be derived from industry customers. To achieve these projections, said Hu, “all industries should focus on improving their capabilities, building out the ecosystem, and creating value with digital technology”.

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Even though he emphasised the role that Huawei was playing from a technological perspective, Hu emphasised that to avoid unbalanced development, bridge the digital divide and promote inclusive growth, the focus of innovation needs to shift to producing greater social value.

As companies and their countries look towards recovery, said Hu, the industry needs to ensure that such innovation is not just about addressing current needs and issues.

“Innovation isn’t just about solving the challenges we face today,” he said. “It’s about lighting up tomorrow. Once we get the pandemic under control, we need to think hard about how we can innovate to improve quality of life, make businesses smarter, and create a more inclusive world.”

Hu said that although unequal access to digital technology and digital skills has widened the digital divide, the pandemic has made the situation significantly worse. “We have to focus innovation on bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots, and on driving digital inclusion,” he added.

Closing his address, Hu stressed that although the pandemic has closed many doors, innovation has opened new windows of hope. He said that, through ongoing innovation, Huawei will continue to pursue open partnerships with its customers and partners to help industries go digital and make life better, businesses smarter, and the world more inclusive.

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