has been critical to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and transforming society
over the long term. But the key to progress is laying the foundation for
constant evolution, writes Chen Lei, President of Huawei Southern Africa
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic at
the beginning of this year, organisations across the planet began to shift into
action. But as critical as it was to react appropriately, it has also been
important to proactively prepare for the next phase.
At Huawei, we are aware of the massive
effect of the pandemic, as well as how seriously communities would be affected.
However, we are also conscious that as well as protecting lives, we need to help
lay the foundation for the next stage of society’s technological advancement –
the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
I’ve been inspired by a recent YouTube
video of young South African dancer Hlumelo, who has been under lockdown in
his home township of Gugulethu. A member of the Zama Dance School, Hlumelo has
not let the lockdown hold him back, and has continued practising his steps for
the moment when he and his friends can perform together again.
Similarly, during the Chinese lockdown, members of the Shanghai ballet continued to practise – wearing facemasks – for their upcoming performance of Swan Lake. They took precautions, but remained focused on the next phase of their development.
This reminds me of a saying from a Chinese
poem that “Good honing gives a sharp edge to a sword. Bitter cold adds keen
fragrance to plum blossom”. It implies that preparation is essential to being
effective, and that hardship can shape ultimate success. Indeed, chance favours
the prepared mind.
We understand that ICT has a great role
to play in terms of keeping us all connected during lockdown, quarantine and
social isolation. But technology is also fundamental to economic recovery for Africa.
Now that we
have spent several weeks with shuttered schools and locked-down business, our
conversation is turning to how to reopen the economy. It’s becoming
increasingly clear that the way to do that is not to rush back to the same
busy, concentrated work and social environments we had before.
re-open, communities and workplaces will have to
continue practicing social distancing. We will continue to rely on high-speed
connectivity to bind us together. In many cases, ICT networks support the fight
against the coronavirus, but also the evolution of human society itself.
During the pandemic, once Huawei had secured our people and our operations, we looked at how we could support
our business partners on the African continent through our core competences in
the ICT sector. We were fortunate to be able to assist with social distancing
by African organisations through our technologies.
The video conferencing systems we provided
in some African countries enabled information sharing domestically and
experience exchange internationally between epidemic prevention experts in
China and Africa.
Huawei will continue using our core
information and communication capabilities to support Africa’s epidemic control
When the dust settles, and we begin to
arrive at the much-heralded “new normal”, we will have seen the immense
potential for ICT to build social cohesion.
A new business model is taking shape across
sectors, one characterised by remote work, distance education, remote healthcare,
online shopping and mobile money. These business models span transportation,
security, finance, medicine, education and entertainment.
This new paradigm is driven by vastly
greater data consumption, facilitated by the mass connectivity of 4G/5G
Governments are coming to understand the
need to prioritise ICT as a basic necessity. As a recent white paper noted, the
Covid-19 pandemic is seeing 5G transform healthcare response mechanisms to
become digital, accurate and smart.
The epidemic has brought home to
policymakers the importance of ICT in national development. This is likely to accelerate
the establishment of a national data centres, optical fibre networks and communication
This kind of “big network”
deployment also presents a historic opportunity for Africa to use ICT to catch
up with, and overtake other nations in terms of human development and quality
of life for all its citizens.
We are seeing the first signs of digital
transformation not just in healthcare systems, but across entire economies, and
ICT platforms are likely to provide the
foundation of Africa’s future economy. The key is to continue honing and
perfecting them, expanding their use even now, so that once the lockdown ends,
we can recover more quickly.
As the old poem notes, good honing does
indeed give a sharp edge to a sword. Like Hlumelo and the dancers of the
Shanghai ballet, we should spend this time honing our abilities. When the new
dawn arrives – as it surely will – let
it find us well prepared to seize the day!