An article by Claudia Nemat, Member of Deutsche Telekom Board of Management, Technology and Innovation.
Digitization is invading every area of the economy and society at an incredible pace. Everything that can be digitized is being digitized. Everything that can be connected is being connected. And everything that is connected is being made available everywhere and at all times via the cloud. This new world must be available to as many people as possible. We must not leave anyone behind. To achieve this we need a shared approach. That is why I welcome the fact that the G20 Multi-Stakeholder Conference is highlighting the issue of the digital future from the perspective of business, politics, and non-governmental organizations.
The challenges are clear and have to be tackled quickly. It is about the networks as the foundation for the digitization process. It is about security as the foundation for confidence in digitization. It is about education as the foundation for understanding digitization. It is about digital responsibility – in other words, ethical benchmarks for dealing with digitization.
Digitization requires connectivity and connectivity requires infrastructure. The technology trends of today such as the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, and artificial intelligence call for high-performance infrastructure with high bandwidths, a high degree of reliability, and global reach. It's about connected household appliances or cars. But also about an IT-controlled water supply for fields threatened by drought. The development of 5G as a mix of technologies – fixed-network and mobile communications – is leading the way.
And if we are talking about 5G, the network of the future, a good regulatory framework is essential. Regulation should support investment. This includes greater predictability of potential future regulation and harmonization of frameworks – across borders. Infrastructure investors need flexibility in the choice of technologies, but also certainty that investments in infrastructure will be protected. The terms and conditions for spectrum, for example, need to be harmonized for this reason.
But digitization also requires confidence: Security in cyberspace is our shared responsibility. The international community is called upon to develop international standards and concrete approaches to action. Politics, industry and NGOs together. This includes, for example, an internationally harmonized criminal law, which addresses the responsibilities of states for cyber criminality emanating from their sovereign territory. In addition, state prevention mechanisms to protect critical infrastructure must be extended. Developing a large-scale international convention for cyber security is the need of the moment.
In addition, we need to promote digital literacy – the skills to actively deal with digitization. That is an educational mandate. Curricula need to include basic IT skills. It is, above all, the next generation of digital natives and scientists trained in technical disciplines who will develop digital solutions for global challenges. Hence my plea for a digital education campaign that will reach as many people as possible. An Internet university, for example.
What I find immensely important here is that technology is not an end in itself. Rather, technology serves people and not the other way around. We have the chance to make the most of the opportunities that this process offers – not just for economic growth, but for a better quality of life for everyone. That is why we cannot be bystanders in digitization, instead we must work together actively to shape it.