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Determining the Future of the Internet: The U.S.-China Divergence (Opinion)

Written by Johanna Costigan, a Junior Fellow, China Analysis

Internet Sovereignty 

When protests broke out in China in response to severe, and sometimes fatal, COVID-19 lockdowns, blank sheets of A4 paper became the dominant symbol of dissent, appearing in the streets of Chinese cities and at solidarity protests around the world. Their digital analog, a visual rendering of a white square (akin to the solid black square used by the #BlackLivesMatter movement), came to represent protests against not just China’s zero-COVID policy but the Chinese government’s speech control regime; the white square was, at least temporarily, a censor-proof anti-censorship symbol. The square’s blankness cultivated versatility: Each individual could fill it with their own unwritten objections. This creative, evasive, multipurpose tool is representative of efforts to resist China’s tightening online discourse environment. The 2023 New Year celebration campaign of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), which asked netizens to submit online examples of “positive energy” (正能量) throughout 2022 — an arduous year in which millions of Chinese faced lockdowns — belied an intentional reluctance to read the room.

While its implementation has been far from seamless, speech control in China should not be understood as the ad hoc impulses of aggrieved authorities. In times of crisis, repression can be reactive. But, unlike less advanced censorship regimes elsewhere in the world, Chinese censorship is not limited to reactivity. Its ultimate ambition, intended to unfold in the coming decades, is to implement a grand strategy for creating, guiding, and rewarding online discourse that is favorable to the leadership and legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). To achieve such an ambitious goal, censorship is insufficient. The Chinese government is also cultivating an internet that offers a deluge of “positive energy” that is free from “harmful information,” supportive of the government, and capable of fostering economic growth. Recent technology policy documents, such as the State Council’s white paper titled “Jointly Build a Shared Future in Cyberspace,” frame the discussion of values on the internet in terms that are conspicuously amenable to CCP rule: “Cyberspace, like the real world, values both freedom and order. Freedom is the purpose of order, and order is the guarantee of freedom.”

China’s highly empowered CAC is one of the principal agencies tasked with reaching these objectives. In a comprehensive analysis of the CAC’s form and function, Jamie Horsley of the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School describes its uniquely broad authority: “The CAC … enjoys potential jurisdiction as a supra-ministerial regulator over virtually all state and private sectors touched by nearly ubiquitous online activity.” A merged party-state organ, the CAC’s original mission to police online content has been elevated to include regulation of cybersecurity, data security, and privacy.

The United States lacks a CAC equivalent. Rather than getting too involved in the messy process of trying to pass legislation on digital regulation, President Joe Biden’s administration has focused on injecting a broad vision of American values into the discourse regarding the global internet. Unsurprisingly, these values run contrary to China’s internet regulations, and they appear to be at least partly a response to the restricted internet environment of America’s biggest economic competitor. In 2022, the Biden administration released the Declaration for the Future of the Internet (DFI), which was signed by more than 60 countries, most of them democracies. The DFI implicitly counters China’s domestic and international digital development efforts and argues for a “global internet” and free flow of information. The White House’s Blueprint for an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Bill of Rights similarly aims to ensure that the use of AI does not unravel “democratic values, foundational American principles that President Biden has affirmed as a cornerstone of his administration.”

Both countries put values and domestic conditions at the forefront of their technology policies, which have broad implications beyond their borders. The United States hopes to attract partners and allies to join its freedom-forward vision of the internet, in which firewalls like China’s would become untenable. Officially, U.S. government officials champion an internet where all users have the freedom to engage with each other openly, share ideas, make money, and, in an unexplained utopian workaround, avoid excessive surveillance by both business and government.

America’s posturing on internet regulation takes place amid a fierce domestic debate about how regulators and platforms can and should handle misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech. Meanwhile, further risking claims of hypocrisy, the U.S. government criticizes authoritarian states’ use of digital surveillance while law enforcement agencies such as the New York Police Department continue to use facial recognition data to arrest suspects. As Josh Chin and Liza Lin describe in their book Surveillance State, public sentiment against privacy violations inspires U.S. law enforcement agencies to use facial recognition secretively, often in ways that transcend their original, admitted purpose. “In a sense,” they write, “New York City’s entire surveillance apparatus was an example of mission creep.”

Chinese officials, meanwhile, advocate for “internet sovereignty” (网络主权) and argue that every country should be able to govern its internet as it sees fit. In China, the government uses its technological capacity to simultaneously provide controlled convenience to speed up economic growth, sometimes offering meaningful employment and other opportunities to individuals, and curtail personal and societal freedoms. As in many areas of Chinese governance, internet regulations in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are rhetorically resolute and experimental in application, nationally endorsed and locally targeted, and, at the individual level, helpful to some and destructive to others.

At 39 years old, the internet is on the brink of middle age. Yet, rather than try to understand how engaging with the internet has affected and continues to shape human brains and the interests they pursue — or even are aware of — corporate and consumer interest lies more in fostering its future iterations (like the metaverse). Our reliance on digital tools only continues to grow, rendering the divide between online and offline life increasingly fungible even as individuals still lack basic protections from surveillance and, in countries like China, state censorship and digital repression. Government authorities in the United States and China have responded to this shared quandary with unsurprising distinction.

The CCP’s Case for Cyber Culture

At the 2022 China Internet Civilization Conference, officials made the case that moral fortitude should characterize China’s online environment. According to CAC Deputy Director Sheng Ronghua, “Online propaganda continues to be deep and real” (网上宣传持续走深走实). Sheng argued for pushing forward the CCP’s theories of innovation so that they enter people’s hearts and minds, carefully conducting online propaganda on major topics, and constantly improving whole-of-society network security.1 Other coverage of the conference mentioned officials’ aim to “allow advanced culture and the spirit of the times fill cyberspace”2 and promote “network civilization.”3

“Propaganda,” “security,” and “civilization” are all loaded terms. From the party’s perspective, they refer to officials’ ability to control and disseminate “correct” information, “protect” Chinese netizens from the online threats posed by corporate interests and foreign content, and elevate “correct” understandings of China’s culture and history, respectively. The State Council’s 2022 white paper also implies a correlation between cultural progress — and control — and technological advancement: “We must accelerate the deep integration of culture and science and technology, better build an advanced socialist culture with advanced and applicable technologies, reshape the mode of cultural production and dissemination, and seize the commanding heights of cultural innovation and development.” Seizing those heights requires pairing modern technologies with “advanced socialist culture” — a term that packs repressive one-party governance into its selective understanding of Chinese traditions.

Culture, from the CCP’s perspective, must be modulated by the state to meet the technological moment. According to the 14th Five Year Plan for Cultural Development Planning (English translation available here), released in August 2022, “in order to meet the new wave of scientific and technological revolution … We must accelerate the deep integration of culture and science and technology, better build advanced socialist culture with advanced and applicable technology, reshape the way of cultural production and dissemination, and seize the high ground of cultural innovation and development.”4 Technology is central to the propagation of “culture.” Centering this claim on meeting the “new wave” of technological revolution assumes a continuance of the technological revolutions that the PRC pursued in previous decades and heightens the urgency of this proposed integration: There is limited time to ensure that (correct) culture is used to guide technological development.

The plan is both a declaration of what needs to be done and a celebration of what has already been achieved. “The core socialist values ​​and excellent traditional Chinese culture have been widely promoted, mainstream public opinion has been continuously consolidated and strengthened, cyberspace has become increasingly clear, and the spirit of the people of all ethnic groups across the country has become more energetic.”5

Integrating the assertion that “cyberspace has become increasingly clear” (code for increasingly free of dissent and full of “positive” content) alongside such fundamental and wide-reaching claims for cultural cohesion and “success” elevates the import of not just a highly censored internet, but one that is “clear and bright” (晴朗). Cultivating a “clear and bright” cyberspace is framed as an essential component of the project of defining and disseminating CCP marketing on what constitutes online expressions of Chinese culture.

In the 14th Five Year Plan, Chinese Marxism is a driving force; one goal for the period ahead is to achieve “a new leap in the Sinicization of Marxism.” Culture, according the plan, can be crafted to help achieve existing goals. “To conform to the historical changes in the main contradictions of our society, to meet the people’s growing needs for a better life, and to promote the all-round development of people, culture is an important factor.” Culture is conveniently vague, but surely it includes much of what is shared, found, and purchased online. The use of the term “main” or “principal contradictions” suggests the need for culture to bend to the present needs that China’s leaders have identified as essential to the country’s future development.

