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    Strengthening Infrastructure Construction and Building a Digital Foundation for Cities

Countries and governments are taking the lead in building digital infrastructure and laying a solid foundation for a digital government and society. To offer inclusive and fair digital services has become a worldwide consensus.

Ms. In is 38 years old and lives in Maetoh village, 60 km from Chiang Mai. She makes her living by growing strawberries. Living in the mountains has proven to be a great struggle for her – owing to poor transportation and very little access to information, she has found herself cut off and living in poverty. When she went to sell a batch of strawberries at the market at the bottom of the valley, a buyer found out she was from the mountains and gave her a lowball price. They both knew that after her long and arduous trip, she would not take the strawberries back with her. Despite her reluctance, she had no choice but to give in and left exploited. In 2019, with the launch of the Digital Thailand plan, the Universal Service Obligation (USO) project led by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) of Thailand came to the mountains of Chiang Mai. This brought great change to villages like Maetoh; after optical fibers were laid out, broadband and Wi-Fi networks were finally available to the community. With the high-speed network, villagers in mountainous areas can now promote and sell agricultural products online. Thanks to this initiative, In has started live-streaming to market her strawberries from the comfort of her home.

In recent years, countries around the world have attached much more importance to digitalization. Over 170 countries have issued national-level digital strategies, emphasizing the need to strengthen digital infrastructure construction and provide better public services. For example, Singapore launched the Smart Nation initiative and Thailand released its Digital Government Development Plan (2023-2027). Some regional cooperation organizations have also launched digital strategies or action plans, such as the EU's 2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade and the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025. The former calls for sustainable digital infrastructure construction, and the latter emphasizes on expanding digital infrastructure coverage including that of communications networks through international cooperation. Countries and governments are taking the lead in building digital infrastructure and laying a solid foundation for a digital government and society. To offer inclusive and fair digital services has become a worldwide consensus.

Huawei is committed to building national and urban ICT infrastructure with ubiquitous connection, cloud infrastructure, and intelligence which also integrates and streamlines data for data mining, analysis, and sharing. On this basis, many application partners work with Huawei to build an ecosystem and what has been dubbed a brain for cities. This promotes the scientific decision-making of city development and supports digitalization in various fields like government, transportation, and policing.

Inclusive Digital Services with Ubiquitous Connections

The truth of the phrase "to get rich, build roads first" has proven to be quite literal. In the digital era, networks are information highways for cities. Only when networks are fully connected and data is fully integrated can digitalization in cities evolve to a smarter phase oriented towards service. The construction of network connections requires the basic networks of carriers. The following two areas must therefore be enhanced:

E-Government private network: To ensure data security, efficient data collaboration between departments, and high-quality service experience, the government needs to establish a dedicated e-Government private network. The platform department should plan and construct the private network centrally with technologies like slicing to serve the entire government. Based on years of practice in the global government industry, Huawei believes that the construction of an e-Government private network needs to focus on three areas. First, the network must cover all government departments. Second, the network must be constructed and managed centrally to replace scattered and isolated private networks across different departments. Third, we must develop future-oriented, moderately advanced bandwidth to meet the higher requirements of cloud and AI technologies on basic networks.

Huawei helps customers build e-Government private networks with optical and IP technologies like intelligent slicing, SRv6, and long-distance transmission. These networks have three typical features and values: multi-purpose network and logical isolation, efficient and agile cloud-network synergy, and future-oriented ultra-broadband. In this way, a high-speed information network oriented to all government service can be formed, contributing to the Internet of Everything (IoE) and comprehensive online government services.

Inclusive interconnection (the last mile): A robust government backbone network lays a foundation for efficient government services. However, the last mile must be streamlined to ensure that these government services can be easily accessed by anyone and everyone. Although more than 150 countries have released their national broadband plans, over 3 billion people around the world still have no access to the Internet whatsoever. This is partly because carriers are unwilling to offer wide network coverage in some areas with low return on investment (ROI).

Therefore, governments in multiple places like Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, and several parts of Africa are taking action to develop and provide universally accessible network services. Take the rural network project in Ghana as an example; the government set up the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) in 2004, and the fund was officially put into operation in January 2005. GIFEC collected 1% (about US$10 million) of carriers' revenue to improve rural information infrastructure, including expanding rural network coverage. However, restricted by various factors, only 51 sites have been deployed over the past nine years. Huawei assists the government in solution innovation to provide customers with solutions based on different product portfolios (such as microwave and RuralStar) in different scenarios (population density and availability of optical fibers). These solutions span more than 95% of Ghana and have reduced the total cost of operation (TCO) by 58%, as well as shortened the overall ROI period to less than three years. Network connectivity is helping to drive the development of local cocoa and mining industries while also promoting online education, public services, and healthcare services.

