When the industrial revolution struck in 1760, daily life changed forever. Almost every facet of society lost its identity and adopted a new one. Water efficiency, steam power and most importantly, mechanics began evolving the way we worked, lived and survived.
The impact this had on employment, quality of life, governmental services, trade, and production and manufacturing of goods was enormous. Infrastructure such as bridges, roads and buildings grew in size and volume. New markets opened up, and economies expanded and diversified into sustainable models.
This production led to the second and third revolutions: populations increased, and the world became united by the trading of goods and skills. The significance of these eras can only ever be understated. Their influence in shaping the world we live in today, which is so vastly different to how it was even a single generation ago, was all important.
It's for this reason alone the evolution we're currently going through must be taken with the utmost seriousness from both a governmental and business perspective.
We are at the beginning of a global transformation that is characterized by the convergence of digital, physical and biological technologies in ways that are changing both the world around us and our very idea of what it means to be human, reads the 2016 Global Technology Report. This is largely recognized as the fourth revolution.
The impact of this revolution, similar to that of the first revolution, will completely override the way we work and live. This revolution isn't about the technology we are using today; but rather, it's about the capabilities of those technologies, their speed, capacities, abilities to influence everything we do, abilities to communicate with not only humans, but machines, too. This revolution is building a whole other layer of society in the digital space.
Some countries have been preparing themselves for this for years. According to Huawei's Global Connectivity Index, the readiness or progress of a country's digital transformation shows that the United States of America is the global frontrunner, followed by nations such as Singapore, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Many developing countries are starting their journey: Ghana, Bangladesh, Pakistan and others have all made waves of improvement in terms of their connectivity and technological intelligence in order to better serve their citizens.
In the middle, where the adopters sit - having made the right noises, but are yet to truly to make a statement on the grandest scale - lies many GCC states, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.
With sharp decline in oil price over the past couple of years, regional governments are placing greater emphasis on ICT development as they aspire to further diversify their economies. By 2030, regional governments have set their agendas to become knowledge-based economies, a task that requires heavy investments in the ICT sector.
Moreover, developing and achieving true innovation is becoming increasingly difficult. In fact, The Global Technology Report found four key findings that cement this: the very nature of innovation is changing, the pace with which firms are forced to innovate is changing, businesses and governments are both missing out on an increasingly digital population, and the new digital economy is helping reshape governance and regulations.
Innovation, which is a key focus area for Huawei, a company that held the record for the most patents worldwide last year, has a heavy hand over all elements driving the digital revolution.
Take basic R&D, for example. Innovations here have allowed not just more affordable, but more accurate research to be made - they consider larger volumes of data and include crowd-sourcing.
Then there's the reduction is barriers to entry: new services such as cloud computing are helping smaller and less financially powerful companies get on the ladder. Scaling is now far easier, which stimulates growth in economies and promotes entrepreneurialism.
The Global Connectivity Index suggests digital economies for adopters - the category most GCC countries currently fall within - significantly impacts their GDP. Because the GCI ranking is based on innovation/investment against their GDP, adopters are reaping the most financial benefits from ICT spending. We have found that an increase of 1 point in a nation's GCI score correlates with a 2.3% increase in productivity, a 2.1% improvement in the Global Competitiveness Index and a 2.2% increase in the Global Innovation Index.
The opportunity for aggressive movement up the rankings is simple, too. And this is where Huawei sees itself as a key partner for regional governments and operators. Improving high speed broadband by increasing bandwidths and download speeds will stimulate growth. Huawei's path to 5G and work in 4.5G networks will enable this growth.
Huawei's range of services can also help provide for startups in the area of platform-as-a-service, which helps lower entry costs, further encouraging innovation.
It's important that countries realize there's more to innovative growth than internet and broadband. A focus on datacenters, cloud services, big data and the internet of things are technology's big players now. Demand-driven storage capabilities, mass-market distribution models, applications and analytics to convert data into meaningful insights, and connectivity between man and machine, and machine and machine, are the big hitting innovations that will continue to drive ICT growth across the GCC.
Huawei's three business groups focus on all these areas, with carrier capabilities that enable big data to thrive and operate in sophisticated ways, enterprise applications that provide cloud services such as security and storage, and a device group that focuses on the end-point. The consumer. The citizen.
Moreover, the savvy upcoming generations will play a major role in advancing the impact of ICT on the national GDP as the region continues to shift towards knowledge-based economies. Educating today's students is a critical step. There's an overwhelmingly promising abundance of both male and female students working in the ICT that are in the GCC, and with the help of Huawei's Seeds of the Future program, we are training and inspiring more and more of the youth population.
