By Jim Cathey, Chief Commercial Officer, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
Digital transformation is one of the most significant trends to have emerged in recent years and a major topic of discussion at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. Expedited by the pandemic, companies across industries and regions sped up their adoption of digital and intelligently connected solutions and tools to compete in a rapidly changing business environment.
While the current macroeconomic climate may have some companies rethinking their expenditures, including on digital technologies, future industry leaders will make intelligent investments to remain competitive and position themselves for growth when economic conditions improve.
Digital transformation has become a strategic imperative for sustainable growth and innovation. It can stimulate new business models, services, and revenue streams that can help companies boost bottom-line results. It can also unlock greater operational efficiencies and productivity by streamlining complex processes, automating manual tasks, and removing redundancies.
Furthermore, it allows organizations to improve customer experience, which is critical to increasing consumer loyalty and repeat revenues.
The rapid rise of digital transformation has made it a powerful engine for economic growth. According to Accenture, one year after the start of the pandemic, companies investing in digital transformation saw revenues increase 5 times higher than those that did not. And the World Economic Forum estimates that more than 60% of 2022 global GDP depended on digital technologies.
The future of the economy is digital, and companies that fail to invest in the necessary technologies will simply be left behind.
At the same time, digital solutions play an increasingly important role in sustainability efforts. For example, smart grid solutions will improve the integration of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, helping to decrease our use of – and reliance on – fossil fuels. And intelligent transportation systems will help reduce traffic congestion and the emission of air pollutants into the atmosphere. All told, digital innovations can potentially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 15% in 2030.
The technology foundation needed for digital transformation is being shaped by the convergence of ultrafast 5G and Wi-Fi connectivity, power-efficient processing, advanced sensing and on-device intelligence with the cloud at the network edge.
Together, these innovations will have a significant impact across industries and create the next generation of leading companies. They will allow automakers to create the software-defined vehicles of the future that will enable new automotive services and experiences. Manufacturing companies will be able to increase their automation and control capabilities, and access new levels of data from across their operations in real-time for better-informed decision-making. And logistics firms will be able to bring greater intelligence, efficiency, and resiliency to supply chain management.
As enterprises transition to more mobile workforces, and with enterprise workflows moving to the cloud, the 5G PC will enable employees to access what they need, when they need it. This will allow them to stay productive regardless of where they are, and keep operations resilient and efficient.
To ensure availability and access to the technologies and solutions necessary for digital transformation, it’s critical that governments and the public sector create an environment that fosters transformation and growth. A report from the World Economic Forum and FTI Consulting, Digital Transition Framework: An Action Plan for Public-Private Collaboration, brings attention to the growing opportunity and need for public-private collaboration on the digital transformation of our economies and societies.
These efforts require a comprehensive approach to create a supportive environment for a robust digital economy, including strategic economic investments in connectivity infrastructure and services.
They play a particularly important role in establishing strategic priorities and helping to create the right environment through monetary and foreign policies to promote inclusive digital development. This encompasses tax incentives that encourage businesses to make investments in innovative technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and supercomputing, which help tackle many of today’s challenges.
Those countries and regions where business and government can pool their intelligence, resources, and capabilities will advance the fastest. As companies look to connect an ever-increasing number of smart devices at the network edge, governments worldwide need to ensure the adequate availability of wireless spectrum. The 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) bands should be an integral part of spectrum plans, providing the capacity and throughput rates necessary for a hyper-connected world.
There are additional benefits to investing in mmWave. For instance, it can better support first responders and municipalities during emergencies and natural disasters when calls and data use can overwhelm a mobile network.
Digital transformation is also driving the need to create more resilient workforces. Demand for workers with advanced digital skills continues to grow, yet three out of four workers don’t have the digital skills businesses need. Only 28% participate in training programs. According to the Forum, only 33% of technology jobs worldwide are filled by people with the necessary skills.
To address the growing requirement for digital literacy skills, governments and organizations must establish upskilling and reskilling initiatives to help create more resilient workforces. They also need to expand STEM education efforts to ensure there is a pipeline of digitally skilled workers into the future. These programs must be treated as investments and not expenses.
Digital transformation is central to creating resilient economies and will be the hallmark of tomorrows leading companies. It requires a supportive environment for innovation and holistic strategies that help democratize connectivity and computing to drive economic growth and sustainable development.
A challenging macroeconomic environment could result in some business leaders pumping the brakes on their investments around digital transformation, but leaders will view them as investments toward the future that are designed to create opportunity and a path to growth.
 Accenture, Total Enterprise Reinvention, Jan 2023
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.