Dispel the mistrust and promote collaboration

Johannesburg, 06 Jan 2021
Read time 2min 50sec

Huawei Carrier Group CTO Paul Scanlan says global collaboration between business and governments has played a critical role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020, especially in technology and medicine.

However, Scanlan cautions that mistrust and conspiracies could hold back the rapid deployment of new technology that is critical for post pandemic economic recovery.

Speaking at the second Huawei #TrustInTech Summit, Scanlan said 2020 presented “a year when everything changed, and the realisation that we can do things differently”.

“We found new approaches to working, to schooling, to business, to healthcare. I call this our Sputnik moment. But we can't do this if we don't have trust.”

Scanlan said if governments and businesses promote the use of technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud, it would lead to quicker economic recoveries – especially for developing countries.

However, geopolitics has bred mistrust which, if not addressed, will further harm the economic survival of many countries.

The virtual summit, which was attended by industry experts, academia and economists from around the world, looked at the adoption, benefits and fears around new technology.

“For 10 years, I’ve been talking about the value of broadband and connectivity. We know it increases GDP, but governments now finally have a sense of urgency, allocating the resources necessary to enable broadband and to accelerate 5G adoption, from spectrum discounts, re-allocation of funds, creative business models, and actually driving industry transformation.”

But geopolitics is promoting misinformation and is raising unnecessary fear, he continues. “It is also restricting the global supply chain and that has a negative impact on innovation and the ability for the world to achieve targets in healthcare, education and environment.”

People’s unwillingness to trust is partly due to the inappropriate and misguided handling of technology by governments and institutions. For example, COVID-19 and 5G have been used as tools to manipulate public opinion, says Scanlan.

“Real consequences and misinformation about security in the context of 5G have no doubt slowed down deployment of this transformative platform. But global collaboration will benefit mankind. When we collaborate, we can dispel mistrust, and at that point, opportunities are endless. Everyone has a part to play if we want to fix the problem,” says Scanlan.

His view is that governments need to take the lead immediately and dismiss conspiracy theories about new technologies; non-governmental organisations (NGOs) need to support the lead of governments; and businesses need to promote and use new and innovative technologies rather than “misinformation to destroy competition because that will stifle innovation and growth”.

He also called on the media to “act with integrity and be responsible”.

In conclusion, Scanlan believes the world stands at a crossroads: We can continue down the path we are currently treading, one of such deep mistrust that it threatens to disrupt the very fabric of society; or we can choose the path that leads to a “brighter, more inclusive and happier society”.

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