This is not a time for confrontation, this is time for collaboration

José María Álvarez-Pallete at Mobile World Congress 2022.

9 min

During the next minutes I will try to explain to you why I am a lucky man. It is not going to be easy, but bear with me for a while.

We live in an era of conflict, apparently everywhere and about everything.

  • Between East and West.
  • Between truth and fake news.
  • Between privacy and free services.
  • Between sovereignty and big digital platforms.
  • Between old industrial models and climate change.
  • Between automation and job creation.
  • Between digitalization and equality.

Our society has lost its optimism.

Our teens fear that climate change will be irreversible. Many of our citizens think that technological progress will destroy their jobs, erode their freedoms and impose values that they consider alien.

Many think the future will be worse for almost everyone.

Despite the immense material progress that technology and reason have brought to humanity in these last two hundred years…

Despite the fact that our lives today are longer, healthier and more comfortable than those of our great-grandparents…

Despite the fact that the complete eradication of hunger and poverty is for the first time in history a possible achievement…

Despite the fact that today the world is more connected…

Despite all of these, we are losing faith in ourselves, and in our future.

It is not an arbitrary feeling. There are reasons that explain this state of mind. The main one is that the link between material progress and ethical progress has been blurred.

The convulsions of the twentieth century and the disconcerting events of the dawn of the twenty-first century, such as what is happening right now in Ukraine, have reminded us that technology lacks values.

Technology gives us power to change and do more things, but that power can be used for good or bad.

When technology promotes hyper-individualistic values to the detriment of values such as solidarity, social empathy or mere contact between people… society distrusts it and those who provide it. 

We are living in a new era, the deepest technological revolution in human history. Its impact is expected to be 4 times as big as that from the Industrial Revolution. Everything is happening at amazing speed.

The pandemic has been like a time machine accelerating further the digitization and this is irreversible.

This is just starting. Ultrabroadband connectivity is already here.

Processing and storage capacity are growing exponentially and moving to the cloud.

Virtual, Augmented, and Enhanced Reality are changing how we experience everything. Internet of Things and Big Data are producing and handling huge amounts of data.

And more is coming. Blockchain, Quantum Computing, Cybersecurity, Edge Computing and Stand-Alone 5G and Artificial Intelligence.

A new immersive world is almost here with Web3 and the Metaverse. They are already delivering mind blowing disruption.

These technologies are redefining the society and the economy within which we live. But none of this can exist without the ultrabroadband connectivity provided by 5G and fiber networks.

Underpinning this new immersive reality will be the most technologically advanced infrastructure, built to move the world forward.

We are deploying the networks of the future, based on concepts such as virtualization, cloudification, open architectures, edge computing or cloud-native functions.

All of this, combined with powerful Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, will bring closer the long time ideal of the truly Autonomous Networks.

This involves the ideal of zero. Zero Wait. Zero Touch. And zero Trouble. It involves a big challenge. As an industry we are aware of it.

We enter a new era of superconnectivity.

This won’t happen without us. Our sector is crucial, because…

We have built and keep on building the 21st century digital infrastructures.

We have made and keep on making possible all new digital services.

We have made and keep on making connectivity affordable.

We have digitalized and keep on digitalizing the world.

We have been and continue being essential during the pandemic and always.

The telco sector radically changes the lives of people around the world. In the last 25 years no other industry has contributed to the economic and social welfare as this sector.

We can proudly say that:

Without us, the deepest technological revolution in human history would not have happened.

Without us, the less developed parts of the world would have been dramatically disconnected from the digital revolution.

Without us and our resilience, the world would have stopped completely during the sanitary crisis.

We did our job. We were there when needed. We have always been part of the solution.

To deliver a new era of superconnectivity we need a new framework. A new era of hypersector collaboration.

We must create an environment that delivers value to all, that allows everyone to obtain a fair return.

Here we stand:

We respect all players of the new economy. But we also deserve respect.

