Lowering costs and good regulation will bring about digital inclusion
Despite the efforts of the EU and most Member States, the gap in connectivity between rural areas and cities and towns in Europe is growing, not decreasing, Huawei’s Abraham Liu said today at a webinar on rural broadband.
“Connectivity in Europe has grown steadily over the last few years, reaching over 80 % of the population. But if we disaggregate the data, we can see that this percentage drops to less than 50 % in rural areas - and the gap does not appear to be closing in order to reach the objectives of the Digital Agenda by the end of 2020,” explained Mr Liu, who is Huawei’s Chief Representative to the European Institutions.
Huawei wants to help Europe overcome this rural broadband gap, Abraham Liu said. “This can now be done in an easier and more affordable way than before.”
Mobile operators face two key challenges in driving digital inclusion in rural areas:
Extending coverage remains economically challenging given the high costs of increasing coverage and issues connected to consumer demand.
Inconsistent and distortive regulation from governments, which restricts public and private investment in connecting the unconnected.
“Overcoming these barriers will require innovation and collaboration between the public and private sectors. Huawei, as industry and private sector, has many solutions to bring ultra-long-distance voice and digital access services to rural areas,” Mr Liu added.
Speaking alongside EU Agriculture CommissionerJanusz Wojciechowski and MEPFranc Bogovic, Mr Liu welcomed the EU’s Smart Villages initiative, saying that Huawei, with its extensive Smart Cities, Smart Grids and Smart Farming experiences, saw itself as a natural partner for the project, which comes under the umbrella of the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD).
“The Pandemic has shown us that networks are the lifeblood of our European societies. Europe now needs to be bold and determined. 5G and AI are rare strategic opportunities that will help Europe move forward – in rural areas as fast as in cities,“ Abraham Liu concluded.
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