In today's digital age, information is bringing change to every corner in the world, and connectivity is the medium through which all information is exchanged. Connectivity enables communications amongst people, exchanges information between people and machines, and allows machines to recognize and engage with each other. Connectivity is, in essence, the world's nervous system, and it is extending across the world to the point where it will soon be ubiquitous. From the data torrents of developed countries to the pent up demand of underdeveloped regions; from individuals to enterprises and countries; connectivity can open up unprecedented new possibilities.
With the arrival of the digital economy, the demands placed on connectivity across the world now cover the entire spectrum of Maslow's hierarchy of needs – from basic physiological needs to safety needs, esteem needs, and ultimately self-actualization. For those of us who live in big cities and are totally familiar with a digital lifestyle, even a few hours of disconnection from the Internet can leave us ill at ease. For those trapped in dangerous, life-threatening situations, connection to the outside world means the hope of survival. For those who are living away from their families, connectivity allows them to stay close to their loved ones. And for those living in poverty, connecting is like adding a new organ of sense, one that can "see" more opportunities and pathways to a better life.
The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals Report1 , published in 2015, revealed that in the year 2000, only 6% of the world's population was connected to the Internet. By 2015, it was 43%. However, there is still a long way to go before the whole world is connected. We may feel as though our planet is inundated with data, but it is important to realize that there are still 4.4 billion people – more than half of the global population – who remain unconnected2 . Most of this unconnected population is living in developing countries. In 2010, the International Telecommunications Union and UNESCO jointly established the Broadband Commission for Digital Development. Its aim is to promote the development of broadband and Internet applications worldwide in order to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Bringing the unconnected online and closing the digital divide are of crucial importance to any effort to build a more equitable world. These objectives are the shared responsibility of governments, telecom carriers, and the entire ICT industry.
Huawei's 2016 Global Connectivity Index (GCI)3 surveyed 3,000 enterprises from 10 different industries across 10 countries. It found that in today's digital economy, connectivity technologies, particularly broadband, have a bigger impact on their business than any other category of technology. Connectivity enables enterprises to escape the constraints of geography, collect more information, respond to customers more quickly, improve their productivity and efficiency, and make themselves more competitive.
Headforwards is a small software developer located in St. Agnes, a coastal village in Cornwall, on England's southwest coast. Cornwall is remote and thinly populated, and its broadband infrastructure was underdeveloped, meaning that local companies found it hard to connect to international markets. In 2015, the "Superfast Cornwall" project brought high speed fiber broadband networks to 80% of the area, including over 24,000 local enterprises. Thanks to the superfast 330 Mbit/s broadband, Headforwards was able to reach out to business opportunities around the world, including NTT, Japan's largest telecom company, which signed a contract with Headforwards to develop some core business software. This business partnership was only possible because of the high-speed connection between the two companies. The partnership has been highly successful because both companies are digitally connected. The contract has also led to further opportunities, enabling Headforwards to engage and win new clients and work with leading software talent around the world.
Harley-Davidson, a legendary American motorcycle maker, enjoyed outstanding sales in the 1980s and 1990s but ran into difficulties in the early 2000s. The market was changing, and its competitors introduced a range of new models. In order to adapt and reboot its competitiveness, between 2009 and 2012, Harley-Davidson introduced industrial Internet technologies to connect tens of thousands of manufacturing machines. This has enabled the machines to 'collaborate' with each other. It was a radical departure from Harley-Davidson's traditional manufacturing model, which had many disadvantages, including limited capacity and long lead times. Today, any production line in Harley-Davidson is able to produce many different motorbikes. A motorcycle comprised of some 1,200 parts can be assembled in 89 seconds, and the time from receiving an online order to delivery has been shortened from 21 days to just six hours. Connectivity has enabled Harley-Davidson to transform its business, with a far more flexible manufacturing infrastructure. This has helped the company to once again stand out from its competitors in the marketplace.
Connectivity is a good way to measure a country's digital economy. According to Huawei's 2017 GCI report, an improvement of just one point in a country's GCI score equates to a 2.3% increase in productivity, a 2.2% rise in innovation, and a 2.1% increase in national competitiveness4 . 151 countries worldwide have now recognized that broadband needs to be a critical part of their national development strategy, and have formulated policies to support it. The European Union has highlighted broadband as a key factor for competitiveness, and for achieving its 2020 goals for smart, inclusive, environmentally-friendly development. Japan has published the "e-Japan" strategy; South Korea has launched its "IT Korea Future Strategy". In 2013, China began implementing the "Broadband China" strategy5 , with goals for 2020 that include: fixed home broadband penetration of 70%; 3G/LTE coverage for 85% of mobile users; urban connection speeds of 50 Mbit/s, rural speeds of 12 Mbit/s; and gigabit broadband available in some advanced city markets.
The Solomon Islands is an archipelago in the South Pacific, located to the northeast of Australia. In 2015, the country ranked 163 out of 179 countries for GDP6 . For a long time the Solomon Islands has been reliant on satellite connections for basic communications. As a result, costs are high, and service uptake remains low, leaving the country starved of digital resources. To improve this situation, the government of the Solomon Islands in 2017 announced a massive investment in a seven-year project to deploy a 3,400 km fiber-optic submarine cable, with a capacity of 2.5 Tbit/s, between the country's capital and Sydney in Australia. The submarine cable represents not just high-speed Internet services, but hope for long-term, sustainable development in the Solomon Islands. Gordon Darcy Lilo, Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, said, "This is a crucial project for our country, as it will provide the platform for our road, mining, agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, and commerce, and help improve in the social senses as well."
