The United Nations defines ICT as an enabler for its Sustainable Development Goals. All UN member states now recognise these technologies as an essential tool of their digital transformation. Europe needs to take action to speed up this transformation process and remain competitive in the long run.
Two key aspects need to be addressed today. On the private side, companies need to learn how best to apply ICT to their existing businesses to stay ahead of the pack. When an industry goes digital, there are two different approaches, sometimes referred to as 'Internet Plus' and 'Plus Internet'.
Internet Plus companies use information technology to change the landscape of an entire industry. Examples of companies that have done this include Uber and Airbnb. Plus Internet, on the other hand, involves companies leveraging ICT to transform their existing business or roll out new business models.
My own company, Huawei, and GE are two examples of businesses that have applied this strategy successfully. The Plus Internet approach is likely to go mainstream.
While for most companies, ICT is a tool rather than the core business itself, so-called brick-and-mortar businesses will need to reinvent themselves if they want to stay in the lead.
This is of particular importance in the European context, where the primary objective of going digital is to protect the leading position of its industrial sectors. European companies need to get moving.
They must define how they can effectively leverage ICT tools for their business, and most importantly, how they can strengthen their capabilities for developing industry-specific application software.
This is where the true value of Europe's digital transformation lies. European companies must take the lead when it comes to going digital. Naturally, Huawei is both ready and willing to provide the ICT infrastructure that will support Europe throughout this digital transformation process.
On the public side, policies must be designed to enable vertical industry transformation. Europe needs to encourage innovation and to relax regulation, with a key focus on supporting telecom operators. Europe's digital transformation so far has been slow, not least because telecom operators haven't been given the opportunity to play an enabling role.
I therefore believe that the focus of regulatory policies for telecom operators should evolve to encourage more innovation.
As the European Commission ponders the future of the Digital Single Market, a more holistic view must guide its strategy. A modern industrial policy needs to place technology adoption and an innovation-friendly ecosystem at the forefront.
In particular, Europe needs to focus on developing key enabling technologies. Speeding up 5G development and making spectrum allocation a top priority will be crucial to promoting digital innovation across industries. By acting today, Europe can ensure it stays competitive tomorrow. Making full use of the technological tools at its disposal will be the key to success.