Last year completely changed the lives of people around the world. Companies and educational institutions switched to remote working, travel was significantly restricted, and many businesses were forced to shut down completely due to lockdowns. According to WHO, more than 100 countries imposed complete or partial isolation last year
We had to adapt to the new realities in record time, and new technologies supported business, society, and governments here. Digitalization in all spheres has accelerated significantly: while some processes used to take years, last year they were implemented in months and even weeks.
First of all, this is noticeable in healthcare – smart temperature sensors capable of scanning up to 10 people per second have appeared in almost all public places. 5G technologies allow for the active development of telemedicine. In manufacturing, automation has increased: more and more companies around the world are using, for example, unmanned cars and robots, including for sanitation of public places.
Business and education have moved completely online: people work remotely, conferences and other events are held in video format, as are school and university classes. For example, some services became very popular, because people start spending their time more wisely.
As an example, essay editing service became a students’ helper so they can focus on their health.
The Boston Consulting Group estimates that more than 100 million elementary and high school students were able to continue their studies remotely last year.
All of this has significantly increased the strain on digital infrastructure. According to Huawei, the number of wireless home broadband connections in the world grew by 20% in 2020 compared to 2019, to 35 million. Network traffic grew by an average of 50 percent, and its consumption pattern has also changed: networks are loaded around the clock, and there is no significant difference between peak and off-peak hours. The demand for cloud services has grown significantly – last year, 85% of online education, healthcare, and retail companies in China used them.
«To respond to these changes in time, we need a more robust digital infrastructure, and we need innovation to build that infrastructure» said Ken Hu, in his speech at MWC Shanghai 2021. «Last year, we worked closely with service providers to ensure that more than 300 networks in 170 countries were stable. In Indonesia, for example, we used new digital delivery technology that enabled us to quickly deploy more than 50,000 new base stations. And in China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, our integrated routers provide access to multi-cloud services for enterprise users, helping them move to the cloud faster and cheaper».
Bridging the divide
The forced widespread move online last year has exacerbated the digital divide. Market value, revenue, and other metrics of cutting-edge tech companies are breaking records, while many companies with limited access to technology are on the brink of survival. Children who have access to the Internet are learning online, while their peers without access to the network are forced to remain uneducated. And these are not isolated cases: experts estimate that more than 40 percent of the world’s population has never had access to the Internet.
Therefore, major technology companies need to focus on increasing access to digital technologies and bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Another example is the use of artificial intelligence services by a small business in Malaysia. A chili pepper producer used them to automate the sorting of raw materials, which allowed production to double without increasing the number of employees during the pandemic.
As the economy recovers, a huge number of small and micro-enterprises around the world will need help from such technology. Companies will continue to develop open partnerships with their customers and partners to help industries with digital adoption. This will help improve the quality of life, accelerate the adoption of smart technology in business, and take another step toward providing equal opportunities for people around the world.
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Key speakers at MWC Shanghai 2021 include Nokia President Pekka Lundmark, Huawei Rotational Chairman Ken Hu, ZTE CEO Xu Jiang, China Mobile Chairman Yang Jie, China Telecom Chairman Ke Ruiwen, China Unicom Chairman Wang Xiaochu, Verizon Strategy Director Rima Qureshi and GSMA CEO Mats Granried.