Keynote on Building Digital Nations

August 13, 2022

GTWN Founding President, Chair of Seraphim Space Advisory Board, Vice Chair of NorthStar and Founder/Co-Founder of SES, SES Global, Loral Teleport Europe, Europe Online, and OWNSAT among other pioneering ventures and organizations,  Candace Johnson opened the discussion by moderating a panel during the first keynote on how we can build sustainable digital nations that apply all kinds of digital technologies – fixed, mobile, earth and space – to ensure the success of digital nations that bring the most benefit to their people.

In her introductory remarks, Candace also noted that 30 years ago, indeed when the GTWN was founded, the “Digital Revolution” was taking place, leading to convergence and the “Changing Culture of Communications…from Generation to Generation”, a phenomenon that is happening again with the “Digital Transformation”.

Speakers Dr Hans Wijayasuriya, Acting Group CEO of Axiata and Kuan Moon Yuen, Group CEO Singtel, set out their visions for using digital technologies to enable communities across the Asia Pacific to lift their standard of living in an inclusive way.

Kuan Moon Yuen stressed the importance of governments and industry taking a strategic position, thinking ahead of current technology and needs, to ensure that they invest ahead in the infrastructure that will be needed in future. He said that Singtel’s decision to ensure almost universal 5G connectivity in Singapore had been taken before there was a use case for doing so. However, this foresight had ensured that 95% of Singaporeans now had access to 5G, with enormous flow on benefits for the economy and society.

Dr Hans Wijayasuriya added that Axiata operates across 11 Asian nations, which have very varied economies, societies and therefore needs. Axiata sees it role as applying all types of digital infrastructure as a shared utility – from fixed, mobile and space – to enable governments, local communities and businesses, to adopt the best communications services in an inclusive way. He sees the importance of digital technology in empowering these diverse communities, both leaders and so-called laggards, to achieve the best outcomes possible for their own nations.

Candace Johnson picked up on this point, referring to the purpose and strength of the GTWN in working through a peer-to-peer global network of industry leaders, to ensure that all digital technologies work together to bring about the best for all members of society – including women, who rely on digital technology in many cases in developing economies to run their businesses and build better lives for their families.

Candace referred to an earlier comment by Sulyna Abdullah, Chief of the Digital Knowledge Hub at the ITU, that the ITU now uses the more inclusive term of “universal meaningful connectivity”, not the former term of ‘universal service’ as their goal, to ensure that all stakeholders are included in receiving the benefits of digital transformation. Candace added that this aligned perfectly with the GTWN’s theme of digital metamorphosis – a synergy between digital transformation and cultural transformation, applying digital technology not for its own sake, but to ensure that all members of society achieve the best outcomes for all.

In answer to a question from Sulyna Abdullah about the importance of engagement with international organisations, Dr Wijayasuriya agreed that it was important to engage across all areas – local, national, regional and international – to map stakeholders to the appropriate issues and layers, to ensure that nothing is overlooked in achieving a digital ecosystem to support the digital nation. He predicted that telcos would in future become talent factories supporting these aims. Kuan Moon Yuen agreed that stakeholder management and engagement was essential, and that the first stakeholder is the national government and regulator, who can partner with telcos in enabling pilot use cases, such as when Singtel rolled out 5G in Sentosa island. The challenge is to ensure that the digital leaders are not held back by the digital laggards, and we need to work through regional and international partners to ensure there is a common approach and a common platform.

View the video recording here: