Verizon's Dunne: Education 'may be the most critical challenge of all' for wireless

Wednesday's keynote presentations at MWCA were all about doing good while doing well.

SAN FRANCISCO—Wednesday morning’s keynote at Mobile World was all about how technology can enable people to do good while they do well.

The emergence of the internet of things and the prospects of the transition to 5G have generated a tremendous amount of enthusiasm in the wireless industry, of course, and that fervor was fully on display during Keynote 3: The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Indeed, at least two speakers used the phrase “tip of the iceberg” when comparing modern offerings to those that are soon to come.

Presentations covered the gamut of next-generation services and use-case scenarios, from smart cities to autonomous cars to mobile healthcare. But the overriding theme was about examining ways mobile can help people around the world lead better lives—and why it’s necessary for that to happen.

“Education may in fact be the most critical challenge of all” as the industry takes its next evolutionary step, said Ronan Dunne, executive vice president of Verizon Wireless. “Far too many communities and therefore far too many young people have yet to benefit from the digital revolution … When we deny young people the access to technology, we’re asking them to play the digital game with half a deck of cards.”

Bridging the digital divide

And while economic inequality remains a major problem in the United States and many markets around the world, tech companies have huge opportunities—and responsibilities—to help close the gap.

“If we waste the chance, the digital divide will only get bigger, and the gains of the economy will only get spread even more unequally,” he said.

Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri picked up where Dunne left off. The “fourth digital revolution” is positioned to fuel productivity dramatically, he said, but will also help people lead healthier lives.

“We see a world where a highly connected digital healthcare system will supersede the constraints of a physical hospital or doctor’s office,” Suri said. “What was old will become new again with the return of a house call, albeit a digital one, whether the patient is across town or on the other side of the world.”

And the keynote was capped by Thaddeus Arroyo, CEO of AT&T Business.

“No amount of innovation or software will matter if we leave people behind in how we envision using this,” Arroyo said. “We’re called to define a new future to tap into the future of mobile technology to impact society in so many ways. As an industry, we have the opportunity to lead innovation that changes nothing short of the capabilities that we can offer this world.”