How we can tackle 5G conspiracy theories and help the digital revolution to thrive
Cormac Ryan, Sales Director, Enet
It’s often been said that the digital revolution represents the most profound change to society since the industrial revolution. Indeed, by the end of what’s come to be known as the fourth industrial revolution, almost every area of our lives will have been transformed, changing the way people communicate, work and live. But as with any profound change or new technology, the digital revolution has also faced opposition on the grounds of health or security concerns.
As we’ve seen, digital technologies and the connectivity underpinning them bring great benefits to businesses and society, but it’s important that these concerns are addressed so that communities and citizens can be confident in their use of the technology, and, importantly, in reaping the rewards of all it has to offer.
In the past, there’s been a number of objections to the rollout of 5G technology by some local authorities. This is disappointing, especially as these objections are often based on misinformation or inaccuracies. At a meeting of Wicklow County Council last October, for instance, councillors were concerned that the use of transmitters to boost 5G signals would result in higher levels of radiation than 4G. Consequently, they argued, it would be best if 4G continued to be used outside of schools, hospitals and other facilities. Motions opposing the rollout have also been passed in Clare, Leitrim, Wexford and Sligo, often accompanied by demonstrations from members of the public concerned about 5G’s impact on human health.
This has added fuel to conspiracy theories that 5G masts are somehow linked to the spread of Covid-19. These conspiracy theories have the potential to set our industry back, and all stakeholders across the telecommunications industry have a duty to tackle them head-on, dispel the myths, and instead focus on the facts.
The scientific community is engaged in ongoing studies into the effects of electromagnetic radiation, but the World Health Organisation has stated that there are no adverse effects from low level, long-term exposure to the types of radio-frequencies emitted by these technologies have been confirmed. After all, many 5G networks utilise frequencies close to those already used to support 4G. This means that while 5G will certainly be faster when it comes to transmitting data, there is no increase in the risk posed to individuals, as it operates at levels long-considered safe for all.
In an increasingly digitalised world, it’s not surprising that there are some valid concerns around security and privacy. The systems and infrastructure that powers our connected world, and the data collected and shared, must be protected. More and more businesses are waking up to the importance of tightening up their data security, as privacy breaches increasingly result in large EU fines and the erosion of consumer trust. But there is also a responsibility on multinational organisations, international governments and security services to maintain vigilance and respond quickly to new threats as they emerge.
Benefits of 5G
While it’s important to address genuine concerns and ensure the safety and security of any new technology, we should also not lose sight of the numerous benefits the rollout of 5G and wireless brings – or indeed the lifestyle changes driving this change. Smart devices are becoming increasingly prevalent in all aspects of our lives – from fitness trackers to voice-activated virtual assistants and even smart appliances. But increased connectivity can also be seen in the live traffic updates we receive, reducing the amount of time we spent sitting in a gridlocked car, and the growing availability of telemedicine to deliver timely and convenient medical assessments. The desire for greater connectivity to take advantage of these possibilities goes hand-in-hand with the need to revamp 5G and develop fibre infrastructure across the country.
In addition, unlocking its potential will be central to efforts by businesses to get to grips with a changed economic landscape and working environments. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the move towards remote working and the greater work-life balance it can bring, and greater connectivity is needed to ensure businesses across the country can operate effectively and safely. Rural Ireland also stands to gain as farmers make use of a range of digital tools and apps to monitor livestock, optimise soil fertility and carry out detailed record-keeping. Herdwatch, Geo Area, FarmGRAZE and MooCall are just some of the apps transforming everyday farming activity, and all rely on high-quality connectivity for farmers to experience the full benefits.
Of course, all this potential can only be realised with collaborative investment and by embracing the opportunities that 5G and wireless present. But to do that effectively, any doubts over safety and security must be firmly dispelled. Ireland is already ahead of the curve in many respects when it comes to adopting this technology, and, far from presenting a threat, the fourth industrial revolution will be at the heart of attempts to rebuild Ireland’s economy and enhance its society.