Huawei’s Deputy Chairman, Ken Hu, unveiled a new digital inclusion initiative, Tech4ALL, during his speech at ministerial program during this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC2019). In his speech titled “Redefining Inclusion,” 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.
Expanding the definition of digital inclusion
“While much of the telecommunications industry is focused on next generation technology like 5G and AI,” Hu said, “we can’t forget that there are still many people excluded from the digital world. 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.”
“We can’t just think people,” Hu continued, “but also small businesses. By expanding our definition of digital inclusion, we can help more people and organisations directly benefit from digital technology.”
Ken Hu delivers a keynote themed “Redefining Digital Inclusion” at the Ministerial Program at MWC2019
To this end, Huawei’s 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.
For 30 years, Huawei has been working closely with its partners to bring better digital connectivity to people and communities in the world’s most remote regions and extreme climates – from the countryside to the city, to polar regions and remote villages the world over. The company has achieved this with network solutions specifically designed to address regional challenges, such as its RuralStar solution that helps connect rural communities in Africa, Asia, and South America, and its 5G Air Fibre solutions to provide next-generation broadband to Inuit populations in the Canadian Arctic.
“We will empower the ecosystem, providing developers and SMEs with easy-to-use development platforms. This will help them create more specialised applications for different communities and industries.”
Hu gave the example of a mobile application called StorySign, which Huawei jointly developed with the European Union of the Deaf. With an AI-powered cartoon avatar, this application translates the content of books into sign language to help deaf children overcome barriers when first learning how to read.
StorySign is currently available in 10 different languages, and Huawei will keep working with its partners to expand the reach of this application. Ultimately, Huawei hopes to provide more than 34 million deaf children around the world with the tools they need to bridge sign language and reading.
“We are so proud of what we have achieved with StorySign,” said Hu. “All communities have different needs. As an industry, we can provide unique value for each community to make sure nobody is left behind.”
To create practical value for more communities and industries, Huawei has invested nearly US$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 program to date. Moving forward, Huawei 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.
Building digital skills among young people and vulnerable communities is also one of Huawei’s priorities. Over the past 10 years Huawei’s Seeds for the Future program has helped more than 30,000 college students from 108 different countries enhance their digital skills.
In 2018, the company hosted its third annual Huawei ICT Competition, where more than 40,000 students from over 800 universities in 32 countries gathered to compete. This event helped promote more in-depth knowledge exchange between schools and enterprises.
Separately, the company has taught online skills to 20,000 women in Bangladesh through its mobile training school.
Technology is good. Pass it on.
Digital inclusion isn’t a problem that one company can solve with technology. It will take coordinated effort between governments, industry organisations, and enterprises across every cross-section of society – and the more people involved, the greater the impact will be.
Huawei hopes to work more closely with governments and industry organizations to expand the reach of this program and make the digital world more inclusive for more companies and people in local communities. It also hopes to work more closely with industry partners and organisations to understand the specific needs of different groups and organisations, and provide them with the best possible technology to meet those needs.
“Technology is good, and it should be used for good too. This is just the beginning. We hope that more people will join us to amplify these efforts. Together, we can pass the benefits of digital technology to every person, home, and organization, and help build a fully connected, intelligent world. This is our mission, and we hope you will join us.” concluded Hu.