Towards a digital society of wellness

Ingemar Naeve.CEO Ericsson España, S.A. ICT & Sustainability Commission Chairman, Club de Excelencia en Sostenibilidad

4 November 2010

New solutions offered by information technologies bring benefits not only in economic terms, but also for society and the environment.

We see a future in which Information & Communication Technology (ICT) forms the basis of a 21st-century information-based infrastructure. We see technology and innovation having the power to create a more sustainable planet, transform industries, stimulate economic growth and empower people around the globe.

The ICT paradigm shift towards a digital society of wellness will respond to the demands of the knowledge-based economy, while addressing the societal (democracy, equality, solidarity) and environmental challenges that threaten the long-term sustainability of our cultural model.

Five technological revolutions in 240 years

According to Professor Carlota Pérez , economic growth since the 18th century has passed through five different stages, each associated with five successive technological revolutions: the Industrial Revolution; the age of steam and the railways; the age of steel, heavy engineering and electricity; the age of petrol and the car and mass production. Now, we are reaching another stage, the age of IT and telecommunications by connecting not only places and people – but things.
We have only just started to explore the potential of the internet age, where broadband enables a profound transformation in how things are done throughout the battleground of an international competitive economy. A new era of unprecedented innovation and development lies ahead, which will develop in many ways similar to how the market grew around the first power stations and the distribution of electricity to homes, businesses and factories.

Remember that when our cities were first wired up for electricity, it was simply for providing electric street lighting. Nobody knew what reliable electricity supply would lead to.

Connecting a World of opportunity

We see a world of more than 50 billion connections by 2020, including people, places and devices. This will lead to the ICT industry becoming a leading player in the next decade and beyond.

Connections create value and opportunities for people, business and society. And we expect the world to have more than 50 billion connected devices in just 10 years. For private consumers, the benefits of a connected world have so far been dramatic, in communications, our social lives, work, media and entertainment.

But even greater societal benefits are on the way. Electricity networks are becoming “smart grids” using smart metering for real-time monitoring and remote control. This will support a shift to renewable energy sources and new consumption models. It will also allow consumers with micro-generation equipment such as home windmills or solar cells to become “prosumers” and sell energy back to the power grid. Smart grids are expected to reduce energy consumption by around 20 percent, benefiting consumers and societies.

There are other important benefits. Connected cars, for example, improve road safety. Traffic warnings regarding unexpected incidents, congestion or slippery road conditions can be distributed quickly over the mobile network to drivers on affected roads. In an accident, cars equipped with eCall, a service promoted by the European Commission, will automatically send the information emergency services need, reducing the number of traffic casualties.

Connections are improving quality of life, particularly for people in emerging economies, by providing access to healthcare, education and other services. Studies show how connectivity is helping to increase incomes and Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and to strengthen social ties in countries where people are getting access to telecommunications. Also in mature economies, where broadband connectivity provides a number of macroeconomic benefits in terms of productivity, competitiveness and job creation.

And the opportunities for businesses are becoming ever clearer. From fleet management in logistics to patient supervision in healthcare to ensuring supply chains, our connected world is providing ways to improve efficiency and offer new services.

This connected world is bringing people together in new ways too. It is creating new behaviors. People can stay in touch with family, friends, workmates and customers in more ways than ever before.

The imperative for break-throughs

But to reach this vision, it is also vitally important that we position ICT as a key item on the policy agenda. This demands a radical change not only in the nature and quality of public programmes, but also in the technological infrastructure investments.

So far, our commitment has resulted in a pioneer cross-sectoral ICT & Sustainability National Commission created in collaboration with the Club de Excelencia en Sostenibilidad. The initiative brings together a group of leading companies in the challenge for a digital society of wellness in Spain.

During the coming months, the Commission will prepare a report aimed at identifying and actually measuring the economic, social and environmental benefits of implementing new ICT solutions. The report will focus on encouraging the industry to undertake real implementation efforts, and most importantly, encouraging the government to adopt ICT and develop supporting policies that can change consumer behavior.

As the ICT & Sustainability Commission chairman, I am personally committed to continuing to show the viability and value of ICT’s substantial contribution to Sustainability by empowering People, Business and Society. A competitive and equal Society guided by the principles of transparency and non-discriminatory markets that will allow the European industry, based on big R&D investments, to maintain its leading position and competitiveness.

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