Digital society starting to grow up

Despite the progress of the mobile internet, smart devices and social networks, the digital society is still in its infancy.
The internet remains primarily a channel for information acquisition, digital entertainment and e-commerce. ICT technology still serves primarily as a tool to improve human and business efficiency.
The incipient next wave of digital society will see the rise of a new kind of intelligence, a connected and shared wisdom.
In the past, wisdom came from individual knowledge and from the collective experiences of those around us. Now, computer-aided intelligence is augmenting the capabilities of the human brain. The future will be defined by a new systematic intelligence, which is human intelligence integrated with machine intelligence based on big data analytics.
This is re-creating the world’s intelligence, the world’s wisdom. For businesses, future competitiveness depends on being able to grasp and leverage this new kind of wisdom.
Today, we are only beginning to see this new intelligence applied to our daily lives. Real-time data that details the movement of people, cargo, vehicles and routes is now being integrated to make intelligent transportation, intelligent supply chains and self-driving vehicles a reality.
Similarly, real-time translation will leverage the power of language and culture, enabling machines to understand the human thought process and break through the barriers of language.
But the digital society not only brings new opportunities, it also presents new challenges. The biggest challenge traditional businesses face today is that newcomers compete from completely a different model and mindset.
These newcomers are often able to go unnoticed as threats to traditional business, giving them sufficient time to build their customer base and business. With new business, innovation and operating models, these challengers will soon reach a scale that is irreversible, leaving traditional companies scrambling and defenseless.
To address this disruptive competition, established businesses must be able to adapt and shift their established and deeply-rooted paradigms. As business leaders, we need to think about today through the lens of tomorrow where the internet is a fundamental infrastructure, just like electricity or roads.
We need to not just acknowledge but embrace this restructuring of the world through digital technology, which is a process of business transformation supported by ICT infrastructure transformation.
ICT infrastructure transformation is the repositioning of ICT from an enabling tool to a core asset that drives innovation and business growth. The first priority of ICT transformation is network development. As network traffic and complexity both grow rapidly, network design needs to be elevated to the next level.
The concept of transitioning from “hard pipes” to “soft, smart pipes” or software-defined networking (SDN) will lead the development of next-generation ICT architectures. Zero-waiting user experience is the fundamental driving force for building ubiquitous ultra-broadband services.
Huawei anticipates that 5G technologies, available for commercial deployment within the next 10 years, will enable mobile broadband speeds of up to 10Gbps or 100 times the speed of the fastest mobile connections deployed today.
The second most important aspect for ICT infrastructure transformation is IT systems. Businesses need to redefine IT system architecture based on big data and cloud computing because the traditional client-server architecture can no longer support the exponential growth of data.
Finally, ICT infrastructure transformation cannot succeed without the advancement of devices, which are becoming the tools for information gathering and display. Personal devices have far exceeded their original ability as basic communications tools and now augment our human senses.
Wearable devices such as watches and glasses are becoming the new development and fashion trend. Through device-cloud synergy, machines can sense and anticipate human behavior and provide context-aware services. These devices will help automate the way things get done with levels of intelligence or digital wisdom we have not seen before.
The digital society is just 20 years old, but its achievements so far have been staggering, but there is still much more it can and will deliver.
Ken Hu is deputy chairman and rotating CEO of Huawei Technologies