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Five tech enablers for digital transformation

In April Huawei, a worldwide information and communications technology (ICT) company, released its annual Global Connectivity Index, which analyses the ICT performance and progress of 50 countries.

Salsa Digital 6 June 2016

In the whitepaper, Huawei identified five tech enablers that help realise economic transformation — broadband, data centres (DCs), cloud services, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT).

While these five elements are probably already on your radar, we thought the report and its research was insightful and would provide additional information and context for your digital transformation goals. By the way, Australia ranked 11th overall on the Global Connectivity Index (GCI).

1. Broadband

Broadband is the foundation for any digital economy. “If the backbone of the digital economy is data, then moving large amounts with low lag is its lifeblood.” Interestingly, the report also cited research that proves faster broadband boosts GDP, job creation and employment rates.

The target broadband speeds provided some interesting reading. The US is targeting speeds of 100Mbps (download) and 50Mbps (upload) and the EU is aiming for 30Mbps for all EU countries with at least 50 percent delivering 100Mbps. Here in Australia, the NBN aims for speeds of 25+Mbps with speeds of at least 50Mbps to 90% of fixed line residences (according to the Statement of Expectation document dated 8 April 2014). On a side note, we all know the problems and media attention surrounding the NBN and, sadly, Australia has recently been ranked 48thin internet speed, with Akamai’s quarterlyState of the Internetreport finding the average broadband speed in Australia was only 8.2Mbps (Source: Sydney Morning Herald).

2. Data centres

With the growing amount of data, data centres are (and should be) built to work as the core, a place where this huge amount of data is stored and analysed: “...nations must invest in fully secure, reliable and efficient DCs to digitise their economies.”

A good demonstration of the scale of data growth is the whitepaper’s analysis that the capacity of DCs will grow from 480 million square metres to almost 600 million square metres by 2020. That’s a 25 per cent growth in only four years.

3. Cloud services

“The cloud is vital to the digital economy because it forms the platform for nations - and for people and SMEs who can’t build their own DCs - to access powerful computing and scalable storage capabilities.”

Cloud services was actually one of Salsa Digital’s key milestones during our own govCMS journey. The cloud is also essential to digital transformation, and definitely something your agency should be using, if you’re not already.

4. Big data

Data has experienced phenomenal growth over the past decade (and even more so in the past couple of years) and this growth will continue. Digital transformation itself also creates more data, as apps and e-services produce growing amounts of data. A key area moving forward will be analysing that ‘big data’ and using that information to improve services and develop new products and services. “Today’s consumers generate increasing volumes of data that requires analytics to provide personalised services that deliver the best quality at the best price.” The report also looks at the size of this market, estimating the “global market for big data, its analytics, and its technology” at US$200 billion by 2020.

5.Internet of Things

Internet of Things (IoT) is the future. The Huawei whitepaper states that even the highest GCI countries are “still feeling their way with IoT”. So what is IoT? Put simply, IoT refers to a collection of physical and virtual objects that all connect and communicate with one another.

The GCI whitepaper talks about the emergence of the IoT in terms of “sensor-actuator devices that sense the environment, collect data, and actuate data.” As examples of where this evolution is heading, the report talks about driverless vehicles, robot-controlled factories and self-managing buildings.

For these applications to work, they’ll rely on sending data (more data!) to data centres, which need to respond quickly. They’ll also need to be supported by big data and cloud development (and fast, reliable broadband).

According to the whitepaper, global spending on IoT (currently at US$700 billion) will reach US$1.3 trillion by 2019.

The GCI report also summarises a case study from China of a ‘smart farm’ that’s “embedded with IoT technologies”. The project uses robots for pollination, harvesting and packaging raw products, and also uses greenhouses with overhead and buried sensor networks to monitor soil temperature and humidity. The technologies have increased crop output by between three and five times.

The five tech enablers and smart cities

The five tech enablers are also key to creating ‘smart cities’, an area that the World Economic Forum identified as having the biggest socioeconomic impact in terms of applying digital technologies (cited in the GCI Index whitepaper).

In terms of focus areas for smart cities, the report says, “Governments know that they will need to deploy smart city solutions in the following areas: transportation, public works, buildings, public administration, education, utilities, tourism, healthcare and social services.”

The whitepaper notes many of the challenges (e.g. poor infrastructure, lack of multi-agency coordination), plus the fact that you can’t just replace existing infrastructure in cities. (It would be easier to build a smart city from scratch, in a new location.) This is where the five tech enablers can help lay the foundation. For example, as the building blocks for transformation, investing in high-speed broadband, data centres, cloud services and big data analytics will help implement smart city solutions that use IoT technologies. Like real-time traffic data than can be fed into a smart city management solution to divert traffic and reduce congestion, or to deploy more buses and trains, send out SMS alerts, etc. The report has a fantastic diagram showing how the five tech enablers can be used for smart transportation (see page 46).

Salsa Digital’s take

We think this whitepaper contains lots of interesting and useful information — especially in the areas we’ve discussed above. The future it something we’re excited about, and specifically how these five enablers can be applied to digital transformation in government. We’ll be looking at some of these tech enablers in more detail in future blogs, but we also think this quote from the whitepaper is a pertinent take on digital transformation and what we need to do with it: “The transformation of any economy into a digital economy starts and ends with the digital transformation of government, industry, and society. If it doesn’t, society will retain what we see today — pockets of innovation that contribute to massive inequality and economic stagnation.”

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