The availability of better job opportunities, quality of life, institutions and infrastructure have turned urbanisation into a global phenomenon.

According to United Nations data, cities contribute to 50 percent of the global population, with that number expected to reach 57 percent by 2025.

Seventy percent of GDP comes from these cities and by 2025, the world’s top 75 cities will contribute to 30 percent of GDP growth globally.

Brunei, with a median age of 30.5 years, in 2018 had an urban population of 77.6 percent, growing at a rate of 1.66 percent annually.

This key trend is challenging nations and their ecosystem to innovate and draft national policies to address public safety, urban management, rising energy demands, better job opportunities, economic growth and environment through sustainable solutions.

Infrastructure at the core of digital

Sustainable development is a direct outcome of infrastructure robustness and resilience, a point outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 laid out by all 193 countries of the United Nations.

Among a nation’s basic infrastructure are things such as road networks, hospitals and education institutions.

ICT infrastructure too is critical as it connects people; people to things; and things to things.

Strengthening ICT infrastructure has accelerated the digital economy globally with an additional US$23 trillion in opportunity expected to be realised by 2025, according to a 2018 Huawei global connectivity index (GCI) report.

ICT investments in areas like broadband, data centres, cloud, big data, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence are taking nations forward towards better digital maturity.

Digital has proven to be the new paradigm, transforming the way we connect with one another, and is increasingly exploring new avenues to connect everything else around us.

Embracing digital has enabled industries to transform themselves from a physical world to a digital one, leading to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Since the 17th and 18th century, interventions such as opening up sea routes, the application of electricity, introduction of the internet, and the advent of artificial intelligence, have all had a profound impact on the world and technology we use.

For example, today when we buy an air conditioner or a smartphone, we assume electricity and internet availability. Similarly with artificial intelligence, the technology presents a new frontier that will lead to the digital integration of people, industries and enterprises.

Dr. Abdul Memon, Huawei Technologies’ director of Solution Marketing, South Pacific Region, delivering a keynote speech at the Smart Future Forum held on Bandar Seri Begawan January 31, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

Realising the digital economy

The development of technology is happening at an unprecedented pace, and innovation is driven by trying to solve real problems one at a time.

This new paradigm is transforming economies into digital ones.

By 2022, a total of US$5.8 billion will be committed towards building safe cities around the world.

Sixty-four percent of enterprises are pursuing digital transformation and 67 percent of Global 2000 companies have digitisation as their core strategy.

Artificial intelligence has enabled digital transformation to positively impact market competitiveness, productivity and innovation, according to Huawei GCI 2018 report.

Each nation needs to “slice and dice” their digital ecosystem to identify opportunity, create strategic roadmaps and engage stakeholders to collectively strive for digital adoption and economic growth.

The solutions needed are unique to each country and must be clearly identified in order to translate into a national strategic plan.

Identifying the right solutions for Brunei

Network infrastructure — such as 4G, fiber and the Internet of Things — are the foundation for smart nation-building today.

Some of the key priorities today are strengthening existing fiber and 4G networks and building an IoT-based network to integrate urban management and respond to emergencies in real time.

Once the current infrastructure is robust and resilient, identifying future demands in systems will result in better efficiency and affordable services.

The Huawei Technologies Booth during the Smart Future Forum. January 31, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

Building on current priority areas will be fundamental to undertaking 5G development in the future.

In the consumer domain, 5G with 10 to 100 times faster access speed compared to 4G. This will enable new services in the consumer space such as virtual reality, augmented reality and other cloud services, enhancing consumers’ experience to a new level.

Watching popular stage shows, concerts and football matches virtually will become a reality. Virtual games and content will be developed for 5G mobile phones, not just for leisure but also for learning and virtual training experiences.

In the mid to longer term, 5G will see a lot of new applications for businesses.

Digitisation in fisheries industries could help improve fish farms by providing timely feed, monitoring the environment, and controlling disease.

Other vertical applications include agriculture farming, where digitisation can increase productivity by using autonomous tractors and vehicles. Smart manufacturing, remote e-health and drones for monitoring and control, are also some of the potential 5G uses that can change the way we live and work.

Smart nation implementations for 5G can also create better efficiency in areas like city transportation. By analysing traffic patterns, we can build congestion avoidance methods, and control street and traffic lights in optimal ways.

Some customised smart poles also have LCD displays for travel weather information, as well as security cameras, Wifi and emergency buttons.

5G use in utility meters for water, electricity and gas, will be able to sense faults as well as deliver efficiency by controlling loss and leakages.

Group photo of officials from Huawei Technologies during the Smart Future Forum held in Brunei on January 31, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

Smart nation policies to drive development

Smart city and nation programmes have benefited both developed and developing economies, including Saudi Arabia, which piloted the Yanbu Industrial City to see a 16 percent rise in inbound investment.

Other examples include the China Smart Government Initiative to decrease entry-exit permit processing time between Hong Kong and Macau —  improving from 7 days to 2 minutes.

Huawei is currently actively building over 120 Smart Cities in more than 40 countries worldwide.

The success factors for smart nation deployment depend on identifying local needs; strategic planning; infrastructure readiness; deployment in phases; and the involvement of all stakeholders.

Brunei can certainly leverage on its existing foundation of 4G and fibre networks to be ready for 5G, helping to realise some of the smart nation needs in the future.

Getting 5G ready through collaboration and engagement

5G can evolve from existing networks, which is the most efficient way to deploy the new technology in its initial phase.

To maximise 5G capability and potential, new infrastructure needs to be added, such as opening up new sites and locations for 5G.

This calls for the various stakeholders to come together to forge partnerships. A public-private partnership can facilitate a joint study on using public buildings and infrastructure for 5G deployment.

Cooperation between regulators and industry in the area of spectrum identification is also essential to accelerate 5G readiness.

5G is no longer only limited to basic internet or broadband service — the technology will create new services and applications in the business and consumer space.

Today Huawei is ready to offer end-to-end products and solutions to support 5G commercial network and services.

To date, Huawei has won 30 commercial 5G contracts and shipped over 25,000 5G base stations globally.

It is essential that implementation of future ICT technologies are led by government agencies that can accelerate the ecosystem and collaborate in an effective manner — no single organisation can lead future technology development alone.

A collaborative approach is key to success, and to create technology that solves real-world problems.

Huawei’s approach is to create and work with an extensive partner ecosystem both globally and locally. Today, we have 1,500 different partners who are working with us to create secure, robust, resilient, affordable and scalable future-ready solutions.