Understanding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on technology
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Understanding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on technology

Understanding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on technology

The pandemic has brought ICT to the forefront as a critical enabler of business continuity

Hou Tao is the vice president of Huawei Technologies

What has been the effect of the pandemic on technology?
The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on our society. Looking at the role of technology during the pandemic, it’s clear that it marked the great convergence of the digital and physical worlds. One of them is the acceleration of digital processes, whereby years of innovation have been squeezed into one year. We will soon find ourselves in a fully-connected society where digital technology and intelligence are key drivers for socio-economic development.

Also, we have seen the acceleration of intelligent processes. Today, a body temperature detection machine can measure 10 people per second simultaneously, much faster than the manual process. This innovation has proved crucial in mitigating the effects of Covid-19.

There has also been a rapid adoption of production automation. Today, 67 per cent of enterprises have adopted automated production, such as unmanned vehicles within the logistics sector. Additionally, online learning has become the new normal, and we witnessed more than 100 million students receiving their education through online platforms during the pandemic.

These changes placed significant pressure on ICT infrastructure. Global network traffic increased by 50 per cent, and many enterprises have shifted to a cloud-first policy, with up to 85 per cent of enterprises now using cloud services at some level. The demand for home broadband has also increased significantly, with an increase of 20 per cent in 2020.

The ICT infrastructure played a crucial role in global efforts to combat the coronavirus and reopen the economy as well. According to Huawei’s Global Connectivity Index (GCI) 2020, digital transformation of industries will help economies develop “high-order” productivity to spur economic recovery and increase future competitiveness. 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 the decline is lower in countries with more advanced ICT infrastructure. The pandemic has also brought ICT to the forefront as a critical enabler of business continuity. The GCI 2020 report revealed that leading global organisations are well aware of the value of digital infrastructure for economic resilience and are continuing to invest in IT despite the overall decline in business investment during the pandemic.

Due to the excellent condition of carrier networks in the Middle East, particularly in the GCC, traffic across the region increased 40 per cent last year due to the pandemic and it has positively impacted many industries. It is clear that ICT is the new engine of economic recovery and development.

How has Huawei supported the ecosystem during the current crisis?
We have worked closely with our customers to ensure the stable operations of more than 1,500 networks across over 170 countries and regions. We also ensured the uninterrupted availability of ICT services that kept businesses and critical public services running.

For instance, in collaboration with our partners, we launched an AI-powered medical platform, which featured AI-assisted CT scan diagnostic systems. We have also enabled telecom operators to quickly roll out 5G networks for hospitals to meet the needs for communications and support remote healthcare services. We have also developed autonomous driving vehicles to deliver medical supplies to communities.

In Saudi Arabia, we installed videoconferencing systems so that different organisations responsible for pandemic response could collaborate easily. This also allowed doctors to share clinical experience while governments could issue guidance more effectively.

What impact do you see 5G having in the region?
Global 5G deployment has proceeded faster than expected. By the end of 2020, the 5G user base had grown three times faster than the 4G user base did.

The Middle East has experienced the first wave of 5G deployment thanks to the joint efforts of governments and operators. We have also promised the UAE and Qatar governments that we will use 5G, AR and VR technologies to help Expo 2020 and next year’s World Cup in Qatar to create unique events. The digital infrastructure of such future cities will be intelligent twins, which will integrate 5G, cloud, IoT, big data, AI and blockchain to build a data-driven and integrated system to serve enterprises and individuals.

Hou Tao is the vice president of Huawei Technologies

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