Executives advise digital emphasis as 5G arrives

Executives advise digital emphasis as 5G arrives

As Asean expects to enter the first wave of 5G adoption next year, businesses need to embrace more technology to stay competitive and survive, say leading business executives.

James Wu, president of Huawei Southeast Asia, said 2020 will be a very important year for Asean, with the first wave of 5G arriving for commercial use.

"Digital transformation is critical for survival in the new era," said Mr Wu.

The pace of industrial change is becoming more rapid, he said.

Previously the industrial cycle was projected to change every 40 years, but that has been whittled down to 10 years and in the 5G era, the cycle would be around 5-10 years, said Mr Wu.

In the past decade, Huawei has invested US$4 billion in 5G technology and it is ready to serve Asean.

"At the country level, there is a need to rush 5G networks as cloud and artificial intelligence [AI] technology could offer a competitive edge," he said. "Countries and businesses need to embrace more tech to increase opportunities in the future. If they fail to catch up with trends, they will lose out in the future."

Mr Wu was speaking at an AEC Business forum titled "2020: the Age of Asean Connectivity", organised by Bangkok Bank on Thursday.

Speaking at the same forum, Suphachai Chearavanont, chief executive of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group and True Corporation, said Thailand still faces many challenges, such as being stuck in the middle-income trap, as 40% of the population work in the primary sector.

Reforms are needed to boost English proficiency and teachers' mindsets to facilitate learning and digital literacy, leading to the transformation, he said.

"The digital divide will become wider faster if we fail to provide tools or do not allow those in rural areas to have equal access of knowledge," said Mr Suphachai.

He said CP is undergoing a transformation, requiring executives use data analytics for management.

The firm has moved from a bureaucratic, top-down hierarchy to a data-driven organisation with agility and use of blockchain for traceability.

"For digital transformation, we need speed in quality, innovation simplification, innovation and integrity," he said.

Mr Suphachai suggested private firms transform with strategy and innovation. They need a deep understanding of customer behaviour by making workplaces digital, and to increase collaboration, he said.


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