Group President of Verizon Wireless and leading business member of the Irish Diaspora understands the power of connectivity.

Ronan Dunne is an Irishman who has spent his entire working career outside of Ireland. He understands the power of connectivity not only in his day job as Group President of Verizon Wireless but as a leading business member of the Irish Diaspora who wants to stay connected to Ireland.

At a recent Irish International Business Network (IIBN) event, Dunne welcomed the opportunity to connect with the New York business community and talk about how next generation wireless technology is impacting the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Inclusion was a pervasive theme in his talk with a certain responsibility placed on business and technology leaders to work together to ensure that the 4IR provides opportunity for all.

Dunne is passionate about connecting with the next generation of young leaders too, and encourages them to be a force for good in global business. He is actively involved as a Counselor in the One Young World Summit, a global forum for high achievers aged 18 to 35.  He sees his job as a mentor to listen and respond to new ideas, connect and partner and ultimately, fund and fuel young innovators. Overall, his take on leadership is ‘it’s not about who is in charge, it’s about bringing people to a place they wouldn’t otherwise go.’

On a lighter note when talking about young people and technology, Dunne mentioned his relationship with Will.i.am, the popular entertainer and innovator who likes to build mobile devices too. He explained that when they were both on a panel about millennials Will corrected him and stated they are now called screenagers. The bottom line says Dunne is that millennials or screenagers will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. His comment was live tweeted and re-tweeted by Will.i.am to his 13.6 million followers. Instant connectivity!

Here are some highlights from Ronan Dunne's 4IR 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 wireless 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 and has the potential to create 22 million new jobs worldwide, Dunne said. He added this will be driven by the digitization of industries such as transportation, agriculture and manufacturing. Dunne envisions three ways in which the new technology will impact the economy. 5G will put broadband in the hands of more people. It will help facilitate faster Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies that already connect billions of devices. From a social issues point of view, 5G will become the backbone of many mission critical departments that serve to protect the wider society. Think healthcare and emergency services. 

The digital divide

“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.” Education is probably the most critical challenge of all. While many have benefited from digital trends, many communities and young people in the US are left behind, Dunne said. In attempting to offset the status quo, 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, with Verizon doing their part to close the gap by delivering high quality technology to underserved areas, developing STEM education curriculum and committing $400 million to help some 1 million school children to date. 

Data and privacy

On the topic of data, Ronan advocated 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.”

Brett Zych, Jeffries contributed to the article. The event was sponsored by Grant Thornton IRL. For more information: NewYork-IIBN  @MauraKellyMedia