In today's world, receiving a parcel delivered by drone would seem futuristic and exciting. But in coming years, such a thing will become commonplace. Drones will be deployed in a wide array of commercial and industrial roles. Where human operatives cannot go, drones can still perform with agility and efficiency. For example, a medical drone can transport a defibrillator to a patient in cardiac arrest at a speed of 96.6 km per hour. It could deliver vital first aid within a minute, rather than the 10 minute response time today.
Within the next three to five years, every football fan could be enjoying astounding immersive experiences via augmented reality (AR). They will be more immersed in the game than spectators in the ground. AR helmets will allow them to sit in any pitch-side seat they please, but more than that, they could place themselves on the pitch, in the middle of the action, and even in position of a player.
These technological advances are not so far from becoming an everyday reality for many of us, but they are unlikely to be immediately and equally accessible to everyone. According to a report by the ITU, there is still a vast digital divide between developed and developing countries: Of the 4.4 billion unconnected people worldwide, less than 300 million are in developed economies. The majority are distributed across less developed parts of the world7 . To fully connect these people and deliver universal Internet access8 , which the UN advocates as a basic human right, governments will need to take active measures. They must offer dedicated funding and supportive policies to encourage telecom carriers to expand their networks. At the same time, carriers need to identify more efficient network coverage solutions if they are to eliminate digital blind spots, connect the world, and enable everyone to enjoy the infinite possibilities of the Internet.
Carriers are less motivated to build ICT networks in rural and remote regions. Governments may need to introduce incentive measures in the form of universal service subsidies, tax incentives, and low-interest loans to support network rollout in these areas. The public-private partnership approach may also be considered as a long-term financing solution.
Carriers face huge costs when building networks in dense urban areas. Governments should support and encourage collaboration amongst all sectors involved in the construction of urban infrastructure, including transportation, energy, and pipelines, and buildings. Governments should introduce standards, specifications, incentive policies, and annual reviews to help alleviate the cost pressure. The goal is a coordinated plan for connectivity. According to the US Federal Communications Commission, laying one mile of fiber-optic cable costs US$144,000; but if implementation is coordinated with highways and other key infrastructure projects, the cost can fall to approximately US$101,000 per mile. These synergies can be especially large in emerging markets. For example, Phase 3, a fiber-optic network company in Nigeria, deployed its fiber along high-voltage cables, in cooperation with electric power companies, significantly reducing its build-out costs. It was then able to lease fiber-optic network services to carriers, enterprises, and governments at lower prices.
Mobile networks can be the key link for connection in sparsely populated areas, but mobile networks require ample spectrum resources.Governments and regulators should work to provide carriers with access to new spectrum resources. Ofcom in the United Kingdom, for example, plans to reallocate the 700MHz spectrum in 2020, when some spectrum currently used for TV broadcasting will be assigned to mobile communications networks. Carriers can also use existing spectrum more efficiently by leveraging new technologies (spectrum refarming, for instance).
The more people using connection services, the healthier the market. According to the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development's The State of Broadband Report 20169 , 5% of per capita GDP is an affordable level that people are willing to spend on fixed broadband services. Carriers can make use of innovative technologies and sound business models to provide better broadband services packages, making the services affordable to more users whilst ensuring reasonable profits.
There is also a positive correlation between local content and broadband construction, with multi-language content playing an important role in stimulating broadband demand. In India, for example, the Internet is predominantly English content, but only some 10%–20% people in India speak English10 , leaving people who speak Hindi and other languages less motivated to go online. To reverse this situation, it is necessary for the government and Internet content providers to make joint efforts to localize and diversify Internet content. App developers also need to be involved to provide more user-friendly apps.
Internet penetration is not just a function of external forces. It also depends on the level of basic Internet skills in the population. In Africa, more than one third of the adult population is totally illiterate; in countries such as Benin and Sierra Leone, the figure is more than 50%11 . For these people, the opportunities to access and benefit from the Internet are extremely slim. To equip more people with Internet skills, governments should work with education institutions, labor departments, and carriers to provide Internet-specific training to as many people as possible, particularly to improve digital literacy amongst underprivileged groups
The past decade has seen the numbers of Internet users increase globally by 2 billion. We believe that the goal of getting the next 2 billion people online will be achieved within a far shorter time. Looking forward, countless systems, enterprises, cities, and groups around the world will complete their digital transformation by getting better connected. Huawei is committed to innovating around the needs of these customers, and working with partners to build a Better Connected World. Huawei is enriching people's lives through communications, bringing better experiences to our users, and creating value for our customers and communities.
1.Millennium Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda, http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/about/mdg.shtml
2.Bringing the Next 4.4 Billion People Online (Chinese), http://www.c114.net/topic/4237.html
3.Harnessing the Power of Connectivity: Mapping Your Transformation into a Digital Economy with GCI 2017, http://www.huawei.com/minisite/gci/files/gci_2017_whitepaper_en.pdf
4.Harnessing the Power of Connectivity: Mapping Your Transformation into a Digital Economy with GCI 2017, http://www.huawei.com/minisite/gci/files/gci_2017_whitepaper_en.pdf
5.Broadband China (Chinese), https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E5%AE%BD%E5%B8%A6%E4%B8%AD%E5%9B%BD/1945145?fr=aladdin#2
7.Bringing the Next 4.4 Billion People Online (Chinese), http://www.tuicool.com/articles/EZvAna
8.Bringing the Next 4.4 Billion People Online (Chinese), http://www.tuicool.com/articles/EZvAna
9.UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development: Digital Divide Has Shifted from Voice Telephony to the Internet (Chinese), http://it.people.com.cn/n1/2016/0923/c1009-28735910.html
10.Localization is Vital for Chinese Companies to Succeed in India (Chinese), https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/24835876
11.Bringing the Next 4.4 Billion People Online (Chinese), http://www.tuicool.com/articles/EZvAna