Digital futures – what's next for countries and the connected world as a whole

As our digital world continues to grow in numbers and shrink in distances at the same time, what’s next for countries and the connected world as a whole?

Digital technology is helping connect up entire countries and give people and businesses access to services that were previously unavailable to huge populations. For example in countries like India and China, mobile payments and m-banking have brought financial services to a couple of billion geographically dispersed people. True digital transformation is taking place, changing the lives of people all over the world and having positive impacts on productivity, innovation and ultimately countries’ GDP. And the digital tools, devices and apps powering this transformation forward are set to continue reshaping the world as we know it.

Every country is now part of the mix, with the rapidly falling cost of new and advanced mobile technologies making the world ever more connected. Back in 2005, there were 500 million devices connected to the Internet; today there are 8 billion. By the time we reach 2030, it has been estimated that there will be in excess of 1 trillion. Our connected lifestyles, smart ways of working and reliance on technology all combine to make for a perfect storm of digital transformation on a global scale.

M2M and IoT – the internet everywhere on everything

2016 has already seen massive growth in the connected car arena, with more than 150 million connected vehicles forecast to be in circulation by the end of the year – growing to over 800 million by 2023.

The connected car is just one application powered by machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies – and the IoT is set to be at the heart of everything ‘new’ that happens to our world in the coming years. IoT and smart mobile analytics will connect up our homes and ourselves – bringing us big benefits in terms of time management and even helping us improve our health through sensors and data analysis of our own bodies and lifestyles. IoT will also impact the global economy in a massive way – some estimates already forecast it having a total potential economic impact of up to $11.1 trillion per year by 2025.

Manufacturing might be the sector that best leverages the power of IoT, with factories creating the most value in the IoT market at $3.7 trillion. Smart cities, mentioned in my last article [link to previous Helmut blog], which incorporate technology-powered developments in health and transportation, will make up $1.7 trillion of IoT value by 2025. What seems beyond doubt is that IoT and M2M technologies will form the basis of the digital transformation that will change the way our lives, cities and countries operate beyond recognition

5G – the backbone of world’s next big mobile thing?

But what sort of backbone will be able to support this explosion of connected devices, people, cities and businesses? At this year’s Mobile World Congress some industry figures speculated that 5G might be the next generation network infrastructure to do the job. 5G will be significantly faster than current mobile connectivity, will have lower latency, greater capacity, better interoperability and lower power.

Already operators have run field tests showing speeds of up to 10Gbps over a 5G mobile connection. Its lower latency means it is more able to support higher bandwidth mobile apps like real-time video streaming, mobile office tools and virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) tools. Commercial deployments are still a couple of years away but 5G looks well-positioned to be the network that powers digital countries into the future.

Digital transformation at global level – the ‘human inside’ factor

But digital transformation without factoring in people isn’t much of a transformation at all. At enterprise level, new digital tools and practices without employee buy-in remain only theories. At smart city level, new digital systems and ways of living designed to make life better for all don’t deliver value if people do not use them. The same applies on a global scale.

As we have developed digital transformation products and services at Orange, we have found it helps to focus on humanizing technology – and that innovation is, again, just talk and big ideas if it is not used to help big numbers of people. To this end, we integrate and develop technology that helps you to create better employee and customer experiences. So we work with customers every step of the digital transformation journey, from individual workspace level through enterprise and up to global. We believe in digital transformation and its ability to benefit and empower humans.

Education will be vital

For countries to continue to leverage the benefits of the digital individual, enterprise and city however, education and skill sets will become ever more important. In the UK for example, the government’s digital strategy for the country has focused on this, with the Minister responsible stating, “It’s estimated around 90 percent of jobs over the next 20 years will require some level of digital skills, so we need to make sure they’re at the heart of our education system”.

In May 2015 French President François Hollande announced the country’s Digital Plan for Education, an initiative designed to support and accelerate digital transformation in the sphere of teaching and learning, an initiative involving both educational establishments and private companies.

Digital training courses have been put in place for teachers, and the French government has really bought into digital transformation in the education space. For its part, Orange is investing for the future of education and developing strategic partnerships with key players in the education sector, all with a goal of helping teachers bring their classes into the digital age – a recent example being in Normandy where we have worked to provide 18,000 next generation virtualized workstations to pupils in 71 schools throughout the region.

Helping governments with digital transformation

Further to education projects, we’re also involved with national governments and are helping them along the road to true digital transformation that benefits all citizens. In 2015, Prime Minister Modi announced ‘Digital India’, a nationwide scheme aimed at improving online infrastructure and Internet connectivity to digitally empower the country and its people. Orange has worked on the project, working on projects ranging from data centers to emergency response systems, from state WANs to smart cities to smart education facility campus programs. Orange IT infrastructure is, in fact, being used in 1,045 locations. We have also worked with the Belgian government to transform its Ministry of Foreign Affairs operations in 140 countries with digitally-enabled business continuity solutions. Digital transformation at a country level is no small undertaking, but it is essential to making people, businesses and nations themselves better-equipped to thrive.

This article was first published on LinkedIn here


Helmut Reisinger
Born in Austria, Helmut Reisinger has a Degree in Economics and Business Management from the University of Vienna and a Master’s in International Management. He has more than 20 years’ experience in business markets and solutions.
Helmut joined Orange Business in 2007 to head up Europe and Russia. He is now CEO of Orange Business.