THE BLOG

The Role of Connectivity in Reshaping the World

01/25/2014 10:39 am ET | Updated Mar 27, 2014

For many of us, the idea of leaving home without our mobile phone or tablet, or having no access to the Internet or to our e-mail, for any great length of time, is unthinkable. In today's tech-driven world, the latest electronic gadgetry -- be it a tablet, smartphone, games console or even wearable devices -- are our constant companions and the new objects of desire for tech-savvy consumers.

These are part of fundamental shifts in consumer behavior, which also, I believe, have huge implications for us in the business world. The reason for this is that besides the expensive price tags, all of these devices have another feature in common. They allrely on connectivity in order for users to make full use of them. Welcome to the 'Connected World,' where we are connected to everyone and everything.

The Digital Enterprise

There is more power vested with the individual, thanks to the widespread availability of mobile devices and instant access to data, information and knowledge at our fingertips. This era is characterized by real 'people power'; no matter where we are in the world, we can connect with others, share our thoughts and circulate information. Consumers have more power than ever to intervene, influence and impact transactions and events in real time.

These consumer shifts are now driving massive changes in the enterprise both in terms of the services delivered and organization's own 'modus operandi.' The business leaders of tomorrow, who will govern, steer and make policy are all growing up in this Digital Age, and already speak its language fluently. The next generation of Enterprises will be characterized by geographically distributed workforces that have the ability to create a culture of innovation and openness. Co-innovation is at the core of the ecosystems in which they operate.

The future will be one in which truly connected, digital enterprises have the ability to connect with customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders via multiple channels, from digital signage to mobile platforms or by harnessing the power of social media. At the same time, we are on the frontier of big advancements in areas such as M2M (machine to machine) communications, which are delivering solutions to solve real business challenges - from remote diagnostics and preventative maintenance in the automotive industry to improving supply chain management in manufacturing.

Companies today ignore digital connectivity at their own peril. If the flapping of a butterfly's wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas, 140 characters on Twitter has the power to dent a brand the other side of the world as a Telecom service provider discovered after ignoring a consumer complaint. But it's not always negative; social media for example, can be a powerful force for positive change. We have real life stories of this amongst our own organization, for example where a colleague's four-year-old child used Facebook chat to alert medical authorities during a medical emergency at home.

Connectivity is Key

As such, there has never been a greater need for seamless connectivity. This is a world in which high-speed Internet access should be available to us all, wherever we are, regardless of demographics, occupation or geography. Seamless connectivity is the foundation on which real technological advancements will be built and for some time, telecommunication service providers have been laying the foundations for the transition to the connected world.

However there is still more work to do in order to fully realize the potential that the Digital Age has to offer. To support this change, the telecommunications industry needs to adapt and innovate and close cooperation is required. Ultimately, the infrastructure needs to be in place to meet the demands of the next generation network, the anticipated explosion in mobile data use and to avoid the capacity crunch. Continued investment will be needed to support a wider spectrum of mobile services.

We need to remove regulatory constraints so that we can develop infrastructures that are based on open standards, providing maximum benefit for consumers at minimum cost to the operators. Global Interoperability, of course, is vital to enable connectivity amongst new systems, apps and services and targeted regulation will also boost innovation and help to create healthy competition. The full cooperation of regulators is imperative in markets where services and products are marketed in neighboring geographies. Network sharing is a further enabler for connectivity and one that has been widely used by operators for some time. In the recent wake of technological advancements, anti-trust issues and less binding agreements are being considered, in order to overcome the complexities at a financial, technical and regulatory level.

Given the vast amounts of data pouring across networks, in today's connected world, we also need to achieve the right balance between data sharing, privacy and security. This is of particular importance in the telecommunications industry, where customer data is shared and can be used for cross-selling and will have further significance given the rise of services such as M2M, mobile money and mobile banking.

Across the entire technology value chain, 'Connectivity is King' and this will be the building blocks upon which a truly connected, digital world will be created. The possibilities are limitless: from fully automated cars, to 'smart homes' and virtual offices. It points to faster more dynamic ways of doing business and will be the catalyst for advancements that will impact all our lives from home to leisure and work. Ultimately, connectivity has the power to reshape our world.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The World Economic Forum to mark the Forum's Annual Meeting 2014 (in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan. 22-25). The Forum's Strategic Partner community comprises a select group of leading global companies representing diverse regions and industries that have been selected for their alignment with the Forum's commitment to improving the state of the world. Read all the posts in the series here.