Under Mao, the principal contradiction was between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie; under Deng Xiaoping, it was “the ever growing material and cultural needs of the people versus backward social production”; under Xi Jinping, it is between “unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing need for a better life.” Culture is consistently the sister of material; these two are paired in a way that may appear idiosyncratic but perfectly reflects the party-state’s logic, in which economic growth corresponds to China getting closer to living up to its full civilizational potential: national rejuvenation.

Technological advancement is too important to regulate retroactively. Technology is representative of the party’s success in cultivating not just China’s but Chinese economic and cultural development. It is thus both prized and kept on a very short leash.

How the “Clear and Bright” Cyberspace Campaign Mirrors Xi-Era Priorities 

The “Jointly Building a Shared Future in Cyberspace” white paper has separate sections for the global internet and China’s internet; the separation reflects the PRC’s preference for internet sovereignty. China’s “new development stage” and “new development philosophy” explain why the ideal time for China to develop its digital “strength” is now. 

The white paper frames this opportunity for promoting the qinglang (晴朗) campaign as the outcome of hard-fought goals. An unchecked internet would have left China’s netizens at the mercy of malign actors and evil corporate interests. Luckily, according to this narrative, the government stepped in. It frames the cleansing of cyberspace as a public service: “A clean and sound cyber environment is in the interests of the people, whereas a polluted and degenerate one is against the public interests.” But the paper goes beyond sanitation, linking China’s information-control efforts to state-led morality: “China is committed to creating a healthy, civilized, clean and righteous cyber ecosystem.”

The State Council’s white paper celebrates what qinglang has achieved: “China has launched a campaign to rectify the disorder in cyberspace … It has tightened regulation, taken rigorous action against online activities that violate the law and regulations, and striven to rein in chaotic fandom culture.” Qinglang is placed in a section titled “Development and management of the internet in China,” since such a comprehensive effort is not possible globally, and even if it were, any international iteration would fail to ground digital regulation in the CCP’s version of Chinese values.

On top of central government directives, regular people who feel so inclined can help realize the party’s vision for a “clear and bright” cyberspace. Netizens have been notified that they are free to tattle on others for spreading “rumors” or harmful information on the internet. Netizens are also invited to “rat out” others for propagating “historical nihilism” — the party’s term for depictions or mentions of histories it would prefer to suppress. These overtures suggest that authorities believe a degree of public buy-in is necessary to sanitize cyberspace and create an internet that meets their governance needs.

In 2021, the CAC released a directive requiring internet companies to disclose information about the technology and algorithms behind their platforms — the first time a regulator has ever taken this step (English translation available here). In an analysis of the instruction manual for compliance, Matt Sheehan and Sharon Du show that it “reveals significant new disclosures that do not show up in the public versions of the filings.” In addition, the directive opens by declaring it functions to promote “socialist core values”6 or SCVs.  

Official Chinese conceptions of righteousness are tied up in the CCP’s socialist core values, which appear on propaganda posters and must be considered by Chinese app developers, technology regulators, and censors, among others. Per the revised “Provisions on the Administration of Mobile Internet Applications Information Services,” released in June 2022, app companies are instructed to “adhere to the correct political direction”7 and to “enhance core socialist values.” These values are prosperity, democracy, civility, and harmony (at the national level); freedom, equality, justice, and rule of law (at the societal level); and patriotism, dedication, integrity, and friendship (at the individual level).

While each value can be interrogated individually, all of them are designed to promote the CCP’s unquestioned authority over all aspects of life and morality in China. In their article “Creating a Virtuous Leviathan: The Party, Law, and Socialist Core Values,” Delia Lin and Susan Trevaskes lay out the stakes that such moral paternalism poses for party legitimacy:

The integration of Socialist Core Values into socialist rule of law legitimates the moral authority of the almighty Party. In addition, the inclusion of democracy, fairness, and freedom in the Socialist Core Values suggests the Party considers that these values are not the exclusive hallmark of a liberal democracy. The assertion here is that the CCP is capable of building a comprehensive value system by offering an alternative to the so-called universal values as proclaimed by the West. This requires establishing the moral legitimacy of an authoritarian “China Model” as an alternative to liberal democracy.

SCVs are not just propaganda; they have been integrated into China’s legal system. A 2016 document titled “Guiding Opinions on Further Integrating Socialist Core Values into the Construction of Rule of Law” stipulates that all laws and public policies be executed in a way that “guides the correct value orientation in society.” The Central Committee’s 2018 plan on “Integrating Socialist Core Values ​​into the Legislative Amendment Plan for the Construction of the Rule of Law” promotes the total integration of socialist core values into China’s legal system within 5 to 10 years. In 2021, the Supreme People’s Court released its “Guiding Opinions on Deeply Promoting the Integration of Socialist Core Values into the Analysis and Reasoning of Adjudicative Instruments,” which gave judges guidance on how to implement SCVs in their rulings.

That legal integration has a digital component. According to a question-and-answer transcript about the 2018 announcement, “The plan will emphasize the online dissemination of socialist core values … and promote the realization of a healthy, positive, and forward-looking internet.”

Healthy, not harmful; clear, not polluted; sound, not chaotic; positive, not negative: From the CCP’s perspective, these guidelines are the foundation of China’s internet development. These dichotomies betray the party’s torn attitude when it comes to digital regulations: When China’s leaders look at the internet, they see no limit to its possibilities — or its threats. That tension has come to characterize Xi’s concurrent enthusiasm for China’s technological development and aspects of his common prosperity agenda that rein in big business (especially tech firms), limit the amount of time that minors can spend playing video games, and crack down on online fan communities, all while promoting the development of healthy and profitable digital culture.

Chinese netizens are not necessarily eager to heed the CAC’s encouragement that they spread “positive energy” and “socialist core values.” Online discourse at times displays sarcasm, humor, and, despite regulators’ and censors’ best efforts, personal discontent and direct criticism of the regime. These trends do not exactly follow authorities’ conception of a “clear and bright” cyberspace. Moments of domestic chaos or turmoil in which censors appeared paralyzed — such as the initial coronavirus outbreak in early 2020 or the November 2022 anti–zero-COVID protests, which occurred both online and offline — demonstrate that behind every censored post is a human who has to wait for orders to come before they can attempt to enforce them.

Xi’s obsession with national strength includes short-term interest in one-upping the United States, China’s major competitor, as well as the longer-term goal of achieving “national rejuvenation” — which will be, conveniently, both out of reach and relevant for the rest of Xi’s life. Moral purity is a major tenet of Xi’s plans for China’s rise, exhibited in his characterizations of the “China dream” that permeates the state’s policing of public discourse online and offline. The qinglang campaign, socialist core values, common prosperity, and other party propaganda pushes provide a redundant and mutually reinforcing blueprint for the CCP’s intentions when it comes to internet governance. Taken together, they have proved to be usefully multipurpose in migrating defense of the party’s offline “values” online.

Internet Freedom 

“While the DFI isn’t by its nature a binding treaty, it is evident who is signed up to [it] and who isn’t.” Tim Wu, former Special Assistant to the President for Technology and Competition Policy, said at an event last year hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York. “We think that the goal is the sending of signals by countries as to where they stand and what kind of principles they’re going to stand up for,” he continued. As in China, values define America’s pitch for its vision of a global internet.

American priorities for cyberspace have less to do with easing disorder and more to do with nurturing a vague, if promising, concept of digital protections modeled on the rights embedded in the U.S. constitution — and body politic. Relevant declarations prepared by the Biden administration read more as vision boards than authoritative policy documents, a reflection of the relatively loose internet regulatory environment in America.

A series of “should” statements with ambiguous or no authority, the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rightsseeks to defend freedom, democracy, and privacy. The other key document that the White House has released in this area, the Declaration for the Future of the Internet, is massive in scope and lofty in moral fortitude. 

The AI Bill of Rights is decidedly focused on the personal rights of individuals: “You and your communities should be free from unchecked surveillance,” it suggests, adding that surveillance technologies “should” be subject to “heightened” evaluation regarding their potential to do harm. The use of “you” is indicative of the authors’ focus on the individual — a characteristic of Western understandings of human rights — and provides a stark contrast with China’s ecosystem-driven visions for cleaning and clearing cyberspace. The jab at “unchecked surveillance” can be read as a critique of tech-enabled authoritarianism, corporate data greediness, or both — though official U.S. statements on this issue are careful to avoid direct criticism of the business community. The DFI, for example, seeks to “realize the benefits of data free flows with trust based on our shared values as like-minded, democratic, open and outward looking partners.”

