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Driving Balanced Development

According to the ITU, nearly half of the world's population is not yet connected to the Internet. Most of them live in underdeveloped rural areas and make their living from the land. Although they are living in the digital age, they cannot benefit from digital technology and the opportunities it provides.

Huawei's TECH4ALL digital inclusion initiative helps rural areas and underdeveloped industries in developing countries to develop using ICT. We are committed to providing low-cost ICT infrastructure in remote areas, and taking targeted actions to remove the obstacles to last-mile Internet access. With our digital technologies, we help industries go digital and smart so that they will not fall behind. We also help improve working conditions for people who do heavy, repetitive, and dangerous work, so that they can work more safely, more efficiently, and with more dignity.

STORY-RuralStar: Remote Doesn't Mean Unconnected

Many remote areas in Africa are described as information deserts, because a lack of telecommunications infrastructure means the people living there are unable to make phone calls or access the Internet. These remote areas tend to have low population densities, unstable power supplies, and poor road conditions. Deploying traditional cell towers would be difficult and expensive. To address the communication gaps in these areas, Huawei carefully studied local conditions and created an innovative base station which can be installed on just a wooden pole. It is called RuralStar. It is compact and powered by solar energy and can meet the needs of rural telecom carriers for quick and easy rollout.

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Huawei workers installing a RuralStar base
station in a remote village in Guinea

Because of its unique features, RuralStar has been widely adopted, making it possible for people in remote areas to connect with the outside world. For example, in Ghana, the lives of people in one village have been transformed since we built a RuralStar base station there. The base station was put up in just three days, and cost 70% less than a conventional cell tower. In Nigeria, people in Tobolo have been enjoying a better quality of life because RuralStar allows them to communicate with the outside world and brings them business opportunities. In Thailand, RuralStar allows children in mountainous areas to watch videos on mobile phones and reach out to the outside world. In China, RuralStar has made it possible for residents in the Daliang Mountains to chat online, and for workers on the remote Zhoushan Islands to keep in touch with their families.

RuralStar delivers connectivity to wide plains, steep hills, inhospitable deserts, remote islands, isolated rural areas, warren-like old towns, long highways, and deep tunnels, allowing people there to benefit from the digital world.

In 2020, Huawei launched the innovative RuralStar Pro solution, which helps bring high-quality mobile broadband services to remote villages. The solution's innovative integrated access and backhaul design reduces power consumption per site to 100 watts, greatly reducing end-to-end costs. RuralStar Pro is already in use in customer projects, and is making a huge difference in the digital development of rural areas.

  • 50 million+

    people living in remote areas in 60+ countries and regions have access to mobile Internet services thanks to RuralStar

To date, our RuralStar series solutions have provided mobile Internet services to more than 50 million people living in remote areas in over 60 countries and regions.

STORY-5G Smart Factory: Smelter Workers Don't Have to Work in a Sauna

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Huawei and China Mobile Hunan helping Xiangtan Steel remotely control its smelter cranes

Iron and steel are integral to the manufacturing industry and play an important role in the national economy. Conventional smelters are labor-intensive, with workers stuck in a high-temperature environment filled with dust and noise. The environment can be unsafe, and harms their health. As a result, traditional plants have suffered from low efficiency and high employee turnover, and have faced difficulties hiring new people.

To address the problems in the old iron and steel industry and embrace the 5G era, Xiangtan Iron and Steel (Xiangtan Steel) collaborated with China Mobile Hunan and Huawei to develop a smart smelter. Xiangtan Steel is the first Chinese steel company in the industry to build a 5G smart plant. With the new plant, the equipment "talks", machines run autonomously, employees work with dignity, and the company can expand efficiently.

With the help of 5G, Xiangtan Steel's workers are working more efficiently in a much better environment.

  • Remotely controlled cranes: With remotely controlled cranes, the operator can sit in a quiet and comfortable air-conditioned cabin and remotely control multiple cranes in the steel-making area for unloading, lifting, and maintenance. Computer-aided programs assist with preset crane positioning and real-time crane operation, and the operator has a clear field of vision and can work in comfort.
  • 5G robotic arms: With 5G robotic arms, smelter workers no longer have to engage in dangerous, repetitive, and heavy work close to hot furnaces. In fact, they can use a 5G smartphone to remotely start the slag conditioner program. Robotic arms can then evenly and reliably add slag conditioner and adjust the oxygen flow as required. The workers do not have to conduct dangerous operations, and the quality of iron and steel has been significantly improved.
  • AI-controlled steel rolling: Workers can control the turning and speed of the rolling mill using a trained cloud-based AI model and video data from 5G cameras. This method of rolling is more efficient, so 6–7 more steel billets can be produced every day.

Xiangtan Steel's production efficiency and quality have improved with the help of the 5G smart plant. The steel workers are safer and happier because they don't need to work in a hot, noisy, and dangerous environment. Smart plants have been set up in Shanghai, Hebei, Beijing, and Guangxi, marking an important step forward for digitalization and automation in China's iron and steel industry.

STORY-5G Digital Villages: Making a Difference to Remote Villages

Huawei teamed up with China Telecom to support Qingyuan Municipal Government in Guangdong as it built a showcase network for Lianzhang Village. Huawei provided an integrated device-network-cloud solution, providing a solid network for rural digital infrastructure. The Huawei solution will ultimately be able to support better e-government for rural regions, public services, and local industries. The project team is committed to finding new ways to bridge China's urban-rural divide in digital infrastructure and revitalize rural economies.

5G, fiber connections, and Wi-Fi networks that deliver gigabit speeds are already a reality in Lianzhang Village, making it the first village in China to roll out a 5G network. The changes to residents' lives are already apparent:

  • 5G networks combined with China Telecom's e-Cloud, smart screens, and VR devices are enabling remote education that is efficient, interactive, and easy to access. These classes will help to bridge the education gap between urban and rural areas, and improve villagers' digital skills.
  • Remote diagnostics services and health advice have been provided online with the support of 5G technology. This enables local residents to access healthcare services close to home. Now residents don't have to leave their village to visit a general practitioner, and chronic and infectious diseases are better controlled.
  • Digital technologies have enabled the introduction of new services that are tailored to local needs, such as VR 360° live streaming, farm-to-table supply, and tracing services for agricultural products. These services are helping the revitalization of rural industries.
  • WeLink Cloud Conference allows government officials to provide villagers with online services such as online mediation and legal advice, so that village disputes can be resolved before they blow up into serious conflicts.
  • The digital management platform plays an important role in supporting services such as care for older people, management of the environment, and management of the emergency services.

We believe that the digital model rolled out in Lianzhang Village will gradually help bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas. It will lay the foundation for the economic revitalization and sustainable development of new rural China.

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Lianzhang Village, a showcase digital village