MWC19: Tech Meets Trust

Posted on 6th March 2019

MWC panel

MWC Barcelona (formerly Mobile World Congress) has pushed itself beyond a mobile phone trade show, with this year’s ‘Intelligent Connectivity’ bringing technology, media and telecoms out in full force. But amid all the flashy product announcements and high-profile keynotes, there was one theme integral to all sessions — good old-fashioned trust.

Accordingly, Access Partnership’s Head of Data Policy and Trust, Laura Sallstrom, moderated the ‘Maintaining Consumer Trust in a Digital Economy’ session on day one. The trust deficit, she noted, extends beyond the tech sector to government, regulators and the individual user. Inviting contributions from the panel, the session attempted to nail down a very expansive concept.

According to Jordan McClead, Privacy Lead at Google, what users want from privacy is control, confidence, benefits, and security. He thought that companies need to talk to people more and hire “abusability” testers to bulletproof their products.

Others took a more high-level approach, with Yuriy Dvoinos, co-founder of Figleaf, arguing that privacy is not about hiding or security, but a human need and a personal choice for users. Sandy Reback, VP, Global Public Policy and Government Affairs at Twilio agreed, arguing that understanding users and humanising user interaction, along with privacy and security, were the three pillars of trust. Companies have an obligation to present information that is accessible and digestible to consumers, he said.

Carsten Wenger, SVP G+D Mobile Security, and Shaila Shankar, GM Mobile ISP Unit at McAfee, both took a security-centric view of privacy, arguing for strong identity management as a foundation for digital transformation and pointing out the importance of security by design. Zia Hayat, CEO and founder of Callsign, aimed at regulation and called for flexibility.

Trying to bring these strands together, the panel concluded that business, consumers and regulators need to cooperate to create a safer ecosystem.

Less Artificial, More Intelligence

MWC19 also saw many calls for regulating the digital future.

In the face of national and regional efforts to regulate the sector, Mats Granryd, Director-General of the GSMA, proposed seizing control of the narrative with a regulatory framework focused on four key objectives: harmonised spectrum, industry consolidation, an even playing field, and privacy and data protection. The GSMA-led Digital Declaration has already been backed by all major mobile operators and over 50 leading infrastructure and technology providers.

Meanwhile, representing the EU, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel praised European efforts to invest and consider ethics. “AI and 5G is the winning combination to shape the digital future of Europe” she said, although she caveated her praise for 5G rollout with some security concerns that the Commission is working to resolve swiftly. The EU aims to be at the forefront of AI development, with plans to invest EUR 20 billion in AI by 2020, she said, adding that it’s crucial for this technology to embody European values — ethical and inclusive.

Gabriel was there to advertise the Commission’s working group for the ethical implications of the new technology in a bid to set global AI ethics standards, but the EU isn’t the only organisation looking into ethics. Next on stage, Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the OECD warned that with nearly 50% of jobs in OECD countries under threat from automation, AI policies need to be defined by the impact they will have on humans. The OECD aims to set guidelines for trustworthy AI policy, he said, with a recovery of trust necessary for collaboration.

5G: From Hype to Reality?

5G has been on MWC agenda for years, but as 5G rollouts are beginning, this year felt like 5G has finally arrived. Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, even vowed that 5G would be the one technology to live up to the hype.

That’s a strong statement, with KMPG claiming USD 4.3 trillion in value will be unlocked by 5G across selected industries. Robbins cited some statistics based on the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index: more than 400 million 5G connections and 4 billion machine-to-machine connections in just three years, generating six times more traffic than today. This will bring enormous opportunities, Robbins said, but will need new generation of networks — high performance, cloud delivered, trusted, and secured — built through partnerships. Accordingly, Mickey Mikitani, Founder and CEO of Rakuten, followed up with a presentation of their first end-to-end fully virtualised cloud-native network, built in partnership with Cisco.

However, not everyone was on board. A panel of mobile operators argued that mobile operators, facing a low return from 4G and revenue pressure from regulators and competition, will struggle to meet the costs of 5G.

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn pointed out that consumers increasingly want more for less, requiring a new commercial strategy. Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries added that most operators in Europe are uncertain how to monetise 5G, while other markets have completely different needs, argued Hatem Dowidar, CEO of Etisalat. Most emerging markets have only just finished rolling out 4G, and they shouldn’t rush into 5G before they get the business case right. The operator panel called on regulators to keep the prices of spectrum down.

Next-Gen Tech for Next-Gen Users

The most engaging moment of MWC19 was a panel led by Arm CEO Simon Segars consisting of young entrepreneurs, aged 10-15, who have already launched their own apps in healthcare, cybersecurity, robotics and coding. As digital natives, they saw different problems and through different perspectives than other speakers at MWC. In the past people were adapting to technology, while now technology is adapting to people. As next-gen tech creators, they promised to come back and fix the mistakes made by adults.

Author: Ivan Ivanov, Marketing Manager, Access Partnership

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