In a recent interview to the Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera”, Hiroshi Ishiguro claims that Europeans are scared of technology. In Japan, technology advancement is strictly part of the human development, “technology is part of us”. The view of the Japanese people as an early technology adopter and technology explorer is not new. It was also evident at the Huawei MBB Forum 2016 in Tokyo. The enthusiasm for technological advancement was the motive of the event. Robotics, 5G, artificial intelligence, and the evolution of the IoT – particularly the low-data rate IoT via NB-IoT – were strongly illustrated and their benefits were discussed extensively. However, during the first day of the event, there was little space on challenges needed to be faced in order to make those benefits real. Additionally, the topics discussed during the conference are also very relevant from a policy point of view. But, that angle was not part of the conference and, probably, was not the appropriate context for a policy discussion. However, the Forum drew attention to five major policy implications.
1) Governance and Decision Making Process for the Connected World. The conference clearly claimed the power of technology – and of those who provide technology – to shape society. A presenter went even further to claim that technology can reach “happiness for everyone”. It is without doubt that technological development is changing and will change even more dramatically our way of living. But, how should this change happen? Who should govern this change? Which should the role of the policy makers be and which should the role of influential and very large organisations like Huawei be? And, which is the constructive role of citizens? And, overall, how should our democratic process change to define the governance for a connected world? The Huawei MBB Forum 2016 was not the place for those questions, but, it clearly prompts those them.
2) Data Security and Data Privacy. Expressions such as “data is the currency” or “data is the real enabler”, stressed by different presenters, highlighted the consensus on the essential role of data for the shape of the future society. But, little was said on security from a technological perspective and, also, from a policy perspective. Questions on the ethics of data were not addressed. Questions that become more pertinent considering the vast attention dedicated to artificial intelligence.
3) 5G Application Policy. 5G is the next mission for the mobile communications community. But, that mission is worth pursuing it if it is associated to real opportunities. There was an unanimous consensus on this. But, how do we avoid to run along the 5G technology track without paying strong attention to the opportunities? And, here, the role of technology policy can be important. Different technology policy organisations have put great efforts in the research and innovation side of the 5G story. A similar approach is necessary on the application side pursuing a multidisciplinary approach bringing together the industry, the academia, the government, and the social organisations.
4) LPWAN Policy and SME Technology Adoption Policy. On the other side of the data rate spectrum, there is NB-IoT, strongly embraced by Huawei. Besides the LPWAN competitive landscape issues, NB-IoT and all the other LPWAN solutions are in front of numerous opportunities in terms of applications, but, at the same time, of a community of users not very aware of the potential of the technology. This is particularly true for SMEs. Helping SMEs understanding the transformational power of the IoT, and, specifically, of LPWAN solution is a challenge that policies can help face. It is important to start thinking about the IoT from the point of SMEs.
5) Emerging Tech (AI and Robotics) Policy. AI and robotics were seen as the next “big things”. The audience were fascinated by discussions on AI and Robotics and the demos captured people’s imagination. However, powerful tool such as AI and the strong emergence of robotics poses several questions. The most immediate one regards their impact on the labour market. New professions will be needed in the era of AI and robotics. AI and robotics will drive a re-shaping of existing professions. Therefore, how do we achieve that? New skills are necessary at the different levels of the labour market. The educational system is the route for forming those news skills. But, what sort of educational system can do that?
Obviously, those five key policy areas – and there were others – deserve much more than a couple of lines. But, the message is that the technological development showed at the Forum – the one we are living on daily basis – is full of policy questions that need answer. Probably, Hiroshi Ishiguro would not be worried about. He believes that robots will just be fully part of our future. Geminoid, the android developed by him and that resembles him, probably, will be a speaker in a future MBB Forum. But, while waiting for Geminoid, it would be also nice to see female speakers at the next MBB Forum. Technology development with a wide – gender, race, and geography – realm will take us further.