“Information technology can be a beacon of hope, allowing billions of people around the world to connect. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these connections… are more important than ever,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, talking about how ICT or digital technologies can help achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
While the priorities might have changed for the world that is presently struggling to deal with the pandemic, the telecom sector has emerged as the lifeline and the critical infrastructure in the fight against the deadly Cororavirus, in India and elsewhere.
The year 2020 celebration assumes more significance in this backdrop and the Voice&Data Team spoke to a few leaders from the sector to get their views on the role played by the sector in driving the growth of the “new economy” and enabling the digital platforms that have helped the world communicate, collaborate and continue to work during the ongoing crisis.
For the record, ITU has been celebrating 17 May as the World Telecommunication Day since 1969 to mark its foundation day and the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865. In November 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society called upon the UN General Assembly to also declare the day as World Information Society Day to focus on the importance of ICT, which was adopted in March 2006. Following this, the ITU in November 2006 decided to celebrate both events on 17 May as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD).
Here are the views of telecom leaders on the WTISD.
Harness ICT for sustainable growth
Every year on May 17, people around the world join the ITU family to celebrate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. This year, I call on all of you to join me in advancing ITU’s Connect 2030 Agenda, a shared global vision to bridge the digital divide and use the power of information and communication technology in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
I invite you to show the world what new technologies like 5G and Intelligent Transport, the Internet of Things, AI, and blockchain can do to improve people’s lives and facilitate social and economic development. These technologies and new innovations hold great potential for human progress; they are a powerful tool to achieve each and every one of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Almost half the world’s population is still not using the internet and overall growth in ICT connectivity is slowing. Time is pressing. We need to coordinate and redouble our efforts to connect everyone to the global digital economy, and that for those connected more must be done to ensure that connected life is safe and trustworthy.
On World Telecommunication and Information Society Day and for this new decade, let’s harness information and communication technology to accelerate social, economic and environmentally sustainable growth and inclusive development for everyone, everywhere. (Source: ITU Website)
Telecom for “new normal”
Managing Director, Service Provider Business, Cisco India & SAARC
Over the last few weeks, telecommunication has taken on a new meaning for all of us, allowing communities to remain connected, businesses to stay operational, and the economy to keep running. It has also fueled new business models and processes that have been critical to battling the current crisis — remote governance, online medical consultations, virtual training of healthcare workers, remotely connecting gram panchayats and wholesale outlets, and much more.
Now, with social distancing becoming a norm, the preference for digital alternatives for everything, from grocery shopping and social gatherings to business meetings and virtual concerts, is growing quickly and steadily. This is shaping a “new normal”, where the home will become the central hub for most activities. Telecommunications, and by extension, telecom service providers, will be at the heart of this new normal, enabling everyone to work, learn, shop, transact and connect from the safety of their homes.
Enabling “digical” world
Dr. Jai Menon
Former Director & Global CIO, Bharti Airtel
Telecom is a lifeline in these VUCA times. It provides a convenient confluence of communication, content, commerce, and context to not only handle emergencies but also redefine how life moves on. Whether it be enabling video collaboration for work from home or online education or even entertainment, the world would have been entirely different were it not for this critical infrastructure. It has helped bring the globe together on a digital platform during this crisis. Importantly, it is a defining vector for the future to fuel the growth of a new digital economy blending into the “digical” (digital + physical) world.
As we all prepare to enter the new normal, extended reality (VR, AR, MR) backed by AI/ML will become a new way of life – riding on top of the data strengths of the telecom industry. While this infrastructure has been focusing on scale and performance, the next two challenges are going to be around quality (of service) and security. Telecom clearly has worked its way down to become a basic essential utility right at the bottom of Maslow’s need hierarchy across all segments.
ICT for economic revival
Former Wireless Adviser, Government of India
The theme of this World Telecom & Information Society Day this year is “Connect 2030: ICTs for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which can be summarized in five strategic goals—growth, inclusiveness, sustainability, innovation, and partnership. On this day, we try to review the national and global efforts for achieving these objectives.
