We have entered an era of hyperconnectivity. Those businesses unable to exploit the new digital economy will quickly fall behind. And the pressure on governments is rising to provide, secure and utilize the foundations for a hyperconnected world.
Let's start with enablers of a digital economy - things like education (sic. digital literacy), access to the internet (either via broadband or mobile), data centers, mobile technologies and enabling apps (such as secure payment services, cashless ticketing, etc.). These are some of the prerequisites for supporting a digital economy and society. Access to these fundamentals remains uneven across the globe - the digital divide continues to deepen. And they are all heavily influenced by digital infrastructure investment.
Then consider the changes that are required to support digital workforces and deliver services via digital channels. In markets and regions with strong digital capabilities, many critical public-service infrastructure owners - water, electricity and public transport providers, for example - took heroic steps to ensure they were able to continue operating remotely during the lockdowns; now they need to find ways to institutionalize those approaches and reduce their complexity and costs.
The rollout of 5G will be fundamental to service delivery in our newly hyperconnected world. Some estimates suggest that 5G could unlock around US$4.3 trillion1 in value globally (though not all at once, not in the same way, and not in all sectors at the same time). And while the adoption of 5G will largely be enterprise-led and centered (at least at first) on key locations such as university campuses and large sports arenas, our view suggests it will be the key to unlock the inherent potential of technologies such as Big Data, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and future mobility.
Connectivity technologies like 5G and Cloud will also be central to driving innovation and value in infrastructure. For smart cities and venues, for example, hyperconnected infrastructure can enable space and energy to be fully optimized, smart waste and water management to be implemented, and connected mobility solutions to be integrated. It can help utilities secure their smart grids and deploy sustainable energy and dynamic asset management systems. It is critical to hastening the early development of fully autonomous vehicles.
Over the coming year, expect the focus on connectivity to sharpen significantly. Very soon, governments are going to start to recognize that they must address the growing deficits in their digital infrastructure. And they will be looking at enhancing their connectivity (and the cyber security of their assets) in order to drive growth in both their economies and their balance sheets.