Though it does not propose solutions to them, the AI Bill of Rights mentions some of the serious issues posed by emerging technologies: “Automated systems should be developed with consultation from diverse communities, stakeholders, and domain experts to identify concerns, risks, and potential impacts of the system,” it advises. This suggestion, paired with the declaration that “algorithms used in hiring and credit decisions have been found to reflect and reproduce existing unwanted inequities or embed new harmful bias and discrimination,” suggests that the administration intends to correct some of the major issues that those concerned about AI ethics have been flagging for years.

The DFI is similarly aspirational. “We call for a new Declaration for the Future of the Internet that includes all partners who actively support a future for the Internet that is open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure.” This language puts “security” on the same level as “global” — a strong contrast with the Chinese State Council’s white paper on cyberspace and its delineation of a separate section for China’s internet. That said, as Alex Enger of the Brookings Institution has argued, the Biden administration likely is not trying to influence China (or Russia) but instead aiming to attract countries with unstable democracies and states that have made repressive moves on the internet but have not constructed a comprehensive system of digital authoritarianism.

Vying Values 

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) differs from the U.S. approach in its specificity and enforceability; it differs from the Chinese approach in that it grants “rights” to the data holder and ensures transparency. The regulation, which went into effect in 2018, has been successful in that it takes individual control over personal data seriously. It stipulates, among other things, that companies, governments, and other organizations must obtain clear consent before collecting personal data; places protections on “sensitive” information like race, gender, and political affiliation; and requires that companies treat location data and other identifiers as personal data.

Unlike the United States’ DFI or AI Bill of Rights, the GDPR is a real attempt to put European Union “values” into practice. It is centered first and foremost on the right to privacy, a concept that Americans purport to value but score relatively poorly on protecting in practice (with the exceptionof California, which passed its own data protection law that was based largely on GDPR). And unlike China’s digital policy white papers and campaigns, the GDPR legally bestows digital rights upon the individual. The EU, while not one of two great powers, is in some senses “ahead” in the competition between digital systems. In terms of user numbers, EU tech companies cannot rival their peers in the United States or China. But Europe’s data regulations are already influencing standards for global companies since it is most expedient to adhere to the strictest standards when possible. The EU has also been a leader in AI regulation, though given the technical reality that AI is not entirely predictable and therefore poses inherent compliance challenges, it remains unclear whether well-intentioned AI regulations are even possible to enforce.   

The United States’ and China’s real and imagined “values” inform each country’s approach to regulating and shaping the future of the internet. The right to privacy, an American ethos, is the power to be detached from a powerful big brother — namely, the government. This government-focused framing gives lenience to corporations who are notorious for snooping and for business models constructed on surveillance and the eerily effective predictive capacity that it engenders. If this version wins, it is easy to imagine a global internet that takes corporate bottom lines as its priority and individuals’ free speech as its secondary, albeit frequently touted, concern.

In China’s highly censorious digital and analog discourse environment, the burden of rhetorical resilience falls on the people. They see what they see, imagine what they cannot, discuss what they find, tolerate what they cannot avoid, and, despite the risks, protest when they feel they must. The algorithms and regulations tailored to China’s fenced-in internet produce and streamline more than enough information to keep 1.4 billion minds occupied — but not fooled. As long as comprehensive and uncontested acceptance of the CCP’s rule is out of reach, true “internet sovereignty” will likely remain elusive.

Another of the DFI’s “should” statements reads, “The Internet should operate as a single, decentralized network of networks — with global reach and governed through the multistakeholder approach.” As long as China is part of the world and the CCP is in power, it will be difficult to rewind the clock to a time when a single internet might have been possible. The Chinese government has no motivation to tear down its Great Firewall or adhere to a rulebook rooted in international human rights norms. Considering this reality, the United States might distinguish more directly between the internet that it participates in — the free one — and China’s internet, which is populated by netizens who have minimal chance of accessing the open “network of networks” they envision. For better or worse, a separate, dynamic Chinese internet exists. Chinese regulations have succeeded in crafting an online environment that adheres to CCP laws, regulations, and repression. However, despite the party’s claims, this compliance by no means constitutes a comprehensive representation of Chinese culture.  

Future papers in this series will cover other areas of technological development and governance that the United States and China are pursuing with characteristic contrast. These topics include “innovation” and the degree to which the state should be involved in fostering it, as well as the complex supply chain politics surrounding key technologies like semiconductors. This series will also consider the Sinophone internet without PRC governance, as it exists in places such as Taiwan and diverse Chinese-speaking diaspora communities. It will also engage with surveillance strategies and methods by which PRC authorities pursue constant and ubiquitous monitoring of Chinese citizens. Lastly, it will examine what, if any, positive outcomes China’s unique digital regulations offer, including the PRC’s efforts to temper dangerous AI capacities such as deepfakes.

In many ways, the two countries’ approaches to digital governance reflect their real-life ethos and regime types. But even the most deeply ingrained governance instincts are tested by the internet, an inherently unpredictable and limitless resource whose power was not the purview of previous generations of leaders. Instead of rallying around the common challenges presented by new technologies, the United States and China appear more likely to insert every new digital development into their shared framework of immersive competition.

The Impending Failure of Good Intentions: DNB’s 5G Roll Out (Opinion)

Written by Dr Rais Hussin, President and Chief Executive Officer of EMIR Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

EMIR Research welcomes the continuous public engagement with DNB and their hired consultants, for, the aim of a debate is never a shallow victory but credible progress and, in this case, credible progress for the nation based on data, science and economics.

Though DNB has not been forthcoming, as DNB still does not answer the most pressing questions (“Malaysian 5G Rollout “Unanswerable” Questions”) but raises even more eyebrows instead by involuntarily (or voluntarily) giving out more details.

Nevertheless, this ongoing public engagement helps to keep track of what is coming out of DNB and spot potential red flags.

DETRIMENTAL IMPACT ON MALAYSIAN TELECOM INDUSTRY

DNB’s UK-based consultancy, Plum Consultancy, claims that EMIR Research misunderstood how DNB’s 5G Single Wholesale Network (SWN) works.

DNB-Plum explains at length how the “DNB approach is different and is not network sharing”, which is pure semantics and conveniently ignores the key issue that EMIR Research continuously emphasised based on hard evidence of science, data and economics. When individual MNOs have no freedom to fully deploy their active network equipment (and DNB, with the help of Plum, admits this fact themselves: “there will be one set of electronics… to carry data between base stations and end-user devices” which is widely understood to be active RAN sharing), we have a big problem — MNOs can no longer compete on the quality of network which is the key differentiating feature and all other features, including differentiation “on retail end” or “in terms of the services offered” which DNB keeps emphasising are only secondary to and totally dependent on the network quality.

If DNB-Plum has not grasped it from the first time, EMIR Research would like to reiterate that it is fully aware of and also acknowledged in its writings on numerous occasions that under DNB, the core networks will be by individual MNOs (at least until the implementation of 5G stand-alone solution).

However, this does not help the DNB’s argument because no matter how superior equipment you have at the core network level, it can do very little if the active network access equipment, which in the case of DNB is provided by one vendor and is entirely out of MNO’s control, provides substandard quality.

Globally and in the Malaysian market until this point, most differentiation between MNOs (other than pricing) has been based on critical innovation and differentiation in the RAN. In contrast, innovation in the core is minimal and, in turn, requires RAN-side support. In short, MNOs need to control both the core and access to compete effectively!

Note that GSM Association (GSMA), in its response to DNB, argumentatively echoes EMIR Research’s concern about this delinking of network ownership from service delivery and its various negative impacts on the industry and end consumers. 

And if Plum does not see this adverse effect on the telecom industry in Malaysia coming or does not want to see it (which is surprising, given their supposedly “over 15 years working on hundreds of such projects including extensive work on the deployment of 4G and 5G”) then maybe Plum could explain why SWN model turned out problematic for a handful of nations who attempted it for 4G and why the rest of the world so avoids it for 5G, including the UK where British mobile operators received 5G spectrum through auction. Apparently, Plum, a UK-based consultancy, has failed to convince their policymakers of the benefits of a nationwide SWN.

LOWER MOBILE DATA SERVICE PRICES UNDER SWN?

