In February, a global virus dominated the news. A human tragedy, it also focused attention on economic structures and the viability of supply chains. Commentators mulled the impact on tech markets and changes in satellite launch schedules, but we also saw some services lately resumed. The picture remains confused.
More immediately, inside the industry, spectrum tussles involving satellite service providers and C-band in the U.S. were in the frame as were big political maneuvering in Washington. More broadly, we saw disruption but also new opportunity in the space sector, where better launch economics, new systems, and new applications are suggesting big possibilities for resource monitoring, food security, and disaster response.
In subsea, holdups due to geopolitics may be part of a continuing trend. Some were optimistic and predicted a global interconnected future, but there may be winners and losers in this trillion dollar race and some countries need to get back on track to meet goals. The digital age could address inequality in cities. The Asian Development Bank said it wants to fund tech start-ups as instruments to power development.
Back in the present, industry-leading technologists saw 5G, AI, and edge computing making key advances this year. There may be implications in the progress. Some predicted the 5G era may drive substantial changes in structure and ownership of service providers, while others mulled prospects when markets are nearing saturation and geographic expansion is difficult. For some operators, business revenues are already in decline.
Sustainability, we saw, matters; it may add business value too. Data center leaders want to overhaul supply chains to do so as an “imperative for enterprise success.” At the user level, off-grid solar is a growing tech trend. We need to train more people in e-waste management, said the United Nations.
Coronavirus apart, we remained worried about security vulnerabilities in workplace IoT. Ransomware may be emerging as a particular concern. Do we need people solely to champion cybersecurity? More widely, we saw pushes to address the skills gap, perhaps the greatest management challenge in our community.
Should we put these and other issues at the heart of “responsible business?” It’s a many-faceted problem, and one Pacific telco CEO acknowledged you can’t “set and forget” strategy. Dealing with people as customers and employees remains a complex task for even the best of firms. Some advocated a Bill of Rights to allay fears of disappearing jobs. It was not the only worry. More foundationally, even with the remarkable achievement that we see in our industry, we were warned about potential downsides. A data-driven world looks to be more, not less, tricky for some, said the World Bank.