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Digital transformation refers to the overall process of how a business innovates and changes the implementation of digital technology in order to improve its delivery of value and service to its customers.

This could include transferring a business' data to the cloud, the implementation of artificial intelligence, developing and further implementing technological devices for communications or bringing connectivity to areas that have traditionally been left behind.

Digital transformation steers the company's goals and overall purpose to drive growth and further enhance the customer experience. Digital transformation is often fueled by societal and behavioral changes. Companies continue to challenge and experiment with ideas that can best accommodate the new practices that people develop, even if this sometimes means turning away from long-established business processes.

In 2019, the Internet of Things (IoT) held the largest share of the digital transformation market, while AR/VR technology was believed to represent the fastest-growing segment through 2025. The collective growth and impact are immense. Indeed, by 2026, total global digital transformation spending is expected to reach $3.4 trillion.

Challenges in Digital Transformation and Connectivity

The Southeast Asia Development Solutions Knowledge and Innovation Platform (SEADS) of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) previously emphasized both the importance and the challenges of working through digital transformation: "The digital economy is here to offer incredible opportunities, finding new solutions to old sustainability problems and giving new answers to old questions on inclusive economic growth.

"However, there are intrinsic challenges in realizing opportunities, which include heterogeneous network capacity, reach and quality across different regions; gaps and inconsistencies among regulatory principles leading to potential competitive imbalances; limited digital offering due to uneven awareness of technology use cases; low-level digital readiness among small companies, citizens and workers further impacting the take-up of digital solutions; and lack of trust in digital technologies due to cybersecurity and privacy concerns, as well as issues related to national security and digital sovereignty," it stated.

In 2021, over 3.8 billion people remained unconnected worldwide. Though the number fell the following year to 2.7 billion, the figure was still seen as being unnecessarily high.

Providing connectivity in a country like Indonesia, for example, is quite challenging, as "the country's 17,500 islands present a unique obstacle to developing certain types of infrastructure. Construction involves dangerous boat rides, pushing and pulling SUVs stuck on muddy roads and carrying heavy network equipment on rough footpaths," according to the World Economic Forum.

Several additional remote areas in Asia also still require help securing sufficient high-speed connectivity. To date, internet providers with limited network architecture have been unable to supply effective connections in these areas, leading to the continuation of latency and performance issues.

Bridging the Connectivity Gaps

The ever-growing need for more effective and far-reaching mobile connectivity requires massive investment in fixed communication networks, including fiber. By 2030, Southeast Asia's internet economy is expected to reach $1 trillion through the continuous development and transformation of digital applications and their rollout to consumers.

Deep Kapuria, chairman of The Hi-Tech Gears, previously highlighted the importance of investment in technology and shared his perspective: "It’s only by experimenting and getting creative, and not being afraid of failure, that we take giant leaps of innovation forward."

Additionally, Japan's KDDI is diligently focusing on 5G, which occupies the center of its growth strategy. "We have discussed that there will be no continuous business if we do not grow 5G," noted KDDI President Makoto Takahashi. "So we want to focus fully on how to restore ARPU in 5G." According to Takahashi, the operator aims for "continuous growth" by increasing 5G revenue and ARPU.

Meanwhile, India launched its Rural Connectivity Investment Program in 2022, with the intended goal of improving and sustaining "connectivity of selected rural communities in the investment program states to markets, district headquarters and other centers of economic activity," as stated in ADB's report.

The Program was constructed "to [an] all-weather standard [of] about 9,000 kilometers of rural roads connecting around 4,200 habitations in Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal." It is an exemplary example of the ambitions of such outreach.

Digital transformation represents our global and collective future. Still, challenges must be overcome and connectivity issues must be resolved in order to ensure that this new era is beneficial and accessible to all.

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