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What "Truly Open, Truly Trusted" means: What NEC has to say about dealing with risks that affect the world

Takayuki Morita
President and CEO
NEC Corporation

Today, where we are all openly connected to each other through networks, we are facing considerable confusion and risks both in the real world and in the cyber world. What is required of companies to solve these problems? Takayuki Morita, President and CEO of NEC, introduced "Truly Open, Truly Trusted"—key words of what NEC considers important in realizing its purpose of creating social value—in his lecture at the recent Global Digital Summit 2022 (sponsored by Nikkei Inc.). What does it mean to be "Truly Open, Truly Trusted"? The following is President Morita's message.

Truly Open: Combining NEC's strengths with the strengths of its partners

NEC can contribute to the realization of a truly open world.

This can be done with technological innovation and infrastructure diversity through openness.

First is in 5G. NEC is focusing on Open RAN, which enables the flexible combination of various base station products. Over the past year, NEC has made significant progress in its market position. Globally, we have partnered with startups and major players such as Vodafone, Telefonica, and 1&1. In Japan, we are also working on joint development of next-generation infrastructure in anticipation of Beyond 5G and 6G.

The depths of the ocean and outer space are also essential in covering communications across the globe. NEC holds 30% of the global market share in submarine cable systems. In 2021, we signed a contract with Meta (Facebook) to start construction of NEC's first trans-North Atlantic cable. Moreover, since succeeding in the world's first space-oriented optical communication experiment in 1995, NEC has been a leader in the development of optical communication technologies using satellites. In FY2020, we were the first to succeed in 1.5 μm ultra-long-haul laser communications, the same level as submarine cables, using an inter-satellite optical communication system.

In this way, we are securing open networks from the depths of the ocean to outer space, supporting new industries and services created through these networks, and accelerating innovation. We will continue to invest in development of innovative technologies.

Co-creation and collaboration with different industries also contribute to a truly open world.

One example is a demonstration experiment at Nanki Shirahama Airport in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. We are cooperating with the airport and a robot technology company to increase the number of visitors to the region by building a local 5G network and conducting demonstration experiments for new solutions such as robotic guidance services.

We are also co-creating with global partners. From this fiscal year, we began developing next-generation vaccines using AI together with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

In May, we participated in a panel discussion on AI life sciences held in conjunction with the Davos meeting in Switzerland, where we discussed AI drug discovery, including vaccine development with CEPI.

AI is one of NEC's strengths, and is now an indispensable technology for drug discovery. NEC has applied AI to the field of immunology from an early stage, and has expertise in antigen prediction technology. NEC was invited to the discussion because of our proven track record in the area. Through this meeting, I felt the high level of global interest in AI and NEC's technologies.

CEPI has set out a "100 days Mission" to develop and deliver a new vaccine in 100 days when the next pandemic occurs. NEC has become the first Japanese company to be chosen as a partner for this mission.

(At the World Economic Forum)

Truly Trusted: Dealing with real risks and vague anxieties

A trusted environment that ensures reliability in every aspect is essential in realizing a truly open world.

In addition to COVID-19, the invasion of Ukraine, and economic security, cyberattacks are increasing and risks are emerging in new areas, such as in the metaverse, Web3, and NFT, while becoming more diverse and complex at every turn.

What can NEC do to address these risks?

First is through our security technology. In the face of increasing cyberspace threats, national governments are developing economic security strategies for the cloud.

NEC has been engaged in the development and operation of administrative systems for many years, and has a proven track record in collaborating with cloud service providers internationally. Taking advantage of these strengths, we will build an environment for data protection and utilization, and contribute to the promotion of national DX. We are also working with universities and other organizations to develop cybersecurity human resources.

With the digitization and increasingly remote conduct of corporate activities, it is necessary to design systems based on the premise of "zero trust," which always ensures trust without restrictions on location and work style. NEC will contribute to this with our state-of-the-art technologies that will enable "making it right and maintaining the normal state." Recently, in partnership with NTT, we have developed a technology that reduces security risks in the supply chain by visualizing and continuously detecting and responding to them.

We also have strengths in quantum cryptography technology. NEC has been researching quantum cryptography for more than 20 years and has domestic R&D and manufacturing bases specializing in the field. We can also provide all the ICT technologies necessary for its stable operation.

On the other hand, there are vague anxieties about the progress of technology. There are concerns about the increase in data collected in public places, such as by facial recognition, and fears of discrimination caused by AI-based decision-making.

We also participated in a panel discussion on AI and human rights at the Davos Meeting in May. Credibility in public AI use was discussed with prominent leaders from governments, the private sector, and academia. As a global leader in AI and facial recognition, NEC has a responsibility to allay public anxiety and showcase the social value that technology creates for the world.

Both of the panel discussions in Davos were challenging. Primarily because of the sensitivity of AI and human rights issues, I feel that direct and honest discussions are needed to properly convey certain aspects of the issues. With only superficial understanding, you cannot gain trust.

Allaying the public's anxiety greatly hinges upon NEC's being a trusted company.

In 2018, NEC established the Digital Trust Business Strategy Division to properly conduct business activities related to AI from the perspective of respecting human rights. Thus, in our R&D activities, we have been focusing on research on explainable AI for more than a decade as part of efforts to enhance the reliability of AI technologies.

By ensuring and showing to society that NEC's technologies are used fairly, we endeavor to become a truly trusted company, enabling us to maximize the potential of innovation.

The theme of the Global Digital Summit was "Digital Trust: Towards a Reliable Internet Society." At the Davos Meeting, openness and trustworthiness were also major premises for discussions.

How do we deal with the challenges faced by the world? Again, I would like to introduce the answer that NEC offers to society.

Truly Open, Truly Trusted ─ This is NEC.