According to Plum, “in contrast, rational economic analysis indicates that EMIR’s proposal will lead to wholesale 5G costs [that are] four to five times higher than those of the SWN,” further explaining that “rolling out six 5G networks — one for each mobile operator — would require six times as many 5G base stations”.

This is a far-fetched assumption by Plum that telcos would not share base stations and other infrastructure! Given Plum’s claimed experience in the industry, they should be well aware that this has been one significant trend globally (Malaysia included) in the telecom industry for years now, even for 4G (what more for 5G where this is the only survival strategy), which makes the estimate by Plum that “the overall ten-year cost of 5G network ownership under this option [to] be four to five times greater than under an SWN”, a massively monumental overstatement.

Furthermore, MNOs can significantly reuse their existing infrastructure (in contrast to DNB’s current rollout) to lower total deployment costs — they would not “roll out a 5G network” but upgrade an existing 4G network to also support 5G. This is a very different scenario, and it is at far lower cost, especially with regard to ongoing or OPEX costs for the network.

However, Plum chooses to ignore the benefit of sharing fixed costs between the existing 4G network and the new 5G layer versus a much higher cost of adding a new 4G + 5G network as is required under the DNB’s current rollout.

Note that retail pricing of service to retail customers will consider the costs of both 4G and the 5G layers, at least until the 4G networks are withdrawn and switched off and it becomes stand-alone 5G.  So sharing, rather than duplicating the fixed costs between 4G and 5G, as in the case of the 5G rollout by individual MNOs, has clear benefits for retail customers.

Also, while being so focussed on the towers, DNB-Plum are silent about how much costs could be reduced by each respective MNO on the access equipment if the network is rolled out gradually in pace with demand and, importantly, in pace with the innovation in the industry and progressively reducing the cost of equipment!

As Plum acknowledges themselves the competition in the RAN infrastructure, which, as explained above, under DNB’s current proposition will be out of MNOs control, “is determined largely by the relevant standards bodies and then implemented by the global network vendors” but that is precisely where the big problem lies. Under the DNB’s current rollout model, MNOs will not be able to tap into this global pool of innovation by vendors!

Under DNB’s proposed model, each MNO would be locked for ten years, without access to vendor competition, with a fixed cost of equipment provided by one single supplier—as technology changes (becomes more advanced and cheaper), MNOs would not be able to continue to evaluate new options in terms of features and lower prices which will also hugely weight on the consumer prices.

Therefore, it is highly uncertain how “the end-user prices under the SWN are expected to be around 60% lower”, but it is highly certain, again, that this removal of innovation from the supply of 5G RAN will massively reduce competitive differentiation in the retail market and slow down the ongoing adoption of leading-edge RAN technologies for Malaysia while also compromising Malaysia’s ability to attract 4IR’s, 5IR’s and subsequent IR’s ecosystem players — massive opportunity cost for the nation the scale of which we probably would not be able even to grasp in its entirety.

SUFFICIENCY / INSUFFICIENCY OF 10,000 CELL SITES

Plum consultancy also defends the sufficiency of 10,000 cell sites to provide 90% populated area coverage with a dismissive “there is no evidence to suggest that these estimates (by DNB are faulty)”. Only they forget to attach solid evidence to substantiate the claim that they are correct. Where is the detailed technical report to substantiate that 10,000 cell sites will be sufficient to provide 90% populated area coverage, importantly, with the claimed 5G speed? How the populated area in terms of its density is defined has also never transpired in the discussion.

However, even more interesting is the following statement: “EMIR’s conclusion may have validity if, as it assumes, 5G spectrum is not available at 700 MHz”.

As it transpires now, DNB has 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 28GHz spectrum. Number of towers required to cover populated areas would be different depending on the frequency spectrum — 10,000 sites may be sufficient for 700 MHz, but more towers (and therefore substantially higher costs) would be associated with higher frequency spectrum. Until now DNB has not come crystal clear on this.

However, with 700 MHz, at best, we would be able to get 4G speed and the promise of 1Gbps speed will be gone. So 5G infrastructure, at 5G costs for 4G speed ?

Apparently, then, due to substantially increased coverage per cell site, 700 MHz band would be used to cover rural areas. If DNB is trying to change their goal-posts now and is telling us that we need 4G in the rural areas to “bridge the digital divide” (one of the key premises to their existence and so-called “supply-driven” approach) then this is exactly what EMIR Research and other experts have been telling all this while—that we do not need questionable and failed elsewhere SWN model to bridge the digital divide. Keep in mind 5G full functionality versus needs of the rural dwellers (Figure 1).

Therefore, for bridging digital divide there is a better and cheaper solution with older but well established technologies (see for example “Cheaper solution for rural broadband” or “Finding a cure for Malaysia’s broadband illness”). In short, Malaysia, and particularly rural areas are suffering due to the scarcity or even complete absence of passive network infrastructure, mainly fibre backhaul.

Therefore, EMIR Research, echoing the telecom experts’ opinion, has suggested that the primary focus of DNB should be to own and expand the existing passive network infrastructure only, while utilising for this purpose Universal Service Providers funds and prioritising rural areas, so that the large sums of tax-payers money could be saved and redirected elsewhere. Malaysia has many more pressing problems and impact per every dollar spent must be the priority now!

Furthermore, the proposed restructuring model for DNB will also resolve many other governance problems when the retail players are also DNB’s shareholders. There must be complete separation between retailers and wholesalers which is not what current DNB rollout model offers.

Given the seriousness of the issue, more details will be discussed in the Part 2 of this article as EMIR Research is trying, once again, to re-centre DNB-Plum on all the key issues. Hopefully we will have more direct answers from DNB-Plum, instead of rehashing of the archaic narratives that has been rebutted comprehensively by many including GSMA, EMIR and other telecom experts. We don’t want as what Shakespeare once said : “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”, to continue unabated.

Davos 2023: 5 takeaways from an Asian perspective (Opinion)

Written by KENJI KAWASE and AKITO TANAKA, Nikkei Asia chief business news correspondents

DAVOS, Switzerland — The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum that concluded on Friday was notable in the growing presence of Asian players.

The five-day session was held in-person in its traditional January slot for the first time in three years, bringing thousands of public and private-sector leaders to this small Swiss town.

In this typically Eurocentric gathering that touched on a wide-ranging topics from the war in Ukraine, supply chains to gender inequality, Asian business leaders offered deep insights into various issues.

Nikkei Asia has selected five key takeaways from an Asian perspective.

Who was more visible, China, India or ASEAN?

The profile of Asian participants in the annual meeting has been rising the past few years. India seems to be the most visible among regional peers, with major tech companies staging booths and a large billboard of Prime Minister Narendra Modi displayed on the city’s Promenade. Indian business leaders were at the forefront of debates over technology and supply chain issues.

Raghuram Rajan, a University of Chicago finance professor and former Indian central bank chief, mentioned this shift in the context of how IT service sector companies, like Infosys, are broadening their global reach.

“You’re seeing a fairly strong push up in the service exports at this point, and it could do far more. You see at Davos a lot of Indian firms are trying to expand their reach,” Rajan said.

While Association of Southeast Asian Nations members, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, sent large delegations as well, China’s visibility has ostensibly dropped, at least compared with three years ago. A veteran Davos participant attributed this to a “calendar factor,” as the conference was held a week before Lunar New Year, and not to a decline in China’s standing.

Can technology save the world?

While leaders in Davos kept trying to find clues to solving global problems such as climate change, the energy crisis, and inclusive growth, executives of tech giants boasted that many of their innovations could offer solutions.

Arvind Krishna, chief executive of IBM, said the company’s quantum computer would provide the ability to solve problems in areas such as materials science as soon as this year. He pointed out that this could lead to the development of a new fertilizer that would help food shortages and accelerate the innovation of electric vehicle batteries.

Amid concerns over a global economic slowdown, even tech giants are not immune to layoffs. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella argued that digital technology, like artificial intelligence, “can help boost” the overall economy by increasing productivity in many industries.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of the Indian group Bharti Enterprises, said the spread of faster 5G communication technology would help emerging economies receive the same services as developed ones. The chairman added that with this, “millions” of people will be able to attend events such as the Davos conference — which has been often been called a gathering of the world’s elites.

‘Re-globalization’ of the supply chain

Will the end of globalization of international politics and the world economy continue, or is this the beginning of “re-globalization?” This was one of the hottest topics discussed in Davos this year. And the global semiconductor industry, which has been hit hard by a supply chain crisis caused by the pandemic, is leaning toward re-globalization.

