Technology for everyone…

I had the chance to have a 30 minutes of talk with Huawei’s Deputy Chairman Ken Hu on the first day of the World Mobile Congress, offering me the opportunity to ask the questions in my mind.

What I will tell you now starts with “One day, a Turk, a British, a Spaniard and a South African”, but don’t confuse it with a joke or something. These three distinguished participants and I have asked a lot of questions to Ken Hu and told each other our overall concerns. Naturally, the UK and Spain have different digitalization problems while South Africa experiences a whole lot different array of tech and digital issues. As for Turkey, it faces various problems right in the middle of both groups.

Expressing that the concept called “digital inclusion” was only attributed to the fact of owning a cellular phone in the early 2000s, Deputy Chairman Ken HU underlines that digitalism didn’t exist back then, at least from his perspective. He said he was quite surprised to learn that even today 20% of European population don’t have digital skills and capabilities. However, we need digital capabilities to make innovations through new practices. So, what should we do to promote digital inclusion?

As a matter of fact, the term “digital inclusion”, which means social, regional and even global inclusion ensuring individuals to have access to, and skills to use information and communication technologies and therefore are able to participate in today’s knowledge and information, is not easy to define exactly. Thus, we worked our way to expand the definition of digital inclusion during that 30-minute talk, eventually agreeing upon “it serves to make the society, the humanity stronger”. The main purpose of digital inclusion could include every aspect of life, from education to economy, science & art to democracy, reducing the cost of knowledge to increasing digital capabilities. So, “digital inclusion” is evolving from ‘communication via smart devices’ to social progress and development.

Complaining that the cost of accessing knowledge is way too high in South Africa and the government should find a way to increase digital capabilities, a South African participant was actually stating that most of the technical research conducted so far did in fact involve “discussing the problems of privileged/advantaged people”. Despite that fact that the majority of the global population consists of low income groups, they unfortunately pay high price to access to the benefits of digital technology, and in most cases, they can’t even see or physically touch any small part of this technology. So, the “technology for everyone” motto is quite something but it should not just serve as empty words.

On the other hand, countries like Turkey have their own unique problems. It’s not an easy task to allocate people who are currently employed in sectors or who are working jobs that won’t exist ten years from now into digital industry positions. According to Turks, “production” still involves conventional practices. Those who develop apps and softwares and produce technology are sadly exposed to 20th century paradigms while even the Financial Institutions are using high-end technologies. If Financial Institutions keep choosing their customers from among groups that are still using outdates technologies, they will be missing a very important opportunity for themselves as well as for Turkey. Therefore, site teams of credit agencies should ask, “Do you have powerful servers, could technology or software developers? Is your infrastructure powerful enough?” in addition to the older ones such as “Do you have powerful machines or well-structure facilities? How many employees you have?” when negotiating.

“Where do human factors fit in digital transformation?”

I believe, due to the reasons I cited above, people who does an appraisal or evaluation on a business in financial sector should be more diversified as well. Financial institutions that, for some reason, always tend to provide loans to conventional companies, who seem highly unreliable in terms of whether they have the required amount of collateral, should change their permanent staff so as they can offer support to fast-growing companies or projects involved in “out of the box” business activities.

Turkey is only one step away from “financial inclusion”, which involves Blockchain applications according to a participant from the UK, but Turkey persistently refuses to take that one single step. I think many companies and institutions know by now that they will become functionless once Blockchain is fully operational. Maybe this is the reason why they still refuse to embrace new technologies. What we need is a mind revolution.

Now, let’s talk 5G: Sadly, Turkey doesn’t have any powerful 5G fibre-optic infrastructure due to both technical incapabilities and geographical challenges. With the help of microwave, however, it may be possible to have access to 5G mobile technology, which obviously requires a lot of investment. I’m not sure whether Turkey’s priorities will allow such huge investment but we are so madly focused on erecting buildings right now that we have almost become unable to take care of all other activities, including agriculture. And the interesting part is that construction sector in Turkey is currently in decline as well.

When I was listening to participants give their speeches here in Barcelona, I realized one big mistake we have made as a country: We are trying to combine digital technologies with human touch whereas we should first establish a proper, strong infrastructure and then add some “magic touches”. I hope I’ve been successful in making my point.

Those were my final impressions of the MWC19 before I leave Barcelona tonight. Before I conclude, I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to everyone who put great effort in making my travel arrangements, organising such wonderful travel. I wish all the best and success to Huawei KOLs, who are also my dear friends.