Countries have been making all-out efforts to achieve SDGs. The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to these efforts. However, it has also taken the global community towards greater dependence on ICTs for education, health, governance, digital economy, working from home, etc. Hopefully, these would help revive the economy quickly, besides taking care of the environment through the ‘new norm’ for day-to-day life.
Driving digital economy
Former President of NASSCOM, Secretary of IT & DoT, Government of India
For some time now, the nation has been on an accelerating path of digitization riding on the mobile-led telecom revolution. Social media, digital entertainment, UPI, Aadhaar, DBT, mobile payments, e-commerce, etc. have become integral to our daily life. The digital economy contributes a disproportionate share of our economic growth. The recent and continuing CoVID crisis has fast-forwarded this transformation.
Digital avenues clearly determine our ability to adapt to the new conditions that nature has thrust on us now and to pursue SDG goals in healthcare, education, skilling, livelihoods, and other social sectors in the future. The entire digital economy rides on the telecom sector and these trends and events have underlined its criticality to both the economic future and security of the country. The national imperative is now to ensure continued investment in the sector, draw up a clear road map for adoption of 5G, and increase indigenous capability.
Catalyst of growth
Chief Business Officer, Xiaomi India.
The lockdown has pushed the country towards becoming a digital society which reflects a strong trend in rising digital consumption patterns. A surge in 90% data being consumed via mobile devices also indicates that this essential commodity will enable more communication and collaboration in the coming times.
The Indian Telecommunications infrastructure is the backbone that is driving growth for smartphone brands in the country. At Xiaomi, we are enabling our consumers with developments across next-gen technologies, connected devices, and innovations with 5G. We are certain that these developments will help push India to establish its telecom sector as a major catalyst for driving cross-sector growth.
5G: The new enabler
VP & President, Qualcomm India
India and its citizens are navigating challenging times. Telecommunications has helped us cope with several facets of life under this situation of lockdown, starting from broadband connectivity, through digital wallets and payments, online shopping and delivery of essentials, online education, and digital entertainment. It has made ‘work from home’ possible for millions and helped us stay in touch with family & friends, who suddenly are remote. As a vital pillar of the economy, it has played a crucial role in keeping businesses, public services, and utilities running.
The impact of COVID-19 has only reiterated the need to further enhance telecom infrastructure in urban as well as rural India. While technologies such as Massive MIMO, Small Cells, VoLTE, VoWiFi have proven to be very useful, this moment is validating the need for 5G as an enabler. With high data speed and superior network reliability, 5G will have a tremendous impact on businesses and the evolution of industries like telemedicine, education, and entertainment.
Shaping digital future
Senior VP & Head, India Market, Nokia
With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing all economic activities to a halt, the telecom infrastructure is powering critical functions that ensure business and life continuity. Despite the challenges, the industry has stepped up to ensure seamless connectivity, demonstrating resilience and dynamism. As individuals and businesses continue to leverage digital capabilities, digitalization is expected to re-shape the future and help society to operate in this new normal.
The ‘post-COVID’ era will see an increase in remote access and operations, deeper traffic monitoring and analysis, flexible capacity management, increased bandwidth at home, enhanced network security, and many more. Nokia’s end-to-end portfolio can help scale and secure the networks, and stimulate innovative use cases across network technologies.
Undoubtedly, telecommunications will be critical for socio-economic recovery and the industry will provide the infrastructure necessary to stimulate digital growth. The governments will also have to enable investment towards this sector—to prepare the world for a digital future.
Broadband for all is the key
Air Commodore (Rtd) SS Motial
Former CMD, ITI
Imagine the world under lockdown without communication. A large number of people would have died of depression. Today broadband communication, video-conferencing, multimedia is ensuring the sanity of individuals and the sustainability of the business. The government’s help to the most deprived is reaching in a jiffy, thanks to deep roots communication has made in villages.
India has been at the forefront to develop all its growth plans on the availability of vast broadband networks and its capability of developing innovative applications to accelerate implementation. Post COVID-19, the speed of return to normalcy of a nation will totally depend upon the spread of reliable broadband networks across the country. Any sustainable growth goal of a nation can’t be achieved unless it is inclusive. Work-from-home is going to a new norm. Therefore, the role of efficient communication is going to grow manyfold.
By Shubhendu Parth