Author: Janis Barda, Chairman of the Board at Electronic Communications Office (ECO) of Latvia
Building microchips, mobile phones or routers, installing engineering systems, and manufacturing electric cars – it’s all great. But there are also other capabilities that can help us achieve remarkable things. When we, at SJSC ECO, thought of new heights to reach, at some point, it seemed logical to ask: what can we do with our competencies, knowledge, and resources that no one else in Latvia can do? We believe we have found the best possible answer to this challenging question.
ECO has a unique reputation in global telecommunications circles. We have gained respect thanks to diligent and responsible work and the international contacts we’ve acquired over the years. Thanks to it, we’ve managed to create a 5G ecosystem in Latvia.
Today, 5G Techritory is Europe’s leading 5G ecosystem forum that recently took place for the 6th year in a row. The 5G Techritory ecosystem is a global platform for knowledge sharing, effective collaboration, and technological growth on a national and European level. We unite industry leaders, policymakers, and tech visionaries from across the globe who discuss and often determine the direction of technology development, future communications and data transmission networks, services, innovative business models, policies, and other current topics.
Several acknowledgments confirm that 5G Techritory is a leader of its kind in Europe. The forum has received several international awards – the Amber Event Award for the Best Online Event of 2020, the GrandPrix of 2020 and Best Online Event of 2021, as well as the prestigious Virtual Events Institute Virtual & Hybrid Conference award.
That’s where we are today. But how did it all begin? How did a small idea, born in tiny Latvia, grow into a significant global ecosystem event?
Looking back in time, we have to mention the origins of the Forum’s name. When considering a fitting name for the Forum, the underlying concept was – 5G + Technology + Territory = 5GTechritory. The idea behind the name has been preserved, but it has gained deeper meaning. Initially, the combination of the numeral and letter “5G” played a crucial role, but now it rather has a symbolic significance, and it could just as well be “6G” or even “7G”, following the rapid development of technology. On the other hand, the word “Techritory” has solidified its position and today evokes broader associations for many – it is the digital world of new technologies without borders or limitations. It’s about knowledge-based development and the desire of all parties to collaborate in order to create a smarter, safer, and more sustainable world.
At first, the Forum was positioned as a playing field for teams, then Baltic Sea Region countries. There, innovators could have the opportunity to create new technological solutions, investors – to promote these solutions, and legislators – to create a favorable market framework for the sustainable development of these new technologies. The courage to look further and broader has resulted in 5G Techritory growing from a Baltic Sea Region’s forum into Europe’s most ambitious 5G ecosystem forum, bringing together industry leaders, policymakers, and technology visionaries from around the world.
The original challenge – that a successful outcome should be based on collaboration between all stakeholders, with collectively and clearly articulated goals and rules that everyone agrees to follow – has been met.
Ambitions, challenges, and achievements
Without ambition and big goals, we would not have gotten far. By creating a 5G ecosystem in Latvia, we invested in innovation and growth and also dedicated our work to national interests. The Forum is a gathering not just of Latvia but of the global community. As its organizers, we ensure the transfer of knowledge, experience, and ideas between partners.
In the six years of the Forum’s existence, great things have happened in the communications industry. Digital infrastructure has evolved significantly, the microchip initiative for electronics manufacturing has been launched, the Metacity smart partnership was born, the hydrogen technology development consortium was established, and this year, we are standing at the cradle of the quantum technology development initiative. These initiatives are crucial priorities for Latvia’s economic development. They contribute to all of us – not only to the growth of the Latvian economy but also to our experience and knowledge as an organization.
It is truly satisfying to see that these initiatives continue to live and bear fruit.
This year, the Forum organized a cooperation development event between Latvia and Ukraine. It was aimed at building digitization development partnerships between the two countries now and after the war, involving policy and decision-makers, academia, the non-governmental sector, businesses, and business support organizations. This event provided a valuable platform for cooperation, experience, and knowledge exchange between different stakeholders – governments, universities, NGOs, and businesses. It contributed to the digital development and growth not only of Ukraine but also of Europe as a whole while also providing valuable experience and lessons for Latvia. Significantly, Ukrainians have chosen Latvia as their ally for this challenging task, welcoming our digital expertise and knowledge, which they have witnessed at 5G Techritory.
