Bangkok - Nearly 300 attendees were present on Huawei's fourth Asia-Pacific Innovation Day with hopes to explore Asia-Pacific's future in Digital Infrastructure, Economy and Ecosystem in Siam Kempinski Hotel, Bangkok.
Co-hosted by Huawei Technologies and Thailand's Ministry of Science and Technology, the event was centered on Asia-Pacific region's efforts into a monumental influx of industry digitization and to tap into the rapidly growing global digital market. Many state officials, industry experts and academia that attended the event witnessed what has been called the "Thai government's commitment" to digital innovation, an MoU signing between Huawei and Thai leadership, and the decision from the Chinese ICT giant to invest US$81 million worth investment in South East Asia over the next 3 years.
Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Dr. Somkid Jatusripitak, in his opening remarks, sang praises to positive benefits wrought by the kingdom's strategy on utilizing ICT-enabled innovations, boosting labour productivity, slimming down costs, generate new products and services. And now, Thailand prepares to uplift their digital economy by doubling down on ultra productivity boosting ICT like 5G and big data.
Indeed, to many countries that sees investments in ICT as a primary necessity rather than secondary, have seen monumental amounts of benefits across almost any sector they chose to apply ICT solutions to.
If death is the great equalizer, sophisticated means and ways of conveying digital information is the perfect saviour of humanity. Intelligent design, a phrase most often touted by theologians and creationists, should now be a term that should belong to research and development efforts poured in by industry experts over years and years of hard work and sacrifice - the true creators.
The importance of sophisticated technology has become so ingrained into daily lives that - according to Guo Ping, Rotating Chairman of Huawei - it is now comparable to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, showcasing a similar model concerning the digital growth and ecosystem. Despite how far ICT industry has come, he stressed the need for the importance of a digital ecosystem as countries - Asia-Pacific region in particular - have started out on their transformation towards a digital future. As anything associated with ICT has the ability to grow exponentially, severe and gradually widening economies similar to a Matthew effect of accumulated advantage had taken shape.
Well-to-do economies that could employ sufficiently advanced infrastructure were seeing greater amounts of return than that of their lesser counterparts - to put it simply, one may refer to the old adage that "The rich get richer while the poor get poorer."
However Guo Ping is confident that if every individual sector did their part, we will be able to pull away from that trend.
"Ecosystem is critical here. Governments need to take the lead, industries need to proactively do their part, and individuals need to work to improve their digital skills. Huawei is ready and willing to work with Asia-Pacific countries to build this digital ecosystem. We will collaborate openly and extensively, and happily share our own slice of the market with others. Together, we can grow the industry and make the (proverbial)pie bigger for everyone involved," said the rotating chairman.
ICT - past, present and future
Thailand is poised to upgrade to what has been dubbed Thailand's digital economy 4.0 by utilizing focal points of future innovations such as Huawei's Bangkok's OpenLab on top of other training workshops, internships, recruitment drives, CSR activities and other outreach programs.
While there is a strong conception that only developed countries can and should invest in ICT to further elevate their economic strength, a report conducted by the London School of Economics (LSE) in cosulting for Huawei suggests that usage of ICT in history has been utilized by the mass market as early as the 1980s.
Dr Mirko Draca claimed that the false notion of ICT being treated as a "new technology" - in a similar vein to Bio-Tech and Green Energy - must go away and governments must make sound policy decisions as investing in Long-run research and development will bring immense amounts of benefits. He touted policies such as Broadband are policies of innovation as it provides a platform for other subsidiary innovations and while its exact effects were hard to grasp due to extremely rapid expansion, right now the benefits far outweighs any current issues.
Dr Draca presented LSE's findings that the current ICT landscape is currently facing a slow-down in productivity, largely due to the fact that governments, companies and organizations are undergoing an incubation period of sorts where major investments are being made into implementation and development processes. The current prediction is that in about 10 to 15 years time, humanity will truly experience a sharp spike in productivity benefits of 5G, Cloud, Internet of Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence/Automation.
For now, the report's data after digging through labour market trends between 2000 - 2010 show that there is no conclusive evidence of skilled labour force getting replaced out classed by a new wave of digital automation. It assuages one of the fundamental fears that rapid rise in ICT will spell doom for high-skill jobs, previously invulnerable to the previous eras of technology. It also highlights the economic recessions and consequences are far more influential in driving structural changes in employment and wages.
Myanmar - ICT leap frog possibility
While Myanmar, believed by many to be the last frontier in SEA, flounders as the country undergoes transition in both political and economic flux. Amidst international condemnation and gradual fall in rankings amongst global indexes, the fledgling nation must play its cards right to not be dragged down by years of accumulated disadvantage - opposite of aforementioned Matthew's effect. To this end, Huawei's new US$ 81 million investment plan will play a huge role.
James Wu, Huawei's President of South East Asia operations, unveiled the SEA Developer Enablment Plan to set up OpenLabs, Cloud Developers and other ICT talents in SEA nations. While not strictly adhering to schedule, Myanmar is listed 3rd to last to be invested in the presentation, followed by Nepal and Bangladesh. OpenLabs, such as the one currently opened in Bangkok and one more to be opened in Delhi, India this coming August, will be the quintessential platform for developers and partners to jointly innovate by utilizing Huawei's resources.
Both OpenLabs are estimated to receive $23 million, Cloud Developer program with US$50 million and up to $150 thousand for a single Startup/Partner and the remaining $8 million will go towards cultivating ICT talents by building at least 3 Training Centers, encourage participation of more than 10,000 ICT participants, more than 500 graduates and future seeds and 1,000 above partners such as government associations, hardware vendors, etc.
This plan falls in line with Huawei's idea of breaking free of the rapidly shrinking yoke of market share by creating bigger markets, thus eliminating the need to be a big fish in a small pond, - and Myanmar is no exception. Despite great challenges, Myanmar and its global ICT partners such as Huawei may yet facilitate Myanmar's attempts at "leap-frogging" its way into the status of a developed country.
But Huawei Myanmar's Deputy Managing Director Zhu Bo advised that government officials must do a whole lot more than name-dropping ICT concepts such as 'Smart Yangon' without any substantial preparations and that policy makers must come up with specific, ICT industry policies that will benefit it.
He claimed that while the formation of government bodies such as the Digital Economy Development Committee (DEDC) was one of the few steps in the right direction, it was still yet another one of numerous government committees. The DEDC have been working together with partners such as Huawei in drafting and future implementation of strategies, such as Myanmar Digital Development Master Plan, in an effort to develop and regulate Myanmar's digital economy.
The DEDC has stated in the past that short-term and medium-term working programmes will accompany the overall master plan when it is completed. The committee, alongside industry experts and analysts, had stated before that government support across all necessary sectors - policies, infrastructure, education and more - are weak.
Zhu Bo echoed a similar sentiment that for such a flourishing industry to be implemented effectively in Myanmar, more authority should be given to the committee or upgraded to a larger, more influential status within the administrative hierarchy. He suggested that a new ministry should be formed, as many countries already did, to cater to Myanmar's hunger for digital economy development.
So far, the government has been walking in the right direction, as seen by increasing partnerships with leading private sector companies to prod the industry's development along domestically but for now, a lot is left to be desired to serve the needs of estimated 46.40 million internet users with a penetration rate of 89 percent.
Against the odds, Huawei is confident that they can be one of, if not the central, key figure in the development of the ICT industry right here in Myanmar. With many scholarships, internships, CSR activities amongst opportunities in partnership with an educational institute like Thanlyin Technological University, Huawei Technology stands as one of Myanmar's most important partners for the future.