Authored by: Chen Lifang, Corporate Senior Vice-president and Director of the Board, Huawei
In recent months, the world has faced an exceptional challenge, uncertainty and complexity. A pandemic swept the globe and affected almost every area of our lives. Our personal freedom to travel, work, and play as we did before was radically altered. The way in which the economy operates was also profoundly affected. Remote working became the norm almost overnight. Indeed, all forms of digitalisation accelerated sharply. The significance of this digitalisation of the economy cannot be understated.
The new norm has placed added value and emphasis on building and maintaining trust, which provides the basis of collaborative action and innovation. Indeed, the trust that links us all now matters more than ever. The interplay between societal norms and technology will, I think, be one of the key drivers of economic growth over the next decade.
Drawing clear and distinct boundaries
This interface is embodied in two ways.
The first way of embodying this interface between society and technology reflects how we choose to regulate digital technologies and their uses. Digital technologies have an absolutely incredible potential to drive economic growth around the world for decades, but unregulated use of these technologies would not be conducive to long-term prosperity and freedom.
Accordingly, governments and regulators worldwide are working together to build principles‑guided legislative frameworks that allow and encourage appropriate developments and uses of technological innovations. As our economies become ever more digital, they generate vast lakes of data that must be transmitted, stored, processed, and retrieved. The regulations that allow this technology to be implemented efficiently and effectively are essential but should be made objectively and evolve rapidly.
There is much continuing discussion of the right approach to adopt. And yet, given the issues at stake, regulators and governments need to move quickly to avoid being left behind by innovation. In this regard, Germany’s recent IT Security Act 2.0 presents an excellent step forward. It provides a clear legal framework and a sound basis for further improving the IT security of critical infrastructure. For 5G development, this means that there will be higher and more uniform security standards for all providers. This clarity is a crucial component of the trust that we need to foster.
In February 2021, the Malaysian government announced the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint or MyDigital. MyDigital serves as an action plan to outline the efforts and initiatives to realise the country’s vision to become the regional lead in digital economy, as well as to achieve inclusive, responsible, and sustainable socio-economic development.
The blueprint highlights the importance of building digital trust and cyber resilience, as well as a trusted, secure, and ethical ecosystem as key pillars to drive forward Malaysia’s digital goals. and enable all players in the economy to embrace digitalisation in order to improve their quality of life and standard of living.
The second way in which we can see this interface between society and technology is in the standards that we adopt. The global economy is interconnected to an extent that would have seemed unimaginable a generation ago. A generation from now, the global economy will doubtless be even more enmeshed, and even more digital. The success of this new global economy will be built on common standards.
Indeed, not only is the establishment of standards conducive to the formation and development of markets, but it is also a key factor in consumer protection. Without competitors, a company like Huawei might be better off. But if all products were to use Huawei's proprietary technology, it would be an absolute disaster for consumers. Standards force manufacturers to compete with each other on technological terms. From the earliest days of technology, growth has been driven by the almost universal adoption of technological standards. The 2G standard brought us voice and text services, the 3G standard gave the world the mobile internet, and 4G has given us data-rich services and streaming content on mobile devices. 5G is adding yet further possibilities to the economy, but the level of competition has remained high.
Building trust for wider adoption
Standards and regulations are two highly visible embodiments of the interaction between society and technology, and they share two characteristics that are fundamentally important. The first is that they build trust. The second is that the more widely they are adopted, the more effective they are.
The digital economy will continue to change the way in which we interact and trade with each other. When international trade was developing, it required our ancestors to acquire new technical skills and form new ways of trusting their partners. So does the digital economy for today. It will affect the way in which people interact with each other and build trust with commercial interests.
Common regulations across the globe are an essential part of building this trust. As our economy becomes increasingly digital and data-driven, the regulations on technology governance and data uses will be critically and strategically important to global trade. Building trust is essential, and the best way to build trust between people is on common ground.
Take Malaysia as an example. The MyDigital initiative aims to encourage widespread adoption and trust in technology. In doing so, it will encourage businesses and society to fully reap the benefits of technology without compromising on data safety, reliability or ethical standards. Its framework has spelt out the need for a holistic ecosystem, such as a regulatory framework and cybersecurity capabilities.
Malaysia’s proactive steps to strengthen its cybersecurity ecosystem has borne fruit. The country has been consistently ranked among the top 10 countries in the world for commitment to cybersecurity since 2014, and was second in the Asia Pacific region behind Singapore in 2018.
When we say “trust matters”, we are not just referring to trust in our commercial partners: Users also have to trust the technology that they use. The knowledge that a technology is properly regulated is an important first step towards trusting that technology. However, only common rules that are widely shared can build the widespread trust that technology needs to be adopted.
Global technical standards are also critically important to building trust because they allow services and products to be deployed to a broader market more easily. As a result, people could rely on technological innovations operating across borders without hindrance. A certain proportion of success of the European Union has been built on the operation of its internal market.
Tackling the challenge of data sovereignty
But the success of economic development in a digital age depends on widespread adoption of both regulations and standards. If a regulation is adopted and implemented unilaterally, then some companies may simply avoid trading with or in the country concerned. As all parts of our global economy become increasingly closely interlinked, our efforts to find the best path to regulatory success must become increasingly global.
In particular, our increasingly digital and mobile economy demands a focus on security-related trust and dialogue. We must ensure that digital and cyber sovereignty are mutually respected, that user privacy and security are respected, and that data is allowed to flow across borders in a secure and orderly manner.
Presenting an excellent step forward in addressing the challenge of data sovereignty, Huawei Malaysia and telecommunications company Telekom Malaysia (TM) are currently working together to offer localised end-to-end Cloud infrastructure and services to enterprises and government institutions through Cloud TM One Alpha Edge. Through the collaboration with Huawei, the infrastructure is reinforced with the most advanced cybersecurity practices and technologies, to ensure that data in the Cloud is stored safely and locally in Malaysia.
Technical innovation, increased digitalisation, and increased product complexity are all driving increased collaboration between economic partners. In turn, this will drive further increases in the economic importance of the secure transmission of data. These data flows are the supply chains of the digital economy of the future, and we must make conscious efforts to protect them.
Just as global supply chains have lifted millions out of poverty, data-driven value chains in the digital economy will make a vast contribution to global prosperity. At a time when trust matters more than ever before, Huawei is proud of its contribution to a prosperous digital future. Indeed, the company is a particularly active contributor to the creation and adoption of the global digital and regulatory standards that are so crucial to building this trust. These regulations and data standards will not only ensure that the post-pandemic economy continues to recover in a way that allows the global society to build a resilient and prosperous economy, but they will also allow the benefits of this prosperity to be distributed as widely as possible.
When the pandemic arrived, closing international borders and public venues of all kinds may have brought a terrible temptation to adopt narrow nationalist attitudes, but we seem to have resisted this temptation very well. As our society now begins to reopen and to move into the post-pandemic economy, we are all keenly aware of just how much trust matters.
The global focus now needs to be on driving widespread adoption of truly common technical standards, and regulatory and legal frameworks that reflect nations’ specific values and norms. The adoption is essential to unlock the economic growth that will meet the needs of the global economy in the upcoming years. These common principles will form the bedrock of trust on which we will build our joint efforts to innovate and grow. This trust will be the foundation of our common success. Trust matters.
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