At a session, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger stressed that the American chipmaker is “fixing” the high concentration of high-end semiconductor production in Taiwan by adding new factories in the U.S.

“We had allowed ourselves to become acutely dependent on single points of failure in the supply chain,” Gelsinger said, adding the industry needs a “balanced, resilient supply chain.”

Ashwini Vaishnaw, India’s minister for railways, communications, electronics and information technology, who was on stage with Gelsinger, said the importance of India as a global tech manufacturing base is increasing as the tech rivalry between Washington and Beijing deepens.

“This is made in India,” the minister said, showing off the latest iPhone. He added the country would continue to attract the chip manufacturing industry, which is higher in the tech value chain.

Is China rescuing the global economy?

China emerged as a main focus in the debate surrounding global growth. While debates over whether, or how deep, a recession will hit the U.S. and Europe cast a shadow over most outlooks for the future, China’s unexpected U-turn from its stringent zero-COVID policy has provided a sense of optimism to some.

Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, hinted Friday on upgrading the global growth outlook based on two major factors — the expectation of inflation receding and the “prospect for China to boost growth.”

While similar sentiment was heard during the conference, many expressed skepticism about such optimism.

Kevin Rudd, president and chief executive officer of Asia Society and a former Australian prime minister, expects China “to face a combination of residual domestic headwinds and also the international headwinds,” including strategic rivalries against the U.S.

“If China and the U.S. can keep certain equilibrium, then we should see reasonable growth. If we don’t, then that will also act as an external headwind,” he said.

From left, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. (Source photos by Yonhap/Kyodo, AP and Kenji Kawase)

No top stars from the U.S. and China

According to the organizer, over 50 heads of state or government attended the event in person, a record high. A few of them were from Asia, including South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and President Jose Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste, who were all newly elected last year.

However, no top leaders from China or the U.S. were present. For that matter, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was the only G-7 leader at the event, while Russian politicians were also absent.

The major headline-grabbing news on U.S. and China occurred elsewhere in Switzerland during the Davos conference. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who did not attend the WEF event, met Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who was dispatched to Davos, on Wednesday, where both sides agreed to have had a “candid” discussion. The stage and the spotlight were in Geneva, not Davos.

The biggest tech trends of 2023, according to over 40 experts (Opinion)

Written by Mark Sullivan, senior writer for Fast Company.

Judging from my Twitter feed, 2022 was a very noisy year for tech. We followed the Elon Musk drama, marvalled at the creations of generative AI, watched crypto markets tank and FTX implode, and (some of us at least) gazed deeply into the metaverse—and yawned. 

Things could get more serious in 2023. More governments around the world may put checks on the tech industry’s power by placing restrictions on how it does business. The Supreme Court will decide whether social platforms can be stripped of the special legal protections they get from lawsuits over user content. As generative AI (such as ChatGPT) begins finding real application in business, the lack of transparency of the technology, and its unintended consequences, may make headlines.

Those are just the broad strokes. Again this year, I opened my Rolodex looking for the smartest and best-placed people in and around the tech industry to offer their 2023 predictions. I asked startup founders, Big Tech execs, VCs, scholars, and other experts to speculate on the coming year within their field of interest. In all, we collected more than 40 predictions about 2023. Together, they offer a smart composite look at the things we’re likely to be talking about by this time next year.

AI AND ROBOTICS

Emad Mostaque, founder and CEO, Stability AI (Stable Diffusion)

In 2023, a wide range of open-source AI models will drive adoption across enterprises toward the end of the year as many of these models mature and become better understood. These models will likely take a year or two to become easily used however, and enterprises will need significant help in this transition period. The biggest opportunity in AI is combining models of different types to handle mixed media input and output. This really blurs the boundaries between human and computer and is something with the potential to disrupt many industries rapidly.

Andrew Feldman, CEO and cofounder, Cerebras Systems

I believe generative AI is underhyped, not overhyped. With this technology, the problems of translating from any language, to any other language, will be completely solved. We’re going to be unable to tell the difference between human-generated content and AI-produced content—across written content, video, digital art, and more. We see the AI market growing exponentially, and in 2023, we expect to see an AI company passing $50 billion in valuation. 

Lama Nachman, director of intelligent systems research lab, Intel Labs

Next year, I believe there will be more focus on progressing generative AI, advancing human/AI collaboration and responsibly developing AI technologies so they do not marginalize people, use data in unethical ways or discriminate against different populations. As thousands of companies across all industries continue to make AI breakthroughs, 2023 will be a foundational year for the industry to collaborate and transparently share learnings to mitigate risk and further drive innovation.

Shan He, senior director of engineering, Foursquare

It’s been talked about for years, and we have seen many encouraging business applications using machine learning to optimize operations and improve user experience. . . . We have also seen new emerging businesses focusing on different stages of the machine learning development life cycle to train and productionalize ML models to real world applications. Right now, businesses everywhere are trying to do more with less and coping with a changing tech talent landscape. This will lead to more reliance on technology, and an increased need for optimization. 

Rodrigo Liang, cofounder and CEO, SambaNova

We see companies prioritizing AI investments to drive cost savings in the immediate term to weather the macro-economic challenges, potentially making room for growth investments in prioritized areas of the business in 2023. Foundation models are enabling many of these breakthrough AI capabilities that are delivering value that was not previously possible. Given the economic climate we’re in, we foresee the government and the most forward-looking organizations (banks, research organizations, oil, and gas companies) leveraging AI to drive ROI and cost savings in text-heavy workflows like fraud and compliance, customer service, and operational efficiency.

Diego Pantoja-Navajas, VP, AWS Supply Chain

We are looking forward to better, more predictive supply chains that can anticipate what customer demand cycles will be, as well as anticipating what likely supply chain risks will be and ways to overcome them. Advances in AI and machine learning move quickly, and we believe that supply chains will benefit from these developments in a very significant way in the coming years. 

Ashok Srivastava, senior VP & chief data officer, Intuit 

Generative AI . . . needs to develop and mature before it can safely be used in industries where the accuracy of statements are critical, such as in finance or medicine. Within the next several years, generative AI will likely play a pivotal role in helping create personalized conversational systems to provide financial or medical advice and guidance directly to customers. In the ideal scenario, generative AI could provide human experts financial insights on areas such as cash flow and money movement.

Percy Liang, director, Stanford HAI Center for Research on Foundation Models

In the world of artificial intelligence, foundation models will become increasingly capable; they will be able to generate text, images, videos, code, and even proteins with uncanny fidelity. A whole host of new products and user experiences will emerge around these models, as will new risks related to disinformation, copyright, jobs, and more. As foundation models are moving at breakneck speed, it is paramount that we improve their transparency, revealing what these models can do and what’s behind them, as well as develop community norms for their development and deployment.

Beena Ammanath, executive director, Global AI Institute, Deloitte

“Trust” will be the most important word in the year ahead. Every company is now a technology company in some capacity, and the commercialization of emerging technologies like AI, quantum computing, and virtual reality is happening faster than developers can anticipate unintended and potentially harmful consequences of misuse. Until standards and policies are in place governing all categories of emerging technology, it’s critical that organizations take it upon themselves to ensure the technology they create, or use is ethical and trustworthy. 

Ken Washington, VP & GM, Consumer Robotics, Amazon

In 2023, robots will evolve to play a more important and useful role in our homes and businesses. They will develop the ability to have more sophisticated interactions with humans thanks to enormous advancements in AI and machine learning, such as breakthrough multimodal abilities that enable robots to learn new things similarly to how we as humans learn. They will perform useful tasks, entertain, and provide companionship to their owners.

VIRTUAL SPACES

Ash Jhaveri, VP of Reality Labs Partnerships, Meta

In the coming year, we’ll see more companies partner to deliver solutions in VR that will make teams run better than any other piece of technology that they have available today. I guarantee that every enterprise has at least one if not five or 10 things that could actually be much better if they were in 3D. Traditionally competitive brands will increasingly work together to meet the growing need for immersive, interoperable services.

Hari Vasudev, SVP, Retail Tech Platforms and country head, Walmart Global Tech

AR/VR will be a gamechanger in bringing personalized experiences, such as virtual try-ons for apparel, eyewear, or even scanning shelves to find items that match one’s lifestyle and diet. Over a period of time, voice technology will emerge as a natural part of one’s shopping experience and an important tool for retailers to reduce customer friction.

