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Driving Digital Transformation for Social Value Creation
NEC President Delivers Keynote Speech


There is no doubt that companies in the private sector play a vital role in supporting the UN's sustainable development goals. Corporate profit is no longer just about the bottom line—it is about generating sustainable benefits and a sustainable future.

NEC is known as a global ICT service and product provider. But several years ago, we envisioned a meaningful future for NEC as a social value creator. How can today's leading companies commit to technologies that create a safe, secure, efficient, equal society? It is possible. It is practical. However, there is a secret ingredient that is required to ensure our success: we need to do it together.

History of NEC

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NEC officially opened for business in 1899. The chief aim in those days was to offer modern telephony products and reliable maintenance services.

As early as 1977 at Intelcom Atlanta, our chairman foresaw the integration of computer and communications technologies that would enable people to talk and see each other anytime, anywhere.

Since then, NEC has grown into a global company with over 100,000 employees across 160 countries. We possess both computer and communications technologies, placing us in the ideal position from which to foresee trends. Today, we combine the two technologies to provide innovative social solutions. Last month in Davos, the World Economic Forum included NEC in its list of “2017 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World”.

Changing with the times

To adequately respond to today's complex and often murky social issues, companies must integrate multiple technologies with their own knowledge and insight. One of the best ways for companies to create social value is to move beyond simple products. Working together with partners and stakeholders, we can devise helpful solutions for all social problems facing the modern world.

What is social value?

As part of its mission to “orchestrate a brighter world”, NEC has carefully crafted its own seven themes for social value creation, each with its own specific goals and delivery outcomes. These social value themes start with the planet and narrow to the individual.


The 7 themes for Social Value Creation

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  1. Sustainable Earth
  2. Safer Cities & Public Services
  3. Lifeline Infrastructure
  4. Communication
  5. Industry Eco-System
  6. Work Style
  7. Quality of Life

These themes are in close alignment with the UN's sustainable development goals (SDGs). For example, Safer Cities & Public Services, Lifeline Infrastructure, and Communication are linked to SDG9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.

The question now is: How can we all create social value that complements SDGs? We believe the answer is “digital transformation”.

Digital transformation creates disruptive business models and social schemes with a focus on technologies such as AI and IoT.

Three key elements of digital transformation

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Digital transformation comprises three key processes.

  1. Visualization
    Real-world information is translated into digital data to grasp current situations.
  2. Analysis
    This data is analyzed to gain insights and predict outcomes.
  3. Prescription
    These insights are turned into real-world action to deliver social value.

Three technologies enable these processes: AI, computing, and communication networks. Communication networks enable real-time connectivity. Computer technology delivers secure information exchange. And AI technology is utilized for analysis and prescription.

NEC has all three digital transformation technologies in house. What's more, we have amassed the experience that allows us to confidently combine the technologies to create unique value propositions that contribute to SDGs. Four case studies to give examples of these contributions are provided here.

Case 1: Safe Streets in Tigre City

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NEC is using state-of-the-art image recognition solutions to monitor the streets in Tigre, Argentina, in a bid to prevent crime and help build a safe and secure city. This is related to SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Since we put this city surveillance center into operation in Tigre in 2013, motor vehicle thefts decreased by 80% compared with 2008. Moreover, revenue from tourism has tripled over the past 10 years. This was achieved through digital transformation: through visualization, analysis, and prescription made possible by AI and advanced technologies. We worked closely with the city of Tigre to design and implement a Safer City solution, and we are extremely proud of the results.

Case 2: KAGOME

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Let us next look at what fruit a similar collaboration can reap in the field of agriculture.

As global populations increase, so too does the global demand for food. NEC is working with KAGOME, a leading producer of food and beverage products, to maximize the harvests of tomatoes. Tomatoes are quite difficult to cultivate effectively, requiring years of experience to develop the essential farming skills required. KAGOME and NEC are seeking to increase crop yields in existing production areas as well as to develop new ones in countries not yet known for tomato production.

The relevant sustainable development goals here are “zero hunger”, “industry, innovation, and infrastructure”, “responsible consumption and production”, and “climate action”.

In the first year of this project, NEC was able to produce accurate crop predictions without the need for copious amounts of past data that can take years to accumulate.

In open cultivation, weather is a big variable. NEC's solution enables multiple growth prediction simulations based on the latest weather conditions.

Case 3: E-vouchers in Mozambique

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In Mozambique, our digital transformation underpinned a landscape-changing e-money solution aligned with three SDGs: No Poverty, Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, and Partnerships for Goals.

Hunger and poverty are serious issues in Mozambique, where agriculture is the main economic activity.

NEC is working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN to improve agricultural productivity. Authorities initially distributed paper vouchers to small-scale farmers to give them greater market access and to improve quality of agricultural products. However, there were problems with this system in terms of security, traceability, and convenience.

In response, NEC developed an e-voucher system using mobile technology. We worked together with a number of partners including telecom carrier, the FAO, and Nippon Biodiesel Fuel.

This solution enabled farmers to utilize subsidies more effectively and to increase their income by improving the distribution of agricultural products. We believe similar financial platforms can be leveraged in many emerging countries.

Case 4: Chile Education

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This final case involves healthy eating and education for youth in Chile. These two major national concerns are aligned with the Good Health and Well-Being and Quality Education SDGs.

The Chilean government had been experiencing problems on the operation of its meals program for children. It lacked the necessary skill set to trace a proper use and avoid food waste.

NEC applied a biometric solution to a program operated in 30 schools across three cities by JUNAEB, the national organization responsible for providing school meals. The schools are connected via Telefonica's mobile network to central servers for fingerprint authentication.

This solution enables JUNAEB to verify and ensure that each student receives proper meal benefits. It also helps prevent fraud while respecting user rights and privacy.

Our trial helped improve the use of economic resources involved in food program. JUNAEB will expand the solution to cover 4 million students, helping Chile maintain its strong position among Latin American countries for nutrition and literacy.

To Summarize…

These four cases vividly illustrate how digital transformation contributes to SDGs.

First, it enables the leveraging of advanced technologies such as AI, connectivity, and security.

Second, it generates clear results through collaboration with dedicated partners ranging from telecom companies to the public sector, along with many other types of business enterprises.


NEC: Orchestrating a Brighter World, Together

We firmly believe that the best way to cultivate a better society in line with sustainable development goals is to focus on digital transformation. This requires co-innovation and co-creation.

Creating social value through partnership is the only way to succeed. So, let us orchestrate a brighter world together.

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