3 strategies for delivering digital transformation in the Asia-Pacific

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Simon Lin, President, Asia-Pacific, Huawei Technologies

  • Every $1 dollar of Information Communication Technology (ICT) investment drives $13 dollars in GDP output.
  • That’s why investing in digital infrastructure is so important everywhere, including the Asia-Pacific — much of which struggles with hard-to-traverse geography.
  • Digitalisation and digital infrastructure present significant opportunities for enfranchising communities and acting on climate change.

Infrastructure is at the heart of the global digital transformation. Developing digital infrastructure is critical for growth and improving the lives of people everywhere.

Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure has now evolved beyond simply connection and computing, forming an ecosystem driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI), data and green technology — the Digital First Economy (DFE).

DFE performance has a clear multiplier effect on GDP growth. A one-point increase in the DFE score correlates with a 3% growth in GDP. Every $1 dollar of ICT investment drives $13 dollars in GDP output.

The Asia-Pacific is ripe with opportunities for digital transformation. By 2030, Southeast Asia’s internet economy is forecasted to reach $1 trillion, driven by a fast-growing base of digital consumers and applications. South Asian countries are embracing digitisation widely and strategically.

As the Asia-Pacific embraces a resilient and connected future, there are three key strategies to bear in mind when it comes to digital transformation.

1. Connect the unconnected and bring more people online

Connectivity is a human right and the cornerstone of economic progress. Nevertheless, more than 3.8 billion people globally remain unconnected.

But delivering that connectivity can be challenging. In Indonesia, for example, the country’s 17,500 islands present a unique obstacle to developing certain types of infrastructure. Construction involves dangerous boat rides, pushing and pulling SUVs stuck on muddy roads and carrying heavy network equipment on rough footpaths.

This is where digital infrastructure innovation kicks in. Solutions like Huawei’s RuralStar represents a rethink of base station design; easy to set up and so energy efficient that a few solar panels suffice.

Remote doesn’t have to mean out of reach. From 2013 to 2019 in Bangladesh, for example, the government network extended to 488 districts and 2600 townships. Delivery personnel traversed subtropical jungles in hot and humid environments, bringing millions of Bangladeshis online.

ICT development can also narrow the digital gender divide. In Bangladesh, the Digital Training Bus initiative aims to provide 240,000 women with digital upskilling.


2. Develop inclusive and intelligent digital services and applications

Digital infrastructure innovation is a catalyst, but alone does not lead to a booming digital economy. It must be combined with inclusive and accessible services and applications.

5G will soon cover almost all hospitals in Tambon, Thailand. The government has launched 5G telemedicine, using smart screen devices to allow rural doctors to consult in real-time with city-based specialists. Patients can also consult a doctor anytime, anywhere.

Another key factor in building a resilient Asia-Pacific lies in the digital transformation of industries. Through intelligent networks, for instance, potash mine workers in Laos can remotely control mining production in air-conditioned rooms in real-time, reducing operational risk in harsh and humid environments.

These innovations rely on communication capability supported by a full-coverage industrial network — a rigid requirement for intelligent production in the future.

3. Accelerate green development and energy transformation

A new world energy order is emerging. Singapore has outlined its ambitious Green Plan 2030. The Philippines is targeting a 75% emissions reduction by 2030, and South Korea plans to increase its share of renewable energy sources to make up 40% of its total energy supply by 2034.

Delivering these promises requires the development of digital infrastructure. The transition to renewable energy is driven by green, low-carbon resources and the integration of digital and power electronics technologies in electric power generation, transmission and consumption.

In Bangkok, Thailand, a shopping mall-mounted solar farm is using FusionSolar Smart PV Inverter and AI to effectively manage electricity flows, cutting up to 4,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and lowering the cost of energy.

Meanwhile, in Cambodia, the Tatai Hydropower Station has deployed Huawei FTTO (Fiber to the Office) solutions to reduce operational and maintenance costs by 70%. Because of innovztions like this, Tatai’s energy consumption is 60% lower than that of traditional networks.

These cases highlight the opportunity of the integration of digital infrastructure and technologies into renewable energy projects — not just in Thailand or Cambodia, but across the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

Delivering digitalisation in the Asia-Pacific

In the Digital First Economy, high quality, resilient connectivity infrastructure must reach every person and organization. Cloud infrastructure is the brain of the new digital world, enabling inclusive, wide and exciting business opportunities. Greener, more sustainable energy portfolios will be possible — and the global transition to net-zero mandates them.

In Asia-Pacific, the need for digitalisation, and the opportunity it represents, is no longer up for debate. The question now is how we make it happen.

Governments, private industry, academia and society must cooperate to deliver on this opportunity. Building on digital innovation and applications, early investments will propel a fully connected, intelligent and dynamic Asia-Pacific.

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