Wojciech Bajda, Vice President and Head of Gulf Council Countries at Ericsson, spoke with TECHx Editor to discuss Ericsson’s “Together Apart Hackathon” and the development and rollout of 5G in the Middle East and Africa region.
TECHx: How do you think ‘Together Apart Hackathon’ aligns with UAE’s National Vision 2021? What are the areas of cooperation between Ericsson and the UAE government to accelerate the journey towards a more connected future?
Wojciech: ‘Together Apart Hackathon’ is a big initiative recently taken by Ericsson in the UAE, and maybe it will be good to start with a little background.
The Together apart Hackathon is an initiative, in line with the UAE government’s goals of promoting a robust ICT ecosystem in the country and aligning with the UAE 2021 vision. As a result, we’re bringing together a diverse group of people who will work to discover innovative solutions towards the UAE Vision 2021’s six primary topics.
- Providing World-Class Healthcare
- Achieving a Competitive Knowledge-Economy
- Safe Public and Fair Judiciary
- First-Rate Education System
- Sustainable Environment and Infrastructure
- Cohesive Society and Preserved Identity
Within these six broad themes, participants will have a lot of freedom to think, and it will all be up to their creativity. The hackathon aims to solve problems and hasten the transition to a connected future. This is our commitment to the country, our dedication to creating the future society and smart cities in the UAE, which is powered by our Ericsson innovation hub.
In all of these distinct verticals, the Together Apart Hackathon aims to attract new ideas and drive innovation. Our objective is to engage with UAE innovators, disruptors, creatives, startups, and students to develop technology-based solutions that are in line with the UAE Vision 2021
Of course, we expect that these ideas will be endorsed by cutting-edge technology like 5G. As a prologue to the hackathon, we’ll have digital partners to share ideas, engage people, and inspire them.
Ericsson has a long history in the UAE and we’ve been committed to providing top-quality connectivity in UAE since the early eighties. We’ve been working with Etisalat & du. We recently announced a very interesting modernization project in Al Ain where Ericsson will modernize the whole network and provide 5G which will really boost the voice and data traffic in Al Ain. The UAE innovation hub, our incubator program, is also a platform for innovation. We believe that this is an important part of our corporate responsibility, and we want to be a citizen of the UAE and contribute to the UAE vision.
TECHx: 5G subscriptions in the MENA region are projected to reach 130 million by 2026. How do you expect 5G and other emerging technologies work together to further strengthen the UAE’s economy?
Wojciech: Ericsson’s vision is to empower an intelligent, sustainable, and connected world. Technology is at the heart of our business. We believe that with our technologies and services, we are pioneering new ways to connect cities, systems, people, societies in ways we never thought possible before. We believe in the power of 5G and its ability to help countries across the region. We believe 5G can transform industries, societies. It has the power to make people live smarter and safer. But it’s not only 5G, we’re talking about artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality and augmented reality. There’s so much around 5g that builds the whole smart platform of innovation. 5G will have a tremendous impact on ensuring the goals outlined in the UAE vision 2021. Just imagine, billions of connected devices gathering and sharing information in real-time, for instance, to reduce road accidents, life-saving applications, or production lines, which will be so smart and so predictive that they can prevent interruptions well before they occur. All of this is possible with 5G.
If we look at safety and sustainability, there are a lot of different discussions about how 5g can contribute to safety and sustainability. Take smart electricity grids for instance: 5g can really do a great job when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. When we look at connected vehicles: 5G enables the monitoring of road traffic to prevent collisions or redirect traffic when required. Drones are also becoming an integral part of almost every use case. Nowadays they are key tools to accelerate and support emergency response. Last but not least, remote healthcare, remote surgery, remote diagnosis: with 5g high-resolution cameras enable professionals to provide the best class medical services even to remote and very rural areas of the world. So there’s great power when it comes to 5g. Also, one of the biggest topics in the GCC is industrial use cases because there are so many different industries here that are looking for efficiency and who are trying to understand how they can do business more smartly and digitally.
If we just take production lines, manufacturing: they can be remotely operated, can react autonomously to supply and demand. If we look at how the maintenance of advanced machinery in the oil and gas or mining industry, it can be done with the digital replica that can warn about the real machinery faults ahead of time. A logistics network for instance can autonomously route goods based on real-world connections and based on need and demand.
Let’s look at the consumer side; there is so much that can be done when it comes to gaming, teaching, immersive virtual meetings to boost remote team productivity, schooling, etc. All these fascinating advancements are happening now because the networks are capable. It’s all about the ecosystem.
TECHx: What unique opportunities does the Middle East Africa market provide for the rollout of 5G & how is Ericsson uniquely positioned to help the rollout?
Wojciech: Ericsson has been really busy deploying 5G in the Middle East and Africa. If we look at the GCC, we’ve been really busy for the last two years deploying 5G on a big scale for coverage and capacity. 5G is a platform for innovation capable of exponential, positive impact on our society. If we look at Ericsson’s 5G consumer potential report, we revealed that the 5g market could be worth 31 trillion USD by 2030 globally. And this report also estimates that CSPs, mobile operators like du and Etisalat, could generate up to 131 billion dollars by 2030 only from digital services. They can do this by practically bundling and marketing 5G use cases. Video, AR/VR, cloud gaming, all this is happening over 5g networks. That’s really exciting. And this report also projects that augmented reality is likely to drive more than half of our consumer spending on immersive media by 2030. It’s a huge market globally and definitely, the UAE and wider GCC will be the front runners.
Prospects of 5G in the region will truly accelerate the regional digital agenda. UAE was the first country to name an AI minister, they are certainly driving a strong agenda on how artificial intelligence can support different segments of the economy in the UAE. I’m very proud of Ericsson for being a responsible citizen and contributing to this. The Hackathon is just a starting point, so you should all stay tuned. I believe there will be more happening over a year because we believe in this part of the world and we surely want to be part of the country’s successful journey.