The Digital Economy: Driving Industry 4.0 at ITU Telecom World 2016

On the last day of ITU Telecom World 2016 (17 November 2016), Mr. Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General, had summarized the key concepts of digital economy during the discussion topic of “The Digital Economy: Driving Industry 4.0” by stating that ICT plays a vital role in uplifting the quality of life of the people since it can be applied in various sectors such as education, healthcare and even agricultural sector. To achieve this, one must rely on proper infrastructure investment which would definitely require a large sum of investment capital as well as appropriate strategies or keen vision.

ITU Secretary-General continued to explain by providing further examples of the past achievements. He mentioned that only 4% of the entire population in Africa had access to telephone service in 2004. Hence, the country set its goal to achieve 10% penetration by the year 2010 in spite of the difficulties and challenges waiting ahead. Fortunately, the country managed to exceed its goal by raising telephone service penetration by 25% due to the collaboration among various sectors. Similarly, only 5% of the entire population in Burma had access to telephone service in 2011. The country therefore set its goal to achieve 50% penetration within the year 2015 by boosting higher competition in telecommunications market. As a result, the country managed to raise telephone service penetration by as high as 70%. Both cases clearly reflected that through proper infrastructure investment in spite of low penetration level together with appropriate strategies, keen vision and full cooperation from every sector, any goals can be successfully achieved.                

Ms. Natasha Beschorner, Senior ICT Policy Specialist of The World Bank, on the other hand, stated that World Bank had also contributed in many ways such as promoting people’s connection, driving competition in digital market and the adoption of digital technology in government sector, including determining regulatory framework as well as cyber security and privacy frameworks.     

Meanwhile, Mr. John Galvin, Vice President of Government and Education, Intel Corporation, mentioned that education should become our main focus as the world today is rapidly changing and new professions that did not exist in the past is currently expanding. So, it is highly important to shift from traditional teaching approach which mainly emphasize on feeding knowledge to the students to stimulating critical thinking skills and teaching them to keep up with technological changes by promoting active and innovative learning.     

Dr. Atip Asvanund, Secretary of the Telecommunications Association of Thailand under the Royal Patronage, stated that Thailand still has several challenges that must be overcome. Firstly, the majority of contents accessed by Thai consumers are from foreign websites namely Google and Facebook. This means that most of the information used by Thai consumers are kept in foreign country, making it difficult for the Thai government to access and even disclose such information such as for criminal investigation purpose. Hence, an appropriate measure should be set up to enable easier information access. Second problem is the adoption of technology in agricultural sector. Since Thailand is mainly an agricultural society, the use of technology therefore remains quite limited, especially among low-income farmers, due to expensive cost and the lack of technological skills as most Thai farmers are senior citizens. This is contrary to foreign countries where large firms with heavy investment capital existed.         

Mr. Pairoj Waiwanijchakij, an Independent Advisor, added that caution must be placed on several matters as we are entering digital economy era. He mentioned that unemployment rate may rise in spite of current positive trends as technology started to replace human workforce. It is therefore highly important to also consider sustainably maintaining the best interests of the people instead of only focusing on changes.      

Mr. Saj Kumar, Vice President – Digital Transformation & IoT, SAP Asia Pvt. Ltd., shared his opinions on Industry 4.0 by stating that there are three key factors to be considered: 1) sharing of information whether from machine or human; 2) transition from the traditional mass production to mass customization which is quicker and can better meet diverse consumer demands; and 3) material. Today, there is a wide range of production technology available such as 3D printing technology or nanotechnology materials. Mr. Saj Kumar further provided an example of technology application in agricultural sector which requires the use of low-cost, large-sized technology and new knowledge that has never been applied before. Hence, innovative technologies such as Narrow Band and Internet of Things (IoT) have therefore been introduced to fit agricultural needs and replace the use of mobile phones or satellites which are highly expensive in terms of cost. IoT sensors are used for soil quality measurement, weather forecasting and transportation of agricultural products. In the past, nearly 40% of agricultural products become damaged or spoiled during transportation. Today, this problem can be avoided with the help from innovative technology like IoT sensors which allow precise calculation of transportation time to ensure that all products are delivered in time before expiration.             

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