Nitzan Mekel-Bobrov, chief AI officer, eBay

Great progress has been made in low cost generalized 3D visualization of physical items. This will accelerate adoption in 2023 with broader and deeper rollout of 3D scans showing up in retail. As retailers adopt 3D more broadly we’ll see an increase in their experiential applications, like 3D NFTs and AR visualization.

Jeremy King, SVP Engineering, Pinterest

[B]rands need to invest further in building out their AR technology capabilities to ensure they are set up to be inclusive of all audiences. It’s no longer enough to just offer one AR powered filter per item; instead brands will need to ensure that their filters are tailored for a diverse group of consumers from the outset. Consumers are not going to scroll through a list of filters to find the one that best matches their individuality. 

Emmanuelle Rivet, TMT & Global Technology Leader, PwC

The metaverse is a top line agenda item for CIOs and CTOs; 66% of executives report being actively engaged in how the metaverse will deliver sustainable business outcomes. Virtually every member of the C-suite will enter the spotlight to create a sustainable metaverse adoption plan in 2023, including assessing and mitigating potential risks (cyber and privacy among others). We’ll also see more businesses investing in a Chief Metaverse Officer next year, if it is not already in the remit of a Chief Innovation Officer. 

CRYPTO AND WEB3

Lindsey Li, investor, Bessemer Venture Partners

Ethereum will maintain dominance of developer mindshare as Ethereum Virtual Machines (EVMs) continue to drive network effects amongst builders. We will also continue to see fallout from ecosystems with FTX involvement but this will not deter more alt Layer 1s from cropping up, cycling in and out of favor. We predict these trend cycles will get shorter as new L1s will not have access to the capital of bull markets past, thereby minimizing the size of potential ecosystem funds and marketing budgets previously used to attract tourists to the next shiny thing. 

Kendrick Nguyen, cofounder and CEO, Republic

Tokenization will transform the relationship between companies and their communities. It will become the norm for companies of all shapes and sizes—not just “Web3 companies”—to offer their communities of customers, fans, and supporters upside in their growth via a token issuance. Tokenization unlocks retail participation in private markets via liquidity, fractionalization, quick settlement, and transparency, which benefits both sides of the transaction. 

Sajid Sadi, chief executive, Samsung Neon (AI)

I feel like we had a lot of hype and snake oil in crypto until 2022. With the “crypto winter” that’s happening right now, there is a lot of effort to take a real hard look at the underlying fundamentals, and how those fundamentals are governed, supported, and ensured for the layperson user. Now that we’ve given the whole mess a good shake, I expect the bad actors and shamans to desert the ship, and for a new era of responsible and business-mined crypto to take its place and start delivering some meaningful non-get-rich-quick results.

SECURITY 

Kathy Kay, EVP and CIO, Principal Financial Group

Leveraging AI and machine learning will help legacy institutions better mitigate risk next year, enabling them to detect and react to cyber threats faster and in real time, predict future threats and incidents, and identify fraud/minimize associated losses. While none of us have a crystal ball to tell us what exactly will happen in 2023, new technology is helping us better plan for whatever uncertainties we may face.

Tim Guleri, managing director, Sierra Ventures

Cyber criminals are feasting on the reactive way in which our most important applications are protected when they run on cloud infrastructure. As application workloads continue to move into the cloud and also from cloud to the edge, real-time cloud-native Application Protection software will become a requirement to thwart the rise in sophisticated and costly attacks by cyber criminals. 

Leyla Bilge, technical director, Norton Labs

In 2023, we expect to see cyber criminals use advanced forms of AI technology, such as programs like DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion, or AI chatbots like ChatGPT to boost the effectiveness of their scams. These programs are accessible and easy to use, so cybercriminals can quickly create realistic images that add more depth and human touch to their scam. However, existing AI solutions are not perfect or foolproof, and it’s possible to be able to detect when they are used in attacks and scams.

Dr. Robert (Bobby) Blumofe, CTO and EVP, Akamai Technologies

Just imagine: If a system like ChatGPT has access to any writings (emails, social media postings, articles, whatever) by your boss, an executive in your company, a colleague, or even a friend, then it can write a phishing lure that sounds convincingly like it’s coming from that person. Attackers will quickly gain the ability to write automated email or SMS messages by the millions, each one customized for an individual recipient, and each one with convincing human-like qualities.

Fran Rosch, CEO, ForgeRock

With the threat of an economic downturn, many companies are conducting hiring freezes and, unfortunately, massive layoffs, causing insider threats to rise to crisis levels. To fill in workforce gaps, many companies will turn to consultants. However, these consultants and contractors can bring unintended risk of breaches to an organization’s doorstep. They often get access to sensitive information and are allowed on company networks, but their security practices and training may differ from full-time employees. 

Sharon Mandell, chief information officer, Juniper Networks

As organizations transition toward hybrid cloud models, companies still need to spend on tools to keep their existing infrastructure running the way it is—and avoid security pitfalls mid-migration. At the same time, there is a ton of pressure to satisfy government edicts for security as well as keep up resilience in the face of more ransomware. In 2023, CIOs will be forced to make this journey as cost-effective as possible by ramping up efforts to educate the biggest security vulnerability they have: their employees. 

STARTUPS AND INVESTING

Mark Surman, executive director, Mozilla 

[T]he last economic downturn produced a whole new crop of successful tech companies, like Uber and AirBNB. We should all be asking: what kind of companies are likely to thrive in this downturn? We’re seeing a lot of founders taking a fresh spin on empowering users (think Firefox or Signal, but for the AI era). These companies have a real chance to grow over the next couple of years, which could in turn define the next decade of tech. 

David Magerman, managing partner, Differential Ventures

Fundraising as a business model is dead. Valuations in the tech industry will ultimately settle above pre-pandemic levels, but down from 2021. The top companies will be surprisingly closer to the record highs. There is still a significant amount of undeployed cash in venture funds at all stages. Investors and managers are still smarting from recent pain, and appropriately chastened by overly exuberant valuations, but they will have to deploy their capital eventually. Once markets and macroeconomic forces stabilize, we should see the strong companies returning to 2021 valuations.

Santi Subotovsky, general partner, Emergence Capital

As VC funding isn’t as widely available, [SaaS] startups will more often be founded by highly driven entrepreneurs focusing on issues they are truly passionate about. More experienced tech talent, freed up because of reorgs and layoffs, or because employees jump ship as stock option values decline, will join or found those startups. Many of the new companies founded will focus on creating solutions for the hybrid workforce, which will require an entirely new tech stack. 

Dustin Robinson, cofounder and managing principal, Iter Investments (a psychedelics venture capital firm)

We are currently in a mental health crisis, and the current pharmaceuticals aren’t doing the trick. Meanwhile, there’s been an explosion of companies developing virtual reality programs to serve mental health. These fully immersive experiences have the potential to create a transcendent experience and allow people to overcome various mental health indications.

Ryan Denehy, CEO, Electric

Most businesses will realize that they bought way too many SaaS applications! They can probably do everything they are doing now with 1/3 to 1/2 as many standalone apps.

HYBRID WORK

Nicole Herskowitz, VP of Microsoft Teams, Microsoft

Over the last two years, innovation in workplace technology has taken-off at light speed, with no signs of slowing down. Now more than ever we are seeing new patterns of work emerging that are asynchronous, interactive, and intelligent. My prediction for 2023 is that we will see more workplace tools span the full spectrum of work styles and take advantage of the convergence of productivity, collaboration, data, AI, business process, and workflow automation.

Noah Weiss, chief product officer, Slack 

In 2023, organizations will find new ways to continue fostering the best parts of the old office, like candid conversations over coffee, while taking advantage of asynchronous tools and new digitally native forms of coworking. This will be the year we work together effectively, no matter where we are or when we’re working, while building teams that feel connected, inclusive, and agile. 

Howie Liu, cofounder and CEO, Airtable

As every organization needs to move faster to meet customer demands, knowledge work is getting more fractured. Companies need a way to unify their teams and connect their data, enabling people to work autonomously, yet in coordinated fashion. We see a problem within enterprises where it’s not enough to just have individual apps. Individual apps need to be connected and allow the entire enterprise to share a source of truth.

Cynthia Stoddard, SVP and CIO, Adobe

[A] priority area for CIOs is creating digital-first employee experiences for the hybrid workplace. My team works diligently to develop and deploy the right environments, tools, and processes that enable employees to be productive and do their best work—from anywhere. As digital becomes the default, experimentation and investment are needed to explore cutting edge-technology and test collaborative workplace tools with a holistic and human-centered experience in mind.

