How does technology help to overcome the pandemic? From Survival to Triunfo, working together for a better Africa

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Technology is helping us to overcome the pandemic and can also boost our continent's recovery in the post-pandemic era, writes Chen Lei, president of Huawei Southern Africa.

Chen Lei, President of Huawei Southern Africa

For most of us, 2020 was a year of almost dramatic, almost traumatic changes. As individuals, our lives have been transformed; as companies, our operational models have been revolutionized; and as a society, we have been shaken to the core. 

Fortunately, many of the technologies that helped us during the worst of the pandemic and confinement, are the key to success and prosperity in the post-confinement era.

The new forms of interaction that have emerged this year - characterized by remote work, distance education, remote health, online shopping and mobile money - will define how society will function in the future. 

Across the economy, the pace of change is already enormous. Last week, when we launched a 5G lab at Wits University, Professor Adam Habib, the vice president of Wits, told us how Wits went completely online in three weeks during the pandemic - a process that was planned to last three years.

Online change has taken place across society - not just in education, but in the workplace, retailing and entertainment - and this change will be permanent. This explains why data traffic has skyrocketed by more than 40%, while digital services have exploded in sub-Saharan Africa.

African governments responded quickly to demand, releasing temporary spectra and making policy recommendations, like the president's 4IR commission in South Africa.

Some of these policy measures - recently announced by the Minister for Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams - included a commitment to invest in human capital, establishing an artificial intelligence institute, creating a platform for advanced manufacturing and supporting data security to allow innovation. 

Policy movements like these should be encouraged, as they open the door for ICT companies to make an ever greater contribution to socio-economic development.

The government can allow ICT-led development through policies to ensure the rapid deployment of infrastructure, reduce spectrum costs and provide tax breaks to make smartphones more accessible. 

Another strategy for building a better Africa through ICT is to invest in digital skills. According to the GSMA, only 28% of Africa's 1,3 billion citizens subscribe to mobile internet, compared to the global average of 48%.

Connectivity is not just coverage and speed, but also use and inclusion. Connectivity is not just coverage and speed, but also use and inclusion.

In order for ICT to better play its role of accelerating growth and social standardization, we need to connect more families and businesses, especially SMEs, and update the digital infrastructure to better meet the growing demands for online services. 

At Huawei, we are deeply aware of our responsibility in this regard and we are constantly investing in skills and infrastructure to, first, provide the networks and, second, to give our people the ability to use them for their own elevation.  

Our goal is to bring digital to all people, homes and organizations in a fully connected and intelligent world. In South Africa, one way to do this is to employ Huawei's AI to help customers predict and manage networks, improving operations efficiency by more than 30%.

In Angola, our digital energy solutions have reduced energy costs at base stations by up to 70%, effectively reducing operators' carbon footprint.

Our software solutions can increase the efficiency of broadband connections to facilities by 30%, while reducing costs by 40%, which could put more African families and businesses online.

In the Cloud and AI domain, Huawei's recently launched South African local data centers provide public Cloud services in South Africa and across the continent.

Huawei ICT Academies have been established at more than 400 leading universities in 17 African countries, producing more than 50.000 certified graduates.

Ours is just one component of what must be a society-wide movement to relaunch our society for the post-pandemic era of digital empowerment. It is our time to prosper and this requires that we all make efforts to build a better future for ourselves and for all the peoples of Africa.

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