Digital Europe isn’t coming. It’s already here.
Right now, the whole world is in the digital fast lane. With strong industry, research capabilities, and forward-thinking governance, Europe is in a solid position to take the lead.
Europe has made incredible progress in digital transformation. Policymakers now face the challenge of building on that progress by enacting regulations that encourage investment in digital infrastructure, while stimulating demand for digital services. European governments and industry are already leading by example. The government of Estonia, for instance, invested early in digital solutions for public services such as health care, voting, and taxes. Today, 99 percent of Estonian state services are delivered online.
When governments lead, industries follow. The World Bank currently ranks Estonia 12th in the world for ease of doing business. You can apply for Estonian residency on your smartphone and start a business online. Filing tax returns takes about five minutes. By going digital, the Estonian government has created huge growth opportunities for its citizens.
European industry is also leading the way. The world’s best basic research starts in Europe, fueling business growth and contributing to quality of life for European citizens.
For example, Deutsche Telekom and scientists in the UK have developed a virtual reality (VR) game called Sea Hero Quest that is advancing scientific research into dementia. The game increases understanding of spatial navigation — the loss of which is one of dementia’s early signs. Millions of users spend hours each week playing online games. Through sensors in VR equipment, every two minutes of game play provides researchers with as much data as they would get from five hours in the lab. So far, scientists have collected more than 12,000 years’ worth of data. It’s the largest dementia study in history.
Huawei a committed partner
These and other innovations show that, far from being a distant dream, a digital Europe is already here. Broadband is available to all EU residents, transmission speeds are rising, and more than 40 percent of rural EU homes are covered for next-generation access. This puts Europe at the forefront of global economic, social, and political change.
While Europe has achieved a great deal, the rest of the world is also accelerating its digital progress. Huawei has been in Europe for 18 years and, as a committed partner in Europe’s digital ecosystem, we believe more can be done to secure Europe’s leadership position.
First, governments should enact policies that encourage investment in future digital infrastructure. Fiber, cloud, 5G, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are the keys to digital transformation. They form the foundation of Europe’s vision for Industry 4.0 — also known as digitalization or the fourth industrial revolution — ultra-fast broadband and high-performance computing, as well as artificial intelligence.
Such infrastructure is not cheap and encouraging telecom operators to make the necessary investments is a challenge. They want a return on those investments within a reasonable period.
If Europe hopes to stay competitive, regulators should provide greater market certainty by enacting policies that create a pro-investment environment. Huawei works with every major carrier across Europe and we see carriers facing two distinct, but related issues: one in the sky; the other underground.
Speeding up deployment
In addition to building general awareness of technology’s benefits, governments can help generate demand by promoting cross-sector and cross-border development of new industry applications.
In the sky, carriers lack the spectrum resources needed for 5G. Europe needs to harmonize and release more spectrum and act faster. Underground, carriers need to roll out more fiber. But they need support, both in finance and in policy. For example, greater infrastructure-sharing, where power lines and optical fiber are installed together, will help operators cut costs and speed up deployment.
Europe must also find ways to stimulate demand for digital technology. In addition to building general awareness of technology’s benefits, governments can help generate demand by promoting cross-sector and cross-border development of new industry applications. Getting more companies and scientists to put their best minds together is key.
For example, the Swiss company Schindler, the world’s second-largest maker of elevators, upgraded its worldwide systems for the IoT. Using edge-computing technology from Huawei and an IoT platform from GE, it installed sensors in the elevators that monitor vibrations, energy consumption, fluctuations in the temperature of the motors, and other variables to give a reading on how well the elevator is functioning.
Data from elevators is collected and sent to the Schindler control center for analysis. This allows the company to perform preventive maintenance on its entire global elevator fleet, heading off problems before they occur. That, in turn, has reduced downtime by 90 percent and cut maintenance costs in half. It also reduced wait times for passengers.
Other examples in traditional industries abound. The National Opera of Paris is using digital platforms to promote art and education. Even traditional winemakers are exploring IoT solutions to reduce water waste and keep their grapes healthy.
Together with European citizens, Huawei looks forward to experiencing the benefits of greater connectivity, convenience, and new economic prospects.
More alliances needed
These advancements are offset by two troubling facts: According to the European Political Strategy Center, only one in five European companies uses e-commerce or cloud computing; and less than 2 percent of European companies use digital technology to innovate in products or processes.
To address these shortcomings, Europe should encourage collaboration across sectors and borders. It should form more industrial alliances such as the 5G Vertical Industry Accelerator in Munich, a good example of a test bed that enables vertical innovation with 5G technology.
Digital Europe is here. European governments, industries, and other stakeholders have laid a solid foundation for Europe’s digital future. Now it’s time to give the continent the boost it needs to secure its reputation for technological leadership and governance in a changing world.
Such a collaborative effort will create jobs and transform economies. Huawei has more than 11,000 people working across Europe. Together with European citizens, Huawei looks forward to experiencing the benefits of greater connectivity, convenience, and new economic prospects.