Creating New Value for Cities
"Men come together in cities in order to live; they remain together in order to live the good life," the great Greek philosopher Aristotle once said.
Centuries later, those words still ring true: Cities remain among the greatest creations of human civilization and are, in fact, pivotal for civilization itself. Be-cause cities are such gigantic, complex systems, though, a critical challenge for city planners and managers is determining how to ensure the sustained, high-quality development of cities so that every citizen can live a better life.
In recent years, cities around the world have started a new round of Smart City planning and construction, with governments worldwide pursuing digitalization and more than 170 countries implementing strategic digital transformation plans. Here in China, the government has announced it will accelerate digital construction nationwide, working toward the grand goal of building a 'Digital China.'
Through digital transformation, cities around the world hope to entirely over-haul their methods of production and their social governance, redefine the dis-tribution of production resources, and ultimately transform themselves in ways that enable their sustainable development. As these cities strive to go digital, a new civilization is dawning.
To support the ambitious goal of digitally transforming cities, Huawei has pro-posed a '1234' strategy as a guide. The first aspect of the strategy is to priori-tize citizens (1 focus) and strive to improve their sense of happiness, security, and belonging during the digital transformation of cities. Secondly, it's critical to develop security and operational systems (2 systems) to safeguard the secure and healthy development of cities. Thirdly, an important aim is to align with scenarios, build a platform, and aggregate ecosystems (3 elements) to pro-mote innovative application of technologies. Lastly, the fourth key principle is to make fundamental changes relating to the mindsets, mechanisms, methods, and models of cities (this is known as the '4 changes').
In philosophy, a first principle is a basic proposition or assumption that can't be deduced from any other proposition or assumption. The first principle of the digital transformation of cities is being people-oriented. Essentially, this is recognition that the key to successfully transforming a city is to address the pain points and needs of its people — its citizens, the people running and working for its businesses, and its administrative managers. Essentially, to create real value, digital transformation must be based on services and sce-narios that have practical utility.
Regarding services, we need to familiarize ourselves with the pain points and requirements of citizens, enterprises, and city managers, as well as the corre-sponding business scenarios. These factors are the roots of digitalization. In terms of business scenarios, we can deploy platforms to enable innovative ap-plication of digital technologies while adhering to the 'cloud first' principle — meaning that the cloud is preferentially used for deploying new technology. We can also apply cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data to meet user needs and resolve user problems.
There's a good example of such citizen-oriented services in Shanghai: The city has installed smart water meters for elderly residents who live alone. If the amount of water used in a place of residence doesn't exceed 0.01 cubic me-ters for more than 12 hours, the neighborhood committee will automatically be notified and a community worker will be promptly sent to check on the resi-dent's wellbeing. Clearly, this kind of scenario-based innovation can make a city a safer — and better — place to live.
We should be people-oriented and prepare to solve their real problems in ways such as this throughout the process of the digital transformation of cities. By addressing genuine issues and making a real impact, we can clearly observe that digitalization should never be performed merely for digitalization's sake.
Security is the basis of a city's digital transformation. The increasingly collabo-rative, mobile, and complex nature of services is putting ever-higher demands on network security. Meanwhile, during the digital transformation of cities, a large amount of data is generated, which needs to be transferred and shared, so data security and privacy protection are crucial. Evidently, improving cyber-security capabilities and protecting user privacy and data security must be guaranteed during the digital transformation of cities.
What's more, digitalization is an ongoing process that involves both construc-tion and operations. Successful digital transformation requires building corre-sponding operational systems and organizations. The digital transformation of cities must take into account the operations of infrastructure, data, and ser-vices. Continuous operations can resolve problems such as inefficient syn-chronous platform and application construction, outdated data, and rigid ser-vice systems.
The '1234' strategy for the digital transformation of cities
Align with Scenarios: In the digital transformation of cities, we need to identify key scenarios and use these scenarios as the anchor to achieve closed-loop business management and process streamlining. Meanwhile, we should adopt unified planning, ad-dress urgent needs first, and carry out phased construction.
To help its enterprise customers go digital, Huawei has digitally reconstructed more than 100 scenarios in city operations, public services, public security, in-dustry development, and civil services. For example, a unified online govern-ment office can now handle all types of applications by citizens and business-es, who no longer need to go to different government departments for different applications. What's more, AI-driven machine vision devices that are deployed city-wide can intelligently detect problems — such as illegal parking or unau-thorized occupation of public spaces in cities — reducing the urban manage-ment workload and improving efficiency.
Build a Platform:Digital transformation of cities requires a digital urban platform. By continuous-ly abstracting and accumulating common technical capabilities, the platform can be constantly iterated to form a new urban service platform and create new standards. We should also promote the development of platform-based and service-oriented common capabilities to provide future-oriented core ser-vice capabilities for upper-layer smart applications; reduce the need to repeat construction; and implement data convergence, service collaboration, and agile innovation.
Aggregate Ecosystems: We need to build a symbiotic, co-creative, and shared urban digital ecosystem for city digitalization. The digital transformation of cities requires both the par-ticipation of ICT vendors, such as Huawei, and the expertise of application providers from various industries. Only when all sides join the symbiotic, co-creative, and shared ecosystem can the digital transformation of cities suc-ceed.
As an enterprise with a background in manufacturing that has just completed preliminary digitalization itself, Huawei has a profound understanding of the dif-ficulties in the digital transformation process. Digitalization requires more than changes in technology and methods; it also needs changes in the mindset, or-ganizations, mechanisms, and operational models.
Changing the Mindset:The perspectives of business departments are inherently different from those of technical departments. We need to unify our thinking and use both business perspectives and technology to drive digital transformation. Technology must be used to enable business scenarios so that we can create value for custom-ers.
Changing the Mechanism:For digital transformation to succeed, technology itself is far from sufficient. We also need to plan and coordinate at a higher level, establish rules and standards, eliminate departmental silos, and conduct a complete overhaul of existing organizations. As an example, Huawei's Board of Directors (BOD) ini-tiated the establishment of the Transformation Management Committee, as well as the business transformation management system. The committee drew the digitalization blueprint in overall planning, coordinated cross-department resources, and reshaped the main processes and the support systems. Over the past 20 years, Huawei has invested heavily in the transformation systems, which has helped to ensure that the company develops stably and robustly.
Changing the Methods: Digital transformation involves digitalization of objects, processes, and rules to re-engineer and optimize processes. To digitalize objects, we need to map the physical objects in the digital world and improve the overall operational level through data analysis and algorithm capabilities. To digitalize processes, offline business activities can be moved online, and online processes are then recon-structed and optimized to improve business efficiency and user experience. We also need to digitalize business rules by standardizing them and integrating them into systems so that deterministic services are automatically executed based on the rules. After laying a solid foundation for digitalization, we must then continue to enhance digital scenarios and solutions.
Changing the Models: New applications are now deployed on the cloud platform in a cloud-native mode. The cloud is the key to continuous iteration and value creation. Digital transformation can't be achieved overnight; continuous operations and value creation are crucial for its success. The latest technologies can be deployed directly onto the cloud once they're developed. Cloud platforms can also ac-cumulate service data, processes, and logic; implement quick service reuse; and promote quick service innovation. Clearly, then, the cloud is the key to continuous digital iteration and implementation, as cities seek to digitally trans-form.
The digital transformation of cities brings almost unlimited possibilities. To em-brace those possibilities, Huawei will continue to explore in the urban digital transformation field, working together with our customers and partners. Our aim is to seize the opportunities the digital transformation of cities brings — to create a better, digital world.