Sendil Kumar, Ph.D.
Director – Standards & Spectrum, Ericsson
In the last few years, we experienced climate changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. The planet’s oceans and glaciers have also experienced changes. This has made countries take serious steps towards sustainability as an initiative to prepare for the future.
The world has also recognized the growing importance of connectivity. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently announced its UMC (Universal and meaningful connectivity) project. “Universal connectivity” means connectivity for all. “Meaningful connectivity” is a level of connectivity that allows users to have a safe, satisfying, enriching and productive online experience at an affordable cost.
As part of implementation, an aspirational target for 2030 has been established to help prioritize interventions, monitor progress, evaluate policy effectiveness, and galvanize efforts around achieving universal and meaningful connectivity by the end of the decade (2030).
This is also the time-frame, when ITU-R is developing the next generation IMT radio interface (IMT-2030); external organizations are contemplating what the connected world with 6G could be used for. In the recent (June 2023), also the last meeting of this study-cycle 2019-2023, ITU-R Working Party 5D developed and agreed on the recommendation “Framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT for 2030 and beyond”. This recommendation has been put for approval in the upcoming ITU-R Study Group 5, meeting in Sept 2023.
This recommendation of IMT-2030 has six usage scenarios compared to three in the IMT-2020 (5G) and four overarching aspects including Sustainability and connecting the connected.
6 Usage scenarios (Source: ITU-R WP5D)
Given the importance and role of connectivity, it is critical and essential how IMT-2030 systems will be developed and become an enabler for many other efforts towards a sustainable world as well building a sustainable “infrastructure” on which IMT-2030 network/systems to be deployed.
Every generation of connectivity enables new services over the previous generation of connectivity. It is imperative to ensure that these new services help to maximize its impact on society and the economy, digital connectivity and productivity. It is also expected that to meet the goal of universal and meaningful connectivity, there will be other complementary connectivity in addition to the terrestrial based network. All these forms of connectivity will have to enable reducing the digital divide as well as “digital skills” of the majority of the population in an affordable way. It is envisaged that the development of IMT-2030 will include the capabilities to interwork with such other complementary connectivity like non-terrestrial networks as well as connectivity for drones, flights etc.,
To embrace and use new services and its applications there will be a need to upskill and accelerate the adoption of digital transformation in various sectors starting from education, healthcare and governance in countries. One of the prominent usage scenarios in the future is human machine interactions and presence of integrated AI components in things around us. Beyond bridging the digital divide between urban and rural areas in a country, it is also now important to bridge the divide of digital skills among the developing countries.
The modernization and industrial transformation in manufacturing and other industries will continue to happen and evolve over the next few years using 5G and automations through Industry 4.0. By 2030, we can expect robots to collaborate among themselves as well as communicate and interact with humans. It is also possible for human or human presence to be fused into the digital twin world of factories, robots and machines to interact with them through immersive and remote presence. This opens up a new world of opportunities for human skills without geographical limitations. These skills can range from knowledge providers, instructors, medical practitioners, engineering professionals, artists, collaborative research etc.,
Here are some specific examples of how digital transformation can be used to benefit developing countries and ensure that they are not left behind in the digital age.
Increased access to education : Digital technologies can be used to deliver education and remote and underserved areas. For example, online learning platforms can provide access to high-quality education for students in rural areas and even urban areas where traditional infrastructure is often lacking from the universities across the globe.
According to https://restofworld.org/2023/nigerian-engineering-students-indian-youtubers/ , many Nigerian students have reported that the video lectures from youtube channels from India as well as from NPTEL (video lectures from India’s premier institutes) are very popular and helpful for understanding their engineering subjects. Imagine the possibility of setting up engineering educational centers with immersive classroom experiences from subjects experts from anywhere in the world. Such remote education centers with immersive experience can also enable industrial skill development and coaching and creating job opportunities without investment of expensive infrastructure. This can enable new-age job opportunities of modern digital factories sitting from remote facilities.
Healthcare: Digital technologies can be used to deliver healthcare services to remote areas, where traditional infrastructure is often lacking. For example, the use of telemedicine services can allow patients to connect with doctors and receive care even if they live in rural areas.
In a recent development, a hospital in India has been working on metaverse concepts for utilizing patient data such as CT scans, the XR system that allows collaboration with their counterparts from anywhere in the world, leveraging remote connectivity to discuss patient cases and develop treatment plans. The use of XR helped them to find a possible solution for a three-and-a-half-year-old girl from Uganda faced a unique and unprecedented medical situation. A future where the geographical distance is not a barrier to deliver medical services is important for citizens of a country. It is important to enable such essential medical digital kiosks with high speed connectivity in remote areas that can be connected and allows immersive interaction between patients and doctors. It would not be surprising to have trained, remote assisted robots or machines performing few medical procedures in the future.
Of course, there are also some challenges associated with digital transformation in developing countries, such as the lack of digital infrastructure and local subject expertise. However, the potential benefits of digital transformation are significant, and developing countries that are able to successfully embrace these technologies can reap major rewards.
Here are some specific recommendations for how to bridge the digital divide and upskill people in developing countries:
- Invest in digital infrastructure: This includes building new telecommunications networks and providing access to internet services in rural areas. To introduce new services of the future, it is essential to invest and modernize the existing infrastructure and 5G connectivity beyond the urban areas. In few countries and areas, there may also be a need for additional investment in setting up digital kiosks in remote areas like Govt. schools, Postal offices etc., subsidizing digital devices to end-users/family (for e.g. Consumer Premise Equipment (CPE) for Fixed wireless access).
- Provide skills training: This includes training people in the use of digital technologies, as well as in the skills that are needed to work in the digital economy. Establish digital-skill development center and encourage remote training sessions from knowledge houses, university campuses, medical centers etc.,
- Create awareness: This includes raising awareness of the benefits of digital transformation and the opportunities that it can create.
- Strengthened governance: Digital technologies can be used to improve governance by making government services more accessible and efficient, and by increasing transparency and accountability. For example, digital technologies can be used to provide online access to government services, to track government spending, and to monitor elections.
As digital technologies continue to evolve, we can expect to see even more innovative and impactful applications of these technologies in the years to come.
Sendil Kumar, Ph.D.
Director – Standards & Spectrum, Ericsson
Sendil Kumar, is Director – Standards & Spectrum in Group Function Technology at Ericsson. He currently drives various standardization and spectrum engagements in India and the APT region. He works closely with the national, regional and global working groups related to standards and spectrum matters. At Ericsson, as member of the company’s CTO organization, he is focused on future spectrum issues and sharing studies that are subject of the World Radio Conference and development of IMT (5G, 6G) technologies in ITU-R. He actively contributes in developing national preparatory views towards the ITU-R, APT, AWG and WRC. He actively contributed in the IMT-2020 Evaluation process and in the development of rural test environment requirements in IMT2020. Prior to Ericsson, he worked with research organizations including Samsung R&D, Centre of Excellence of Wireless Technology and Telecom Centre of Excellence. He has contributed to standardization development in both 3GPP2 and 3GPP for HRPD, HSDPA, LTE. He also has a career stint as a mentor in a patent service organization dealing with patents for 4G standards and high-tech industries. He was awarded a Ph.D. degree in Wireless Communication from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He can be reached at http://linkedin.com/in/skdevar