Cities across the region are increasingly focused on becoming smarter and safer through the implementation of the latest advancements in ICT. As rapid urbanization takes shape, cities need to be able to ride the demand a youthful generation brings with it.
As we celebrate moving up 99 spots on the Fortune Global 500 list to reach the 129th position, Huawei confirms its commitment to the region's governments as it continues to pioneer smart services on the path to achieving their national agendas.
A changing world
It's this attitude that positions the Middle East as a critical region to drive positive societal change around the world. The difference between the original industrial revolution and the fourth we're witnessing now is that the first changed the way we did things, but this revolution is changing what we are.
In all we do, we are striving towards shaping a better future for our children. Within this, we have to focus on a few key areas: clean energy and sustainable power, a better-improved economic model, and better research in health and disease.
As cliché as it sounds, the possibilities are endless. But with possibility comes responsibility. Today, we have the opportunity to achieve many great things for this generation, and tomorrow's. As the world moves into becoming knowledge-based economies, and this is more pronounced in the GCC region, Huawei and regional governments are working closely to establish the necessary infrastructure that accelerate the digital transformation.
We are creating smarter, safer cities for citizens, using integrated intelligent systems connected to the internet that allow us to better map, track and monitor our surroundings. This internet of systems, as well as the internet of things, are crucial in building this better world. Utilizing the connection between the cloud, pipe and device, to have a fully holistic view of the world we operate in will allow us to better understand the data we generate, better manage it and better deploy the insights it feeds us.
This will help us clean up the planet. By bringing the use of fossil fuels to a close by developing sustainable energy sources, we can have a richer, fresher and more beautiful Earth. Data and connectivity is more important in this area than one may have previously thought. By taking insights from materials, we can pump useful and valuable leftovers back into production and become less greedy and more efficient.
This plays perfectly into the hands of building a new economic model, which will help equality, employment and prosperity globally. Pioneers in this area are utilizing the power of things such as 3D printing and connected production systems. These elements result in smarter investments, better financial results, less material usage and better business outcomes.
Building this environment is tricky. It takes forcible action to ensure things are done right, investments are smart and governance is intelligent. Our partnerships with local governments are built specifically to make that a reality. But like any great movement and alteration in the way society functions, it starts with a few simple steps.
We are focusing on, firstly, training talent - there's going to be industries that experience renovations unlike any in the past generation. Not since the arrival of the internet has the way we work changed so much. At which point, telephone operators went from having engineers that climbed poles and ducked into manholes to having to learn about broadband, fiber optic cable and the cloud. Long-time employees, slowly making their way through the ranks would have seen younger, more capable graduates come into their company and take on vital roles in communications and ICT. The skills required to fulfill these roles were so new. This is true today, and that's why it's important to prepare the youth. As mentioned, we implement our Seeds of the Future program to ensure this happens. About 1,000 Gold Seeds will be planted in the next five years, but it's also down to the help and understanding of the government that sets out such a clear and inspiring effort to facilitate academic progression for its future workforce.
Secondly, job creation. Many fear automation will render some manual jobs redundant. This isn't new. With all industry upheavals, certain tasks get eliminated thanks to the advancements in the technology used at the time. This means better efficiency, perhaps less fuels, less pollution, less risk to injury and less physical exertion. These are all positives. With the same token, other opportunities become available - data scientists, cyber security experts and consultants all become infinitely more valuable. Training these people becomes more valuable. Talent management and retention sits in that bracket, too.
Whatever partnerships we create at Huawei, we do so with the intention of sharing knowledge, building better knowledge sharing environments, encouraging new skills and diverse workforces, and pursuing new opportunities.
The final stage of embracing this revolution then lies in the hands of businesses. Firstly, they must accept the direction we're moving in and afford themselves the freedom to ride the wave. Secondly, they must start reconsidering the way they behave - rethinking strategy and approach. The old and tested methods of business will no longer be applicable; these rules must be understood in the context of this era, scratched off, and rewritten.
Governments in the GCC are acting as great examples for businesses in their markets by embracing new technologies, utilizing not just data volumes, but intelligent methods of processing and then using data in more efficient and valuable ways.
Disruption is here, the fourth industrial revolution is here. Like hot galaxies, past business models are moving further away from us as greater speeds. We are ready for it and we continue to work closely with governments to make sure society enjoys the greatest possible outcome from this shift.
By Charles Yang, president, Huawei Middle East