Executive insight: Telefonica UK CEO Ronan Dunne

The digital revolution has arrived and it’s being driven by mobile, says Telefonica UK CEO Ronan Dunne. He explains how this is affecting the way businesses engage with their customers and why he believes that connectivity is the new oxygen of modern life

Rebecca Lambert
Rebecca Lambert
By Rebecca Lambert on 13 January 2015
Executive insight: Telefonica UK CEO Ronan Dunne

This article was first published in the Winter 2014 issue of OnWindows

The global economy’s future growth will be driven by a digital revolution, and the next wave of that digital revolution will be powered by mobile – that was the message delivered by the CEO of Telefonica UK (O2), ­Ronan Dunne, as he addressed