Collaboration is an integral part of our success. Over the years, we have developed partnerships with other companies and organizations, both nationally and internationally, providing us with the necessary resources and support to transform 5G Techritory from a major conference into what it is today – a platform to foster innovation and co-creation.
5G Techritory has broken stereotypes about what Latvia, a small country by the Baltic Sea, is capable of. For a small country to undertake the task of organizing a world-class technology forum seemed like a big challenge, but at the same time, it was also a big opportunity. It is only possible with a bold vision, serious commitment, and willingness to cooperate. Small countries are capable of being on the world stage, and technology development is one of the areas where they can excel. Tiny Latvia has huge ambitions for building a global technology community. We want to foster knowledge sharing, creative thinking, and innovation to tackle the world’s challenges together. Technology development is a worldwide challenge, and we want to be part of it together with other countries, sharing our ideas and learning from others. Global companies and organizations now recognize Latvia as the venue of the 5G Techritory forum.
A logical extension of the activities of the SAC EU within the 5G Techritory is to find a solution to the problem that people in Latvia and elsewhere do not have enough time to think. And to think together. This poses significant challenges for humanity as a whole and for the telecoms industry. Over time, many exciting and innovative technologies have been developed, but suitable applications have not been found, and they have not been used meaningfully. For example, artificial intelligence (AI) is not new; it has been around for years, but most people became aware of it when Chat GPT was created. So, the actual product justified the technology.
For products and technologies to be used meaningfully, we need to think and create together. The co-creation events that are the core of 5G Techritory are a step towards addressing this challenge. In the context of the development of AI, the challenge of not having enough time to think needs to be taken even more seriously. If humans don’t start thinking more efficiently and intensively, we will face significant challenges.
We wish that the Forum becomes an alliance of think tanks, with less theatrics on the stage and much more substantive and valuable thinking that brings real results and contributions not only to the sector but to the whole society. We want to continue bringing industry and researchers together, allowing ingenious initiatives to be born. We want to be the intermediary that not only sees these great things emerging but watches them grow and develop and ultimately passes on the knowledge to a broader range of people. This way, the opportunities that technology brings can improve the well-being of as many people as possible.
Not just 5G Techritory
In addition to 5G Techritory, we have created other product and process innovations, including several exportable products. For example, SKUDRA – a radio monitoring software developed by our engineers enables simultaneous monitoring in several frequency bands. It provides accumulation, processing, storage, and visualization of measurement results and helps to identify the source, user, and location of the radio signal.
In 2019, Skudra won one of the most prestigious awards in the international competition, “Innovation Quality Award 2019” in the category “Innovation in Public Services.” SKUDRA has also repeatedly proven to be an efficient and valuable tool in the military.
Interestingly, the software was originally developed in-house to improve the quality and efficiency of work. As a result, we got software that is functionally complete, easy to use, and stable. SKUDRA has been a commercially viable product for several years already. We still use it for our core business needs, continuously enhancing its functionality.
Also, on 20 October this year, ECO, in cooperation with the Cross-Sectoral Coordination Centre of the State Chancellery, hosted the Outstanding Companies Innovation Forum for the sixth time. The initiative aims to strengthen the culture of innovation in public and private enterprises to promote the transformation of the Latvian economy, productivity, sustainable investments, and export revenues. In addition, the initiative aims to strengthen the image of Latvia as an innovator to support exports and attract information and communication technology talents to Latvia.
Latvia can. We can. If not to produce, then to think. Think together and think meaningfully. To create and ultimately to accomplish.
Supported by the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia and the European Regional Development Fund project 188.8.131.52. “Atbalsts tehnoloģiju pārneses sistēmas pilnveidošanai” (Nr. 184.108.40.206/16/I/001).