MWC: Huawei pushes for digital inclusion

Huawei's deputy chairman Ken Hu at MWC2019.

Huawei’s deputy chairman Ken Hu at MWC2019.

Huawei has unveiled a new initiative, Tech4ALL, which aims to boost digital inclusion in the developing world.

The initiative was announced by Huawei’s deputy chairman Ken Hu during his speech at the ministerial programme of this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, Spain.

Hu outlined Huawei’s plans to help 500 million additional people around the world benefit directly from digital technology in the next five years. He called on governments, industry organisations and business partners to act together to promote digital inclusion for all.

“While much of the telecommunications industry is focused on next-generation technology like 5G and AI, we can’t forget that there are still many people excluded from the digital world,” Hu said.

“There are still more than 3.8 billion people who are offline, and one billion people without mobile broadband coverage. We need to expand the definition of digital inclusion beyond connectivity to include applications and skills too.”

Hu said we can’t just think of individuals, but small businesses too.

“By expanding our definition of digital inclusion, we can help more people and organisations directly benefit from digital technology,” he said.

The Tech4ALL initiative is designed to promote digital inclusion for both individuals and organisations by focusing efforts on connectivity, applications and skills.

“Connectivity is the bedrock of digital inclusion. We will keep on innovating to lower the barriers to connectivity, including cost and coverage,” said Hu.

Huawei already works with its partners to bring better digital connectivity to people and communities in the world’s most remote regions and extreme climates. One of the network solutions specifically designed to address regional challenges is the RuralStar solution that helps connect rural communities in Africa, Asia, and South America, while the 5G Air Fibre solutions provide next-generation broadband to Inuit populations in the Canadian Arctic.

To create practical value for more communities and industries, Huawei has invested nearly $1 billion in its Huawei Developer Program, which is designed to promote open source capabilities in the industry, provide development platforms and tools, train developers, incubate great ideas, and fund innovation.

More than 800 000 developers have registered for the programme to date. Moving forward, Huawei said it will increase its investment in the ecosystem, focusing on enabling AI development and training one million AI developers over the next three years.

“We need to work more closely with governments, local communities and other industries to enhance the digital skills of individuals and society as a whole,” said Hu.

In addition to helping people enhance their digital skills, Hu pointed out the importance of digital skills among small and medium-sized organisations. Having the right set of awareness and skills is key to the future development of countries and local communities, and will level the playing field for SMEs to compete in the digital economy.

The company says over the past 10 years, its Seeds for the Future programme has helped more than 30 000 college students from 108 different countries enhance their digital skills; this includes students from South Africa.

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