At a recent Irish International Business Network (IIBN) event in New York, Ronan Dunne, EVP and Group President of Verizon Wireless explained how next generation wireless will impact the Fourth Industrial Revolution #4IR. Connectivity and inclusion were pervasive themes in his talk with a certain onus placed upon business and technology leaders to work together to ensure that the #4IR provides opportunity for all. Dunne is passionate about connectivity in more ways than one. As an Irishman who has spent his entire career working outside of Ireland, he recognizes the crucial role organizations like the IIBN play in engaging and connecting the Irish diaspora. Dunne even managed to connect with his friend, the popular entertainer and innovator via Twitter during the evening. Here are some highlights from his keynote address.


Welcome to the revolution.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will “blur the lines between the physical and digital” according to Dunne, recognizing that “everything that can be connected will be.” Shedding light on Verizon’s own efforts in bringing about this interconnectivity, Ronan explained that the company is currently testing 5G in 11 cities across the US and has committed to rolling out 12 million miles of fiber. As improvements in wireless, the cloud, computing, data storage, and analytics reach a critical mass, the revolution will gain speed.

The promise of 5G.

Dunne asserts “5G is a game changer” and will likely have as large an impact as other general-purpose technologies such as electricity and the Internet. By 2035, 5G stands to add $12.3 trillion of incremental global economic revenue, helping add an additional 22 million jobs worldwide, Dunne said. He added this will be driven by the digitization of industries such as transportation, agriculture and manufacturing. 

Dunne envisages three ways in which the new technology will impact the economy.

1.      5G will put broadband in the hands of more people, expanding mobile capabilities beyond data and video into such areas as 3D, virtual reality and augmented reality.

2.      It will help facilitate Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies. Today there are approximately 7.5 billion connected devices and within four to five years, this figure will rise to 25 billion.

3.      5G will become the backbone of many mission critical departments (emergency services etc.) that serve to protect the wider society. 

The industrial digital divide.

While wireless technology has a track record of rising to engineering challenges and facilitating innovation, it must be interspersed with what’s actually going on in society. “Every generational shift in technology brings new challenges” asserts Dunne, commenting that for 5G to be fully appreciated in the context of social problems, we need to address both the “human and the social impediments to realizing the promise of the digital world.” The US stands at only 18% of its digital capacity, with a massive disparity between early adopters of technology and the rest of the workforce. Ronan quoted a study which found that for every $1 spent per worker in traditional industries, digital industries spent $8, highlighting what he termed the “industrial-digital divide,” a plight that leaves billions of dollars in economic output on the table.

The educational digital divide. 

Education is probably the most critical challenge of all. While many have benefited from digital trends, too many communities and young people in the US are left behind, Dunne said. In attempting to redress the balance, Ronan drew attention to the work of his own company in helping to bridge the digital divide among America’s disadvantaged youth. Dunne stresses that the untapped talent is there and waiting, with Verizon doing their part to close the gap by delivering high quality technology to underserved areas, developing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education solutions and committing $400 million to help some 1 million children to date. 

Data and data privacy.

On the ‘topic du jour’ of data, Ronan propounded that “if connectivity is the oxygen of modern life, then data is the fuel that will power our economy in the 21st Century.” Data, the safe storage and appropriate use of, is now being thrust to the fore of conversations given such recent high-profile examples of how it can be manipulated. Dunne feels people want to make informed choices about their data and privacy, and this demands companies to be more transparent. “There are benefits to developing trust and “digital confidence” between company and consumer.” Dunne said.   

Vision of the future.

In his closing remarks, Ronan called for technology and business leaders to come together around a shared set of values, “using technology as a force for good.” Deploying the infrastructure is “only half the battle” and that must be coupled with viable ecosystems which underpin social goals. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Ronan emphasized the need to build “public trust in technological solutions” and that in achieving this “we can do well and do good.”

After the keynote, Dunne was joined by IIBN Board member Maura Kelly for a Fireside Chat to explore the topics in more detail. VIDEOS: To watch the VIDEO click on The Keynote address . To watch VIDEO click on Fireside Chat both on the IIBN YouTube channel.

Special thanks to our keynote speaker: Ronan Dunne, IIBN Global Sponsor, Grant Thornton LLC and Cara Sloan. This article was prepared by Brett Zych, Jeffries andMaura Kelly, Purple Mountain Media.

About Irish International Business Network

IIBN facilitates connectivity between Irish businesses worldwide to identify and expand new business opportunities throughout the Irish Diaspora. IIBN achieves its objectives by fostering networking among our global members, by collaborating with Government agencies and business organizations, and by mentoring the next generation of Irish and Irish-American entrepreneurs and business leaders. New York IIBN @NewYorkIIBN, @IIBN @RonanDunneVZW @MauraKellyMedia @CaraSloan @GrantThorntonIE @GrantThorntonUS.