Technology holds significant benefits for humanity, and digital technology can be an indispensable tool for helping the United Nations achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This was the view of Huawei senior vice president and board member Catherine Chen, in her keynote speech at the recent Connected for Shared Prosperity Forum in Shanghai.
Chen said technology could be an engine for human progress, and called on individuals and businesses to “think big and act small”, while reiterating her support of the SDGs and building a green, innovative and inclusive world.
Chen said it was essential that people reach agreement around technology, which held significant potential for achieving development goals.
“Large social changes tend to happen in lockstep with breakthroughs in science and technology. But today, technological advancements are hyped and politicised – as has sometimes been the case with 5G.”
Chen pointed out that 5G was in fact a standardised technology defined by its high bandwidth, low latency, and broad connectivity, which could transform traditional industries and benefit all.
“Every day, consumers are benefiting from 5G experiences, while industrial use in seaports, mines, and the transportation sector is increasing operational efficiency. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so.”
Chen said that while there was always the danger that a new technology could be abused, rules could be established to manage technological risks.
“Many people are already hard at work creating governance rules for cyber security, privacy protection, and trusted AI that will keep us safe. For the rest of us, it’s time to be confident and open to technological development.”
Chen said technology was most effective when it created value for all, and that consensus could be built gradually so that technological advancement could continue.
“By focusing on the limited common understanding we have right now and what resources are actually available, we can drive progress step by step,” she said. “Huawei has always supported technological advancement. We believe digital tech benefits humanity, and can help the UN achieve its SDGs.”
Chen described how Huawei was already deploying digital solutions to empower people and meet UN development goals – especially the goals of innovation, reduced inequality and quality education.
In South Africa, for instance, Huawei, non-profit organization Click Foundation and network provider rain teamed up to connect more than 100 urban and rural primary schools to the Internet. The goal is to boost reading comprehension skills and close the digital gap through technology.
In Kenya, Huawei partnered to build Digitrucks, mobile, solar-powered classrooms that bring digital skills to remote, underserved communities. Equipped with 20 laptops, 20 VR headsets, and built in Wi-Fi, each DigiTruck is a temporary digital school that provides free classes, resources, and materials.
Chen also described how Huawei Smart PV solution being used in more than 60 countries was already helping to achieve SDGs, and had reduced carbon emissions by 148 million tons.
“This is the equivalent of planting more than 200 million trees. In Ethiopia alone, we have helped our customers deploy more than 400 solar power stations, reducing carbon emissions by 2 850 tons. In China, we have also helped build the world's largest solar stations, dedicated to agriculture and fishing in Ningxia and Shandong provinces.”
Huawei and UNESCO have also partnered to launch the Open Schools programme to help schools in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Ghana improve their digital skills through online education.
“In all these examples every single connection, every gram of emissions reduced, every watt of electricity saved, could not have been achieved without small advances in tech,” said Chen.
“This is the value that tech brings to the world.”