We want to compete in equal terms. Same services, same rules, same obligations.

We are not asking for privileges, just for justice.

We are asking for a framework that protects all digital citizens.

Allow us to compete in the new world. It is also our world.

Data traffic is growing by up to 50% annually. The investment challenge is huge and deserves special attention. The burden of investment needed to handle this increasing volume of traffic should sit fairly with those that impose it.

The telco sector is the door to the future.

We need a strong and sustainable telco industry.

This new era also requires new values to make it an era of opportunities for everyone.

We have a responsibility to make sure this new reality mirrors the best of the physical world’s principles, the best of our democratic and open societies, the best of our values.

We need a new social contract.

Human beings must never be categorized by their access to digitization. There should be no distinction between those who have the access to the new digital world and those who do not.

Education, digital skills and employability are key tools to fight the inequality breach.

Working together we can make the biggest and quickest difference. The commitment to digital inclusion must unite the entire industry, and we must also work together alongside the public sector.

Climate change is the major challenge humanity is facing. Our industry has an enormous amount to contribute. In simple terms, there is no energy transition without digitization.

Despite exponential traffic increase, this sector has achieved an impressive reduction in energy consumption. We are committed to reach net zero emissions by 2025. But our main contribution to the green transition goes beyond.

Our sector has the power to transform other industries. Our products and services allow other sectors to make progress in energy efficiency.

The old rules are not able to cope with the new world.

We are entering uncharted territory and the rules are not yet written.

We need values to fill in the blanks.

If we do it right, it will bring opportunities for everyone.

If we do it right, we will recover a trust that has been shaken by fake news, trolls, bots, and cybercrime.

If we do it right, we will recover our own privacy and the digital sovereignty, as data is part of our dignity.

If we do it right, this digital revolution will bring social progress.

Because the digital world must be a better world.

It is our collective responsibility to spread the benefits of digitization and make sure that we do not leave anyone behind.

Time has come to unleash a new era.

A historical unprecedented revolution requires to stand for our values and rights in the new world. It is about dignity, solidarity, responsibility, social cohesion, and a greener world. It is about values.

We must be aware of the enormous power of technology, for good, and for bad. But this is not the time for technology. It is already here.

It is the time to put people and values at the center.

At a time when technology is more present than ever in our lives, we cannot forget that it is people who give purpose to technology and not the other way around.

The GSMA vision is to unlock the full power of connectivity so that people, industry, and society thrive.

Our problems have never been solved with less science, less innovation or less technology.

Improvements have always come when we have driven progress. When we have trusted in the future.

When our society has felt as own the advances of the scientific community and the business ecosystem. This is what makes possible to industrialize knowledge and create new services.

When states and companies have worked together. By being positive. 

I am optimistic. Maybe, worried optimistic, but optimistic.

I know that we will not move forward if we do not rewrite the new social contract between Science, Business and Society.

Restore consensus and release the creative energy of hope. But I also know that we can do it.

That is the real change, the great social innovation that can restore the bridge between material and ethical progress.

We need responsible leadership.

This is not a time for confrontation nor for conflict. This is not time for war. This is time for collaboration.

This is not time for exclusion nor building walls. This is time for inclusion and opening doors.

We are very proud of what we have done, what we are doing and what we will do as an industry.

The telco sector will be there, playing a relevant role and fulfilling its essential purpose.

Welfare improvement has always come when progress has been fostered.

When we have had confidence in the future.

When society has felt as theirs the technological achievements.

Together, we can gather big ambition.

Together, we can do incredible things and deliver incredible benefits for all.

That is why I am a lucky person. I am here at Barcelona, an amazing city. I work in an amazing company, in an amazing sector, in an amazing time.

And I chair the GSMA.

Let us start today, here, and now at Mobile World Congress 2022, and unleash this new era.

Thank you.

JMAP’s MWC 2022 inagurational speech


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