Why we do what we do
In 1991, at the ripe old age of 127, Nokia pivoted towards connectivity.
The company divested businesses, reformulated its strategy and created new divisions. I know because I was there, helping to launch the world’s first GSM network as part of that pivot.
It was a watershed moment. We have spent the intervening 30 years building high-performance, reliable, trustworthy networks for our customers. These networks have evolved so much that they now underpin mission-critical activities worldwide, or what we call “critical networks”.
Today, we bring that expertise to enterprises and webscales as well as our traditional customer base of communications service providers.
But our sector is still changing, faster than ever. In our Capital Markets Day on 18 March, I outlined a handful of trends currently affecting our industry and reshaping entire business models around the world, including next-generation networks and the increasing prevalence of digitally connected enterprises.
Some say that Nokia needs to keep pace with these trends. I take a more active approach. I think that Nokia cannot be satisfied with simply keeping up. Rather, we must seek to lead, even shape, these industry trends ourselves.
I used my presentation at Capital Markets Day to outline how we will do that. You can watch it here. Understandably, many people in the audience were focused on the financial and operational sides of the presentation. But for me, there was another part of equal importance that deserves more explanation – our purpose.
Our pivot in 1991 meant that we were more than a manufacturer. We became an enabler, a connector of people and places. Through networks, then through devices, now across the entire spectrum of connectivity, from base stations to software to fiber-to-the-home.
Ordinarily, much of this technology operates in the background of people's lives. But over the past year or so, that has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic thrust connectivity to the front of the conversation through working from home, online shopping and video calls with colleagues, friends, and family. It has never been clearer that what we do can make a real difference. Our networks kept the world online during shutdowns and social distancing. And, not just in our own industry of telecoms, but also unlocking gains and innovation, safety, and services elsewhere too.
For example, our recent blog, ‘Advancing Healthcare 4.0 in the age of a pandemic' focused on one of our healthcare partners, UPMC, in Pittsburgh, USA. Before COVID-19, their health system averaged about 5,000 remote users a day – a number that has increased by more than 1,400 percent to 76,000 per day. The number of virtual healthcare visits rose even more sharply, up from roughly 1,000 per week to an average of 47,500.
UPMC handled this increase through their clinicians’ hard work, good planning and, yes, I am happy to say, an advanced, flexible network.
But just as the pandemic is not solely a health issue, our critical networks are not solely of use to healthcare providers. For example, one of our big mechanical maintenance customers has installed private 5G networks in its factories, and says the high-quality, high-reliability real-time video streaming capability alone has been transformative during COVID, allowing them to do 100 percent of inspections remotely.
Although the pandemic might have shone a spotlight on the power of networks, the truth is that they were this powerful and effective before COVID, and we expect them to get even more so afterwards, as an investment in digital infrastructure gathers momentum.
With that in mind, it started to feel like our previous purpose statement, 'we create the technology to connect the world,' didn't quite cut it anymore. Yes, connecting the world is part of it, but increasingly, we create value by allowing those connections to loop in IT, operations, hardware, and software - not only transporting information but crunching, interpreting, and acting on data.
This active connectivity presents a unique opportunity for a company like Nokia to address some of the world's most pressing global challenges. For us and indeed for many of our customers and partners, those pressing challenges are responding to climate change through more efficient use and re-use of the world's resources, restoring productivity growth by digitalizing physical industry, and providing more inclusive access to work, healthcare, markets and education.
Look at our work with Vi in India. Our WING solution is providing 50,000 soy and cotton farmers with precise and practical datapoints to help them improve resource efficiency, achieve higher yields, and grow top-quality crops. This project is just one of many examples of critical networks - and Nokia - making a difference in people’s lives.
With those challenges and capabilities in mind, we chose to update our purpose and make it clear what our roles and responsibilities are to our employees, customers, and communities.
At Nokia we create technology that helps the world act together.
For us, this means we will work with our customers to build critical networks and bring together the world’s people, machines, and devices, with everything we do directed towards that purpose.
The next question is how we go about making that purpose real.
We have set measurable targets. On climate, for example, we recently announced that we would reduce emissions by 50 percent across both our own operations and products in use – so-called Scope 3 emissions – by 2030.
Most of all, we want to live the purpose – and create technology that helps the world act together.
After three decades of focusing primarily on the connectivity industry, we know how to do this and with our people, our partners, and our customers, we are getting better at it every day.
Nokia has proved its value to the telecommunications sector time and time again. But we still have more to give. Together with the other commitments and actions I outlined at Capital Markets Day, our new purpose gives us a framework to do just that.