Secure networks, 5G rollout, digital power and more - elements of a tech-driven tomorrow
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Secure networks, 5G rollout, digital power and more – elements of a tech-driven tomorrow

Secure networks, 5G rollout, digital power and more – elements of a tech-driven tomorrow

In a chat with Shunli Wang, VP of Huawei Middle East, we discuss how the company plans to create new business and social value for the region in 2022 while enabling more people to benefit from technological progress

Gulf Business

Looking at 2021 as a whole, what is your overall assessment of the ICT sector in the Middle East last year?
In 2021, we again saw just how important ICT is as a key pillar of national transformation strategies and building the digital economy. If we compare countries based on their pre-pandemic GDP per capita forecasts and their revised forecasts after the pandemic hit, it’s clear that GDP forecast decline is lower in countries with more advanced ICT infrastructure.

Taking advantage of the integration of advanced technologies such as 5G, cloud, AI, and digital power has been key to opening new horizons for all businesses and public services. As technologists, we are excited to see that most of these trends have now been incorporated into organisations’ IT and business processes. In that sense, talent remains crucial to any future developments in any industry. The region’s ICT sector is no different. Talent cultivation now has an even stronger mandate involving public-private sector collaboration.

Perhaps most importantly, we saw the whole world coming together in unprecedented ways in 2021 to solve common problems. We have been strong advocates for collaboration, not just in technology, but in addressing some of the biggest challenges that face society, from the environment, unequal education opportunities, women empowerment, and more.

Indeed, investments in digital transformation seem to be on the rise again across the Middle East. From your perspective, what investments have shown the greatest ROI for organisations recently?
At the network level, 5G remains a crucial enabler of digital transformation in the Middle East. Operators in the GCC in particular were involved in the first wave of 5G deployment globally. On the one hand, operators who have embraced 5G have seen faster revenue growth and been able to open new revenue streams over the last year. In financial reports across 2021, leading operators have shown positive results in 5G commercial indicators such as growth in revenue and profitability, which can be attributed to the 5G deployments they took on during 2019 and 2020. On the other hand, the real value of 5G now transcends the telecoms industry and serves as the foundation for other innovative technologies, enabling a new generation of digital applications in government, healthcare, education, and more.

In addition to 5G, I’d say that cloud is another central pillar of digital transformation and value creation. To support deeper cloud penetration in the region, Huawei has unveiled several programmes to help cultivate digital experts and build the local cloud ecosystem. In 2021 for example, we announced a support programme for developing 3,000 cloud experts in the region as part of the Huawei Cloud Oasis Program.

Speaking of investments, what are the latest developments in Huawei’s R&D pipeline?
For context, every year Huawei invests over 10 per cent of its sales revenue back into R&D. We continue to increase our investment in basic research and theoretical breakthroughs, and have invested heavily in innovation and invention for decades to help drive the industry forward. Huawei’s R&D investments over the past decade have exceeded $110bn and resulted in us holding one of the largest patent portfolios in the world. This will remain a focus area for us in 2022.

Looking at 2022 and beyond, we are focusing on our core business and moving away from the periphery, ensuring strategic investment to maintain our long-term competitiveness. We will increase investments to develop the software foundations of the digital world and provide people with new alternatives. We will also increase our investment in core digital power technologies and move forward with a dual-wheel strategy where we develop clean energy solutions while facilitating the digitalisation of traditional energy.

The application of these technologies of course depends on secure networks. What do organisations need to do even more of in addressing cybersecurity challenges?
The rapid increase in digitalisation has unfortunately led to a corresponding rise in cyberattacks. As we have emphasised in the past, cyber defence requires strengthened global cooperation. In 2022, governments, technology companies, and other stakeholders need to cooperate on unified laws and regulations to protect the digital economy and ensure fair access to innovations that can serve future generations.

Huawei is helping to lead such collaborations with many of its partners in the Middle East. Last year specifically, our chief security officer of Huawei UAE was appointed co-chair of the 5G Security Working Group during the OIC-CERT conference. In 2021, Huawei also organised the 3rd edition of Middle East Cybersecurity Salons, where industry experts from different parts of the region underlined the importance of collaboration in ensuring cloud security while shedding light on the growth of AI.

In addition to standards, a strong talent pool is essential to enabling more people to enjoy the benefits of digitisation. Are we anywhere near bridging the talent gap in the Middle East?
The global digital skills gap continues to widen. In the Middle East, this poses challenges to realising national visions for economic growth and strengthening knowledge economies. The contribution of all ecosystem stakeholders is now crucial. Governments and academia alone cannot fully address this gap.

The potential for the Middle East to lead in digital skills empowerment is immense. The Arab world has one of the largest youth populations globally. It also includes countries with some of the fastest, most pervasive 5G networks, and a thriving digital economy.

At Huawei, we remain committed to developing the region’s ICT ecosystem and nurturing local talent through cooperation with governments, universities, and industry organizations. Pursuing new partnerships will further stimulate youth’s interest in learning, their innovation capabilities, as well as boosting employment in the coming decades. Huawei’s annual initiatives like the recently concluded Huawei Middle East ICT Competition—to which 15,000 students were involved in this latest edition—have already led to the skilling and upskilling of many young people in the region.

In his end-of-year message, Huawei’s rotating chairman Guo Ping highlighted some key priorities for the business moving forward. What are some that are most relevant for this region?
The main message is that we have been able to enhance the quality and efficiency of our operations in 2021 within a challenging macro environment. Along the way, we’ve been creating tangible value for our customers and local communities, and working more closely with our customers and partners. In the Middle East specifically, Huawei aims to support the digital transformation of all industries, promote small- and medium-sized enterprises, and enable more people to benefit from digital progress.

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