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Europe should build on its Strengths, Encourage Digital Investment

To secure a leadership position in the digital world, Europe should build on its existing strengths, encourage investment in digital infrastructure, and stimulate demand for digital services.

This was the message for European policymakers delivered by Ken Hu, Rotating Chairman of Huawei, in a speech at the European Business Summit in Brussels on May 24th.

Here is the full speech script:

Mr. President, distinguished guests, friends and colleagues:

Thank you for having me.

It's a great honor to be here with such a distinguished group of speakers.

Digital Europe is Here

Europe has made incredible progress in digital transformation. Right now, the whole world is in the digital fast lane. We see tremendous opportunities as well as challenges ahead of us. And I believe, with strong industry, research capabilities, and forward-thinking governance, Europe is in a solid position to lead the way forward.

All across Europe, governments are doing great work. For digital transformation, leading by example is critical. When governments go digital first, all industries can follow.

Estonia is a good example. Today, 99% of state services are online.

If you want, you can apply for Estonian residency on your smartphone. And when you get your digital ID, you can start a business online, and file your taxes in less than 5 minutes. It's unbelievable.

The World Bank ranked Estonia #12 in the world for ease of doing business. By going digital first, the government has produced huge growth opportunities for everyone.

Some of you might say: "Estonia is a small country. Their solutions don't scale." I agree that size is a challenge. But vision makes a difference. Estonia aimed high, and look what they have achieved!

When people think of Europe, they think of technical excellence. The world's best basic research starts here, and this adds quality of life and quality of business to the region.

I recently read about an interesting project with Deutsche Telekom and scientists in the UK. They developed a virtual reality game called Sea Hero Quest. It's a fun game, where you can explore the ocean and search for monsters. The best part is this: The app is designed to advance dementia research. Every 2 minutes of gameplay provides scientists with five hours of lab data on human behavior. They have over 3 million downloads, and have collected more than 12,000 years of data. It's the largest dementia study in history.

This is European innovation. Huawei has been in Europe for 18 years. We have seen nonstop progress in infrastructure, applications, and innovation, for example:

  • Broadband is available to everyone in the EU, and average speeds are rising. Over 40% of rural homes now have high-speed broadband, up 10 percentage points in just one year.
  • The app economy for domains like online shopping, fintech, sports and education is growing so fast.

All of this progress is thanks to the European Union's strong vision. Horizon 2020 is the largest public funding program in the world, and all EU countries have set aggressive targets for connectivity. The results of these efforts are clear.

So when people say that Digital Europe is still on the way, I disagree. I say that Digital Europe is already HERE.

Europe has achieved a lot. But the rest of the world is accelerating too. I believe we can do more to secure Europe's leadership position.

Foster an Investment-Friendly Environment

Let's talk about digital infrastructure. From a technology perspective, 5G, fiber, cloud, and IoT are key to Europe's long-term digital objectives. However, investment is a real challenge. We need to build greater market certainty, and that should be a joint effort.

Technology providers like Huawei need to contribute their technology innovation to help carriers maximize returns on their existing investments in digital infrastructure.

At the same time, European governments can help telecom carriers address new investment challenges, using regulatory tools to build a pro-investment environment.

Huawei works with every major carrier across Europe. We have identified two real challenges: one in the sky, one underground.

  • In the sky, carriers lack spectrum resources for 5G. To keep on top of 5G, Europe needs to harmonize and release more spectrum, and act faster.
  • Underground, carriers need to roll out more fiber. But they need support, both in finance and in policy. If we can support greater infrastructure sharing, we can help them cut costs and speed up deployment.

We don't have all the answers. But I am confident we can find a solution together.

Stimulate Demand for Digital Applications

While strong infrastructure will supply digital capabilities for everyone in Europe, we still need to generate more demand. That means building awareness, and developing applications that create new and exciting value.

  • Schindler is a fantastic example. They are almost 150 years old, but they are using the world's most advanced edge-computing and IoT platforms to connect millions of elevators. By analyzing data on vibration, energy, and temperature, they can do smart maintenance before problems occur. As a result, they have reduced elevator downtime by 90%, and cut their maintenance costs in half.

This is only one example in one industry. We've seen great digital innovation in so many traditional sectors:

  • The National Opera of Paris is using digital platforms to promote art and education.
  • Even traditional winemakers are exploring IoT solutions to reduce water waste and keep their grapes healthy

These are all exciting advancements. However, we must recognize two facts:

  • Only 20% of European companies use e-commerce or cloud computing.
  • Less than 2% of European companies use digital technology to innovate in products or processes.

Europe has a strong and proud industrial base. We need to work together to build awareness of digital technology. We need to show how it can enhance human effort, improve quality, and multiply the value of traditional expertise.

We can take action right now. For example, 5G is a key technology for Industry 4.0. We can form more industrial alliances to enable 5G innovation. The 5G Vertical Industry Accelerator in Munich is a good example of this. We should also do more to encourage collaboration across sectors and borders.

Digital Europe is here.

Let's be proud of what we have accomplished together. And let's do more to reinforce Europe's strengths.

Working together is key. Just like metal, and just like rope, when different minds come together and focus their efforts, they become stronger than ever before.

Thank you.