The world is on the verge of a new era: the possibilities that will be available very soon thanks to artificial intelligence, cloud computing and 5G will forever change the way we think about technology. But building next-generation infrastructure is a complex process that is impossible without close cooperation between technology companies and governments.
From September 30 to October 2, the Huawei Digital Community Conference (Huawei Digital Community Conference, HDCC 2020) organized by Huawei was held in Moscow. At it, the company’s speakers, together with government officials and leaders of Russian IT, presented their vision of the further development of digital infrastructure in Russia.
This special project is about how the technologies of the future are already becoming the technologies of the present. Including in our country.
The world is going digital
Human development cannot be imagined without digital technologies. In 1992, the volume of global Internet traffic was about 100 gigabytes (GB) per day, in 2017 this figure increased to 45 thousand gigabytes per second, and in 2022, according to experts, it will reach 150,700 Gb / s.
In conditions of self-isolation and closed borders, companies were forced to transfer business processes to the Internet, and the availability of a developed ICT infrastructure became a matter of survival. Many of them succeeded – and this is evidence that the technological basis for digitalization already exists today.
These three technological areas are impossible without the gigantic volumes of data, as well as the information infrastructure and computing power that are needed to transfer and process them. Smart city systems and cloud data centers, self-driving cars and drone courier – it takes millions of chips and lines of code to make it all work.
Digital monopolies: more dangerous than hackers
Today, most of the largest microelectronics and software companies are concentrated in one country. This is one of the main risks of digitalization – it can lead to the emergence of monopolies on a scale never seen before.
This means that in the event of unforeseen circumstances (for example, the imposition of sanctions), entire countries can be cut off from the supply of equipment and software necessary for the normal functioning of digital industries. Even if new suppliers can be found in the shortest possible time, such a large-scale refurbishment will require enormous expenses, and critical digital processes in all government and public sectors will have to be suspended during the renovation process.
The consequences of such a technological blockade can be much worse than the actions of hackers, who are now considered the main cyber threat – they usually attack only individual enterprises or departments, without endangering the infrastructure of the entire state. The only one that guarantees 100% information security across the country is the search for alternative sources of technology and the creation of its own digital ecosystem.
If you want to compete, invest or join
Modern microelectronics, used in the most advanced developments, are decades of research and development, hundreds of patents and billions in investments. In such conditions, not just catching up with the leaders, but trying to compete with them is an incredibly difficult task. China is actively working on its solution.
For example, according to an IDC analyst report, there are three Chinese companies in the top five smartphone manufacturers in the world. This year, Huawei topped the list, which is especially remarkable given that the company is under US sanctions and, for example, no longer has the right to pre-install Google services on its devices.
Yet even under such challenging conditions, in 2019 alone, Huawei grew by 19% with $123 billion in revenue. Huawei’s IaaS (computing infrastructure as a service) cloud market share is rapidly growing: last year this business line of the company showed growth of more than 200%, now Huawei ranks sixth in the world and third in China in this segment.
According to representatives of Huawei, such growth was made possible thanks to regular investments in research and development. Every year, the Chinese company invests about 15% of its revenue in its R&D departments. Back in 2018, Huawei entered the top five global leaders in terms of financial investment in research and development, for which the company spent about 85 billion US dollars* over 10 years. Huawei’s R&D workforce at the end of 2019 was about 96,000 employees, which is 49% of the total headcount.
Even taking into account the fact that Russia is now ready to invest in the development of ICT and create special conditions for the development of this industry, the creation of a competitive technological base in the country will take a long time. Therefore, it is important for our private and public technology companies to find an alternative source of modern technologies in the form of reliable partners who are ready to share developments and create a common ecosystem on an equal footing right now.
To create a new ecosystem, within which it will be possible to “digitize” entire industries and overcome the technological backlog of the country, it is not enough to simply purchase equipment and mutually beneficial cooperation “customer-client”. Full-fledged partnerships are required at all levels: from signing strategic agreements to providing full access to common technologies and supporting the most complex technology clusters.
Huawei calls this concept “digital community” and it recently announced plans to implement it in Russia.
The company has been operating in Russia for more than 20 years, increasing its presence in the region every year. The company has opened four R&D centers in Russia and plans to invest $100 million a year in research and development in Russia over the next five years. “After the United States put us on the sanctions list, we transferred investments from America to Russia,” said Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei. All this allows Russian companies to consider Chinese colleagues as long-term strategic partners.
Huawei openly speaks about its readiness to share experience and developments with Russian colleagues, to actively cooperate on global digitalization issues. The Russian side is also interested in joint work. This was stated by Sergey Lavrov, speaking at the All-Russian Youth Educational Forum “Territory of Meanings”.