Cloud Infrastructure Drives Urban Digitalization

In the intelligent world, the key to smart cities and digital success is to have a powerful cloud infrastructure and cloud native thinking. In the future, all devices, terminals, and sensors will be connected to the Internet, and all infrastructure and applications will be moved to the cloud. Cloud infrastructure is the foundation of the city's "digital space" and carries various government applications.

Take the financial sector as an example. The urban public finance system effectively manages financial funds and supports the smooth operation of public services. However, the current financial management and service systems of many cities are relatively backward and have issues including differing standards and massive but disjointed service software. As a result, they can no longer meet local infrastructure and public service requirements. Huawei helped Shaanxi province develop and build the first integrated financial budget management system based on the all-cloud architecture. The system boasts such advantages as big data, microservice, elastic scaling, and gray deployment. This has enabled Shaanxi Provincial Finance Department to upgrade from experience-based management to digital management, in turn realizing integrated management, precise supervision, quick response, scientific decision-making, and better efficiency. The system has so far been launched in 148 financial areas across the province. 28,000 budget units and 83,000 users use it to manage their budgets online. The average daily access traffic is 100,000, and the number of concurrent users reaches 14,000 during peak hours. The maximum number of concurrent users per day on average is about 7000.

Facing the huge demand for digital infrastructure, Huawei focuses on cloud infrastructure based on the concept of Everything as a Service to facilitate the development of smart cities.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): The global Huawei Cloud Stack (HCS) and private cloud infrastructure, with a unified architecture and consistent experience, provides powerful computing and storage foundations for cities.

Technology as a Service (TaaS): Huawei is passionate about technological innovation, continuously making breakthroughs in fundamental technologies and providing leading technologies (big data, AI, AR/VR, IoT, blockchain, etc.) to customers and partners through cloud services to facilitate smart city construction.

Experience as a Service (EaaS): Upholding the concepts of co-creation, sharing, and win-win cooperation, Huawei has put years of digital transformation experience in the global government industry and smart city field into cloud services, building industry application platform as a service (aPaaS), and replicating success stories.

Ubiquitous Intelligence, a New Engine for Digital Economy

AI is playing an increasingly important role across a series of technologies promoting the fourth industrial revolution. AI has become a new urban digital infrastructure following on from cloud and network. In time, AI will be as ubiquitous as water and electricity, and governments will increasingly assume the responsibility of supplying AI computing power centrally.

Traditional AI computing power is developed and used by scientific research institutions and business entities. However, the computing power required by AI algorithms doubles every 100 days. The iteration speed is 5.5 times that of Moore's Law, which also means 5.5 times that of hardware computing power development.

As AI algorithm models become more and more complex, the AI computing power costs are increasing exponentially. For example, the industry-leading GPT-3 model can cost over US$1 million for a single training session. The high cost undoubtedly hinders most enterprises from obtaining AI applications and limits the upgrade of many industries. Therefore, governments are taking the lead and mobilizing the whole society to build intensive, high-computing, and green AI computing power centers. These centers, as next-generation infrastructure for enterprises and scientific research institutions, can greatly reduce AI costs and improve competitiveness within science and technology spaces.

Successful practices in multiple cities across China show that the government's investment in building AI computing power centers does not impose a financial burden on the government. On the contrary, it is a public investment with substantial returns.

Take the Wuhan AI computing power center as an example. At the very start of the scheme it had already attracted many scientific research institutes like the Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences. After the computing power center was completed, three top scientific research institutes and universities settled in and diligently worked on projects that grew into greatly influential academic achievements. This includes the industry's first AI framework dedicated to remote sensing images developed by Wuhan University; the world's first tri-modal large model led by the Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences — Zidong Taichu, which inspired the establishment of the Multimodal Artificial Intelligence Industry Alliance; and AscendProNet developed by Tsinghua University to begin building a life science industry cluster. The Wuhan AI computing power center has become a typical success story of industry agglomeration driven by infrastructure investment. Similarly to how the high-speed railway empowers and converges our economy in reality, the AI computing power center acts as a "high-speed railway hub" for the digital economy.

Currently, over 50 countries have positioned AI development as a critical part of their national strategies. The planning and construction of AI computing power centers in cities can not only promote the development of a regional digital economy but will also improve city governance and incubate more intelligent applications.

As time goes on, the digital economy will only grow. It is urgent for governments to accelerate their digital transformation to adapt to increasingly complex social governance requirements. Governments need to continuously pay attention to ICT infrastructure such as high-capacity broadband, e-Government cloud platforms, and AI computing power centers. They must increase investment in digital technologies across public utilities to lay a solid foundation for comprehensive digitalization and intelligence, and in doing so build a robust engine for the digital economy and urban development.