Meg Bear, president and chief product officer, SAP SuccessFactors

Unrelenting economic pressure has brought about global uncertainty, with almost every industry seeing the effects. As we look to 2023, we must rely on technologies that help organizations emphasize employee engagement and wellness, and help prepare the workforce for the challenges that lie ahead. Upskilling and redeployment of talent have become a necessity in today’s constantly changing workplace.

ENERGY

Mariona Company, global head of sustainable packaging, HP 

Sustainable manufacturing strategies will reach a tipping point in 2023. Winning in today’s market, where 77% of consumers say they would stop buying products from a company that had been found guilty of greenwashing, requires more action and less talk than ever before. Companies will need to rethink the way they make, deliver, and use products, as well as their packaging.

Kit Colbert, chief technology officer, VMware 

2023 will bring refocused efforts on near and long-term energy efficiency across the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. While the sector has made great strides over the past decade, it still accounts for approximately 7% of the world’s annual energy consumption. Expect to see ICT [take] advantage of innovations around cloud and networking technology optimizations, as well as leveraging cross cloud and application management solutions which factor energy efficiency as a first-class driver.

Neal Hansch, CEO and managing partner, Silicon Foundry

In conjunction with the ongoing and ever-increasing adoption of electric powered vehicles, it’s important to emphasize that the charging infrastructure required to support these vehicles must continue to roll out at a rapid pace in parallel . . . designed to accommodate homes, corporate campuses, gas stations, highway stops, and more. Solutions to meet this demand continue to flow from both the energy majors, as well as pure play startups alike. 

Zipporah “Zip” Allen, CMO, Strava

An active community inspires cities to invest in infrastructure and our trends in exercise, commutes, and other activity patterns ultimately impact city planning. We’re predicting a continued surge in e-bike usage similar to this year’s 26% increase compared to last year. The trend lines indicate that conscious and intentional movement is here to stay. With more people opting into human powered movement, it will lead to better outcomes for individuals and communities collectively.

Michael Sachse, CEO, Dandelion Energy

We will spend a lot of time talking about heat pumps in 2023. Heat pumps are the only way to heat homes without fossil fuels. Europe is being forced to transition, and many U.S. states are moving in this direction as well. There will be a lot of new products and new business models in the space next year. And customers will be talking about them more than ever before.

CREATOR ECONOMY

Sam Yam, cofounder, president, and CTO, Patreon

Creators are seeing how quickly trends are emerging and fading, and these rapid cycles will only continue to condense in 2023 as our collective attention span continues to shrink (with short-form TikToks, IG Reels, and YouTube Shorts!). During [the pandemic], we saw genres like crypto surge to over 100% earnings growth over two months, only to see that growth disappear within the next few months. Creators are so innovative, though, that they’re usually the first to surface these trends and shape the culture around them.

Marija Radulovic-Nastic, CTO, creative and development, Electronic Arts

[The] combination of AI and human creativity can give us quality and quantity far better/bigger than humans alone can do. For me, 2023 is going to be all about generative AI empowering the creatives to create faster and we will continue to see even more adoption of this technology, which will significantly impact the future of how content is created.

HEALTH AND WEARABLES

Oliver Kharraz, MD, CEO and cofounder, Zocdoc

The use of telehealth will continue to fall in 2023, with the exception of mental health appointments, cementing virtual care as a niche method of care delivery. While telehealth surged in the early months of the pandemic, when many Americans relied on virtual visits to safely get the care they needed, an overwhelming majority of patients are choosing to see their doctors in-person again. Outside of mental health, people see telehealth as a supplement to, not a replacement for, in-person care.

Sean Duffy, CEO and cofounder, Omada Health

As both patients and providers face broader financial constraints in 2023, and the cost of doctor visits, medications, and treatments skyrocket, it’s imperative that technology helps people simplify their long-term health choices and save money. Virtual care will become the bridge that allows people to not have to choose between paying for gas and paying for a doctor’s visit or medication. 

Jake Sattlemair, CEO, Wellframe

Big systemic shifts don’t play well in the healthcare space. For health plans, dealing with massive disruption rocks the boat internally and the ramifications are usually on the members that are left confused. Healthcare consists of large organizations, regulation, and bureaucracy, and real change often comes iteratively, and takes time to hit critical mass. Digital health tools can be a critical enabler allowing plans to reimagine what they offer to members, but new technology is less about the technology itself and more about mindset shifts.

Liana Douillet Guzman, CEO, FOLX Health

First, if the last few weeks are any indication, we’ll see ChatGPT continue to build incredible momentum. I’m excited by the potential this technology has for expanding access to equitable care, but we need to learn from the mistakes made with social media to ensure we are taking an ethical and thoughtful approach to creating virtual dialogue. 

Rhonda Vetere, former CIO/CTO, Estée Lauder Companies

Focus on wellness and mental health are at an all time high, and going into 2023 we will continue to see these at the forefront with technology being a key factor for tracking overall personal health. I believe there will be an even greater focus on tech apps and gadgets that aggregate wellness data from all applications.

Gabriel Mecklenberg, cofounder, Hinge Health

[As] we look ahead to 2023, equitable healthcare access means that AI-powered care experiences must work on low-end phones, for people of all shapes and colors, and in everyday environments. We must ensure AI is used to bridge the care gap, not widen it. 

TECH REGULATION

Kyle Wiens, CEO, iFixit

Right to Repair. We’ve hit a critical mass of interest in and demand for Right to Repair laws. We’re going to see an upending in the way that companies sell consumer electronics. It’s preposterous that you still can’t buy new batteries for the AirPods. Consumers should have the information, parts, and tools to fix their products. Over twenty states are poised and ready to file bills in 2023 aimed at restoring repair rights for everything from tractors to refrigerators.

Tech Antitrust. I think we’re going to see governments start to gradually unroll monopolies like the App Store’s razor-wire walled garden that blocks all kinds of useful apps, from web browsers to repair software. Why can’t I have a chat app that talks to iMessage and Whatsapp? Why won’t Apple approve an app that tells you how many battery cycles your iPhone has used up? People are fed up, and I expect to see real policies pushed out to roll back this monopolistic abuse of power.

Marisa Tricarico, North America lead for Responsible AI, Accenture

We’ll be talking about more Responsible AI and AI regulation in 2023. Despite perceptions that it might stifle innovation, AI regulation provides organizations with clarity about the boundaries, so they can push innovation to the limit without destroying hard-earned trust built with their customers, shareholders and society at large. And companies are already preparing: Accenture’s latest research surveying 850 global executives found almost half of businesses (45%) plan to commit at least a fifth of their AI budgets to meeting regulatory requirements by 2024.

Indonesia’s Advancing Digital Cooperation with the GCC Countries (Opinion)

Written by Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat, a journalist and academician from Indonesia.

Indonesia’s relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have been harmonious and especially fruitful in recent years. These bilateral relationships have spread beyond the economic realm, as both sides have strengthened cooperation in the political and cultural spheres. Indonesia-Gulf relations have also progressed on the technology front — though this blossoming area of cooperation has received little, if any media and scholarly attention.

The first significant instance of Indonesia-Gulf technology took place in 2008, when Qatar became the majority stakeholder in Indosat, one of Indonesia’s largest telecommunication providers.[1] Today, Qatar holds a 65% stake in Indosat.[2] In 2021,[3] the company, now known as “Indosat Ooredoo,” launched its first commercial 5G services in the city of Solo, in Central Java.[4] The new 5G service was expected to provide Indosat Ooredoo’s consumer and business customers with access to enhanced mobile broadband Internet, enabling them to meet growing demand in Indonesia for digital content and services over mobile networks.

For Indonesia,[5] the development of 5G technology would help accelerate the digital transformation of Indonesian society and stimulate innovation in businesses across all industries. If Ooredo’s 5G service were to reach its full potential, it would help move the nation towards a 5G-enabled future. Although for now the service is only available in Solo, Ooreedo also plans to extend the commercial roll-out to other major cities in Indonesia, including Jakarta, Surabaya, and Makassar, where demand for data services is high.[6]

Last year, Indosat Ooredoo also approved a $6 billion merger of telco units of Qatar’s Ooredoo and Hong Kong’s CK Hutchison (0001.HK) and set a deadline of 2025 for the merged entity to ramp up its services.[7] The deal would make the merged entity, Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison (ISAT.JK), Indonesia’s second biggest telecoms company after state-backed Telkomsel. In November, the Indonesian government granted preliminary approval for the merger. After the merger takes place, it is expected that the firm would increase its tower sites by at least 11,400 by 2025 and expand its cellular services to cover a minimum of 7,660 more villages or districts by 2025.[8] The firm also plans to improve its service quality by increasing download and upload throughput by at least 12.5% by 2025.[9]

In addition to the Indosat story, businesses in Qatar have also participated in various digital expos in Indonesia.[10] Acknowledging the growing number of tech savvy Indonesian consumers, these expos focus on digital lifestyle and services in e-commerce, social media, digital campaign, mobile apps, web hosting, and web design, as well as services in the financial, banking, insurance, and tourism sectors. The Indonesian government, for its part, has reached out to Qatar. In July 2020, then-Indonesian Minister of Communication and Information (Menkominfo) Johnny G. Plate, meeting with Qatar’s ambassador to Indonesia, Fawziya Edrees Salman Al-Sulaiti, extended an invitation to the Qatari  government to invest in Indonesia’s telecommunications sector and thereby help accelerate the country’s digital transformation.[11]

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), too, has exhibited interest in the development of Indonesia’s digital economy. In 2019, the Indonesian government held a bilateral meeting with UAE’s Minister of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Omar Sultan Al Olama during the United Nations General Assembly.[12] The meeting discussed the use of AI technology in all fields, particularly on how it can improve public service.[13] The two Ministers agreed to develop initiatives that will reduce the gap between the government and the private sector in the use of technology.[14]During the meeting the two countries also signed an MoU on monitoring unfair business competition in the digital sector.[15]

Over the past three years, these agreements have yielded tangible results. In July 2022, for instance, UAE EdTech platform, Alef Education, agreed to provide its free digital service to Indonesian students.[16] The service includes lessons in mathematics and Arabic language.

In addition, the UAE, in its existing US$10 billion funding commitment to the Indonesia Investment Authority (INA) for Indonesia’s new capital project, has committed to invest in E-learning and digital infrastructure as part of Indonesia’s plan to build the new city using green and environmentally friendly technology.[17]

In November 2021, Bank Indonesia and the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) signed a MoU to work closely together across three main areas: digital innovation in payments and financial services to enable more efficient and secure transactions; cross-border payment systems including retail payments; and frameworks for anti-money laundering (AML) and combatting the financing of terrorism (CFT).[18] As part of the Indonesia-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership (IUAE-CEPA) finalized in early 2022, Indonesia and the UAE also agreed to boost ties on digital economy and supporting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in adopting digital platforms.[19]

Technological cooperation between Indonesia and the UAE has involved not just state actors but private sector actors as well. The most important example of Indonesian-Emirati private sector tech cooperation has taken place in the health care sector, between UAE’s G42 and two of Indonesia’s leading health companies, Kimia Farma, and Bio Farma. Agreements forged between these firms encompass research, development, production, and distribution of products based on laser technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for COVID-19 screening.[20] Also noteworthy is that in 2021 G42 agreed to work with one of Indonesia’s telecommunication service providers Smartfren in setting up a data center with a capacity of 1000 megawatts.[21]

Additionally in the telecoms sector, UAE’s Thuraya Telecommunications Company and Indosat Ooredoo have signed an MoU to develop a new range of services by combining Indosat products with Thuraya Satellite technology and devices for business customers in Indonesia.[22] New services will be developed using Indosat SIM cards roaming on the Thuraya network as well as bundling satellite devices with Indosat Ooredoo digital applications.[23] Thuraya and Indosat plan to develop, at a later stage, additional use cases for the burgeoning internet of things (IoT) market.[24]

The satellite-powered business applications allow organizations to extend their services beyond terrestrial networks, whenever they have remote connectivity requirements across various extreme environmental conditions. Indosat has identified an extensive range of specific sector opportunities for Thuraya land, data, and maritime services. The full scope of markets now set for transformational communications capabilities across Indonesia includes oil and gas, and mining; plantations; high end yachting, merchants, and fishing; and military and police services.

Jakarta-Abu Dhabi digital cooperation is not just a one-way street. Last year, it was reported that an Indonesian unicorn investor, East Ventures, was interested to invest in the UAE startups.[25] The growing closeness between the two countries in the digital sector has made the has led Indonesia to regard the UAE as a ‘strategic partner’ in developing its digital ecosystem.[26]

Indonesia-Saudi Arabia digital collaboration has also begun to gain traction. In 2019, the Bandung Institute of Technology agreed to develop a weather detection system for Saudi Arabia.[27] The Hydrometeorological Hazard Early Warning System (H-HEWS) can forecast sandstorms, heat waves, heavy rain, and other extreme weather, with an accuracy of 85%. This endeavor is particularly noteworthy because it illustrates that Indonesia-Gulf tech cooperation is not a one-way street and might indicate considerable untapped potential for further collaboration.

In 2021, the Saudi government invited Indonesia to become a founding member of the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO), which is aimed at serving as a multilateral platform for digital cooperation.[28] In September 2022, the Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha met with Indonesian officials to discuss ways to enhance cooperation in the areas of digital economy growth, emerging technologies, digital government, technical talent development, innovation promotion, and space technologies.[29] This meeting built upon the wide-ranging 2019 MoU with Riyadh,[30] which envisioned offering facilities for Saudi investment in Indonesia’s digital economy sector, including spurring the development of new unicorn companies;[31] the exchange of information, experience, and knowledge among experts; measures to enable the penetration of Indonesia’s digital products or technology in Saudi Arabia; and the establishment of a Digital Task Force.[32]

Although details regarding the schedule for implementation of some of the elements of the MoU have yet to emerge, one notable breakthrough occurred in September 2022, when a joint fund was established to support Indonesian startups seeking to expand their operations into the Middle Eastern market.[33]One month later, the Saudi government launched the Umrah platform, known as Nusuk, in Jakarta.[34] The platform, which is available in Indonesian, serves to simplify arrival procedures for visitors who wish to travel for Umrah and various other new services such as visa facilities, permits, ordering processes and procedures along with Umrah packages. In November 2022, both sides agreed to cooperate on digital transformation, innovation, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence in the field of energy.[35]

Indonesia has also developed ties with Oman in the technological sector. In December 2020, for instance, Oman, represented by International Emerging Technology Company of Oman (ETCO)  and Indonesia, Awadah Group Indonesia, agreed to develop a linguistic platform using Augmented Reality & Artificial Intelligence.[36] Under the name Salam Tech, the partnership would launch a unique application and content designed for the global market, which would commence in Indonesia, followed by plans for expansion in Southeast Asia and beyond.[37] The initiative would allow the introduction of Omani-Arabic calligraphy and other works of art in digital form to Indonesian people. The agreement between ETCO and Awadah Group was followed by a commitment by Jakarta and Muscat in 2021 to support each other’s digital transformation.[38] In August 2022, an Indonesian company, Gravel, which creates a mobile app to help contractors find construction workers, was invited by the Omani government for a possible cooperation on creating similar application in Oman.[39]

Indonesia and Kuwait have signed agreements in 2019 on research on digital technology for SMEs and e-commerce, as well as on data and technology.[40]Such frameworks could facilitate the digital ties between the two countries in the future. Although concrete initiatives have yet to materialize, the recent progress made in digital cooperation between Indonesia and the other Gulf States suggests that before too long Indonesia and Kuwait will find ways to collaborate in the digital and creative economy fields. 

Conclusion

As Indonesia is currently working to accelerate their digital transformation,[41] the country sees the GCC countries as prospective partners to achieve its goals. In recent years, the government in Jakarta has exerted efforts to improve access to technology and communications in some of its regions, especially poor areas and the eastern part of the country, which still lack technological infrastructure and digital connectivity. Indonesia has found a welcome reception to its outreach from the Gulf Arab countries.

Yet the Gulf Arab states are not alone in seeking to increase their digital foothold in Indonesia. Other countries, notably China, have also been doing so.[42]Growing Chinese engagement in the digital space, though, raises some concerns, including the possibility of espionage and surveillance, as well as excessive dependency. In this context, the Gulf States could offer Indonesia the ability to move beyond its traditional technological partners while at the same time serving as a gateway for the GCC countries to expand their investments in the tech sector in the wider Southeast Asian region. All in all, it is likely that technological cooperation between Indonesia and the GCC countries will continue to evolve.