Huawei has the solutions to close the digital gap
Huawei stands ready to help Europe in the next stage of its Smart Villages project, an effort to test the latest technological network equipment in rural communities, Abraham Liu told a key virtual conference on rural broadband initiatives on 9 July.
“Connectivity in Europe has grown steadily over the last few years, reaching over 80 % of the population. But if we disaggregate the data, we can see that this percentage drops to less than 50 % in rural areas – and the gap does not appear to be closing in order to reach the objectives of the Digital Agenda by the end of 2020,” said Mr Liu, who is Huawei’s Chief Representative to the European Institutions.
Mr Liu welcomed the EU’s Smart Villages initiative, saying that Huawei, with its extensive Smart Cities, Smart Grids and Smart Farming experiences, also saw itself as a natural partner for the Smart Villages project, which comes under the umbrella of the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD). “Whether it’s in Belgium, Poland or Slovenia, we are committed to helping the EU undertake comparative technological trials for its Smart Villages initiative.”
Mr Liu was speaking alongside EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, MEP Franc Bogovic and Harald Gruber, Head of Digital Infrastructure at the European Investment Bank, in a webinar called “Rural Broadband: Opportunities and Challenges. Narrowing the gap to support farmers and rural regions”, organised by Euractiv.
“Good connectivity is a must for the development of smart villages,” said European Commissioner Wojciechowski. Rural communities needed very high capacity broadband networks to implement smart solutions for precision farming and rural businesses, he said, and some EUR 6 billion was available from EU funds for roll-out of broadband infrastructure in rural areas.
The panellists agreed that rural connectivity was essential to rolling back the depopulation of villages in Europe. The cost of rural communities being left behind technologically would be enormous, said Mr Gruber, who added that the EIB was trying to mitigate market failures in deploying rural broadband. Ensuring every European citizen had access to the current benchmark of 100 Mbps broadband would need, in rural areas alone, investments totalling around EUR 200 billion by 2025.
MEP Bogovic said COVID-19 had shown that it is even more important now to build broadband infrastructure in rural areas to create a “resilient, digital and green Europe”. Jobs and quality of services in rural areas depended on broadband connectivity, he said.
“The pandemic has shown us that networks are the lifeblood of our European societies,” Abraham Liu said. “Europe needs to be bold and determined. 5G and AI are rare strategic opportunities that will help it move forward – in rural areas as fast as in cities,“ he concluded.
Read the press release from the event