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Session 3: Building a better world 


Real Talk 2020 takes us on a journey into the future

4 minute read

Want to know what the future will hold? We speak to the top minds in the industry about building a better world

Real Talk 2020 rounded off its insight-packed agenda with Session 3: ‘Building a better world’. In it, we looked at how to solve the future value equation to improve productivity; how early signals can help predict future trends; and shared a real-life example of the positive impact of digital transformation for CSPs and their customers.

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Corporate Chief Technology Officer and President of Nokia Bell Labs, Marcus Weldon opened Session 3 with his predictions on creating value for the future.

It all comes down to one equation: driving forces + catalysts for change = actions you need to take, as Marcus explained in his insightful speech. To him, it’s a case of simple math. The results, however, are potentially exponential:

“Solving the future value equation will allow us to build intelligent, mission critical, infrastructures that massively increase human productivity.”

He then went on to break down the factors and catalysts that make up the equation, and most importantly, the six key investments you need to make in order to solve it, remarking that:

“We need new models with new partnerships, rather than just supplier and vendor type relationships.”

He also gave us a tangible glimpse into the future of value creation, with a live simulation showing how communications technology can assist in increasing productivity.

But what about people? In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for broadband has skyrocketed, as families, businesses and customers try to stay connected. Nokia’s Sandy Motley presented a compelling proposition: The Gigabit era must deliver equal opportunities for everyone to provide digital inclusion, while preserving and strengthening digital trust.

It’s a moment to reflect on our privilege of living in a connected society, and her words made a real impact, especially in an online setting.

“Broadband has given many of us a degree of continuity in our lives. We owe the unconnected and the underserved the same opportunity.”

So how can we harness what’s happening today to shape the future? Futurists Elina Hiltunen and Cathy Hackl had some ideas in their panel discussion with Nokia’s Leslie Shannon on the trends or ‘signals’ they’re observing, and how 5G will be a catalyst to accelerate change on a scale we’ve never witnessed.

Leslie asked about the weak signals our panellists are seeing and what they could mean for the future. Cathy remarked about the resurgence of space exploration and how that relates to our desire to explore new worlds digitally using technologies like Virtual Reality (VR). Elina shared a similar story of a physical display device that offers views of parallel realities to people at the same time.  

In response to a question about 5G and its connection to the future, Cathy describes the need for CSPs to think differently about consumer experiences. With the emergence of ‘spatial’ programming as we transition from smartphones to headwear, there are indications that our physical world machine will become ‘machine readable’, which prompted her to remark:

 “In some ways [5G] is going to allow us to meet the machine. We're going to meet the machines in this virtual space and be able to communicate in a different world.”

For Elina, it was about the impact we can have on our physical world, highlighting examples like improving energy efficiency through smarter cities by reducing traffic congestion. Later, she describes the concept of ‘smart dust’; tiny sensors connected to the network which are painted onto surfaces to track carbon dioxide levels, sending alerts to our mobile devices.

Leslie summarized the session by pointing out our future is not about one area of technology, but how to weave all these technology advancements together to bring about something that’s truly lifechanging.

Amber commented that it was: “…empowering to see three women talking about technology… we need more women coding algorithms for the virtual world. To build a better world and make the future as inclusive as possible. It’s important to incorporate diverse views from women and minorities to ensure equality.”

When considering all these technology enablers, Macronomics’ Graeme Leach focused on a surprising prediction: that the world is on the cusp of a productivity and economic boom, as it brings humans and machines closer together, stating that:

“This is precisely the wrong time in history to be looking at the road ahead through the rear-view mirror. And that's what everybody's doing at the moment. And they're missing what I would call the great inflection.”

With further discussion around the rapidity of technological change and the impact on employment as a consequence, he points out that those who are most optimistic about the technology are the least optimistic about the employment consequences. In conclusion he remarks: “The mistake we always make is that we tend to overstate the impact of technology in the short term and underestimate its impact in the long-term.”

We rounded out the day with a real world example about digital transformation from one of Nokia’s long-standing customers: When COVID-19 hit, Telenor Group took a leap, accelerating its digital transformation by about three years in a matter of days. Now, the company is speeding up, betting on AI, 5G and IoT to enable new solutions for customers and change the way they operate, as Telenor’s Ruza Sabanovic explains:

“No matter where we are, if we are in a developed or emerging market, the customers [will] be served faster than ever before, because they will be connected to those digital platforms, and adaptation will go faster than we think.”

Amber Mac added that it was: “Great to see how a real example…shows just how digitalization can create a positive impact by empowering employees and customers in very challenging situations.”

To hear from a customer about their journey was the perfect conclusion to Real Talk 2020, and it brought all the key takeaways together.  We got real insights into how Telenor’s investments over the last four years have paved the way for their agile response to the pandemic, empowering their employees and their customers to deliver the extraordinary.

Check out the videos from session 3.

Thank you for joining us for the final session. You can catch up on anything you missed in Session 1 and Session 2, available on-demand now.