Although the world becomes increasingly connected, almost half of the global population remains without access to the internet. Being connected goes beyond convenience and drives basic economic inclusion. By making digital universal, affordable, open, and safe, we can bring more people together and drive fundamental global progress. Devices and systems will increasingly become more intelligent and more connected in government processes and cross-sector industrial applications.
We at Huawei believe that technology and connectivity are at the heart of eliminating development gaps for various sectors, businesses, regions, and groups – ensuring equal access to digital resources and enabling technology to benefit everyone. Towards this goal, Huawei is working with a variety of local, regional and international partners to enhance the digital skills of all society in order to address problems related to healthcare, education, development, and the environment on a much bigger scale.
Closing the digital divide
As of today, Huawei has provided smooth communication for more than three billion people around the world and supported the stable operations of more than 1,500 networks in more than 170 countries and regions. Huawei’s digital inclusion initiative TECH4ALL and its associated programs will help another 500 million people benefit from digital technology. These benefits will not be limited to connectivity, but also include technologies like AI, cloud, and smart devices as well as related applications and skills.
TECH4ALL will address four domains in which it will comprehensively promote digital inclusion.
- Healthcare: Using digital technology to give more people easy access to better healthcare resources.
- Education: Using technology to give the disadvantaged, such as women and teenagers, equal access to education, and enrich education resources.
- Development: Eliminating development gaps for various sectors, businesses, regions, and groups, ensuring equal access to digital resources, and enabling technology to benefit everyone.
- Environment: Using innovative technologies to help NGOs more efficiently protect and conserve ecosystems.
Addressing the world’s most pressing issues with technology
Besides improving digital connectivity, Huawei also drives inclusion in a very practical way. In Europe, for example, our TrackAI project, helps children to cope with visual impairment by using the latest AI technology to find gaze patterns in the way children look at visual stimuli and relate them to visual development and to certain specific disorders. By running an AI model, we can accurately and reliably detect visual impairments in real time. This combination unleashes the potential not only to measure visual function, but also to estimate the probability for the patient to have a certain pathology.
The information gathered during this gaze data collection phase is being used to train the neural network. We have already examined 1500 children of different ethnicities and ages and a first prototype of the neural network is undergoing testing. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals include a target to achieve universal health coverage by 2030, putting a spotlight on the importance of improving eye care as it’s so vital for many aspects of well-being.
When it comes to visual impairment, early detection is crucial. 70 percent of the 19 million children with visual disabilities can have normal eyesight if their impairment is detected soon enough. On the other hand, up to 60 percent of children suffering from blindness will die in the following two years. That’s why early prevention and cure can, in many cases, save lives.
Learning to read can be difficult for any child, but for small children who are severely or profoundly deaf, it can be an overwhelming challenge. In 2018, using AI and augmented reality, we created StorySign – the world’s first literacy platform for deaf children. Developed in partnership with the European Union of the Deaf and the British Deaf Association and Penguin Books, among others, StorySign is a free mobile app that aims to help deaf children read by translating the text from selected books into sign language.
By protecting vulnerable groups and making ordinary people extraordinary, we make the most of technology. To be truly successful, however, digital inclusion will need the joint efforts of businesses, governments, and society at large. While Huawei is proud of the initiatives illustrated above, and what they have already achieved, they just form the first small step in the challenges ahead. We welcome more people and organizations to join us, changing lives for the better, and closing the digital divide.
Author Kevin Liu,
President of Public Affairs and Communications Department, Western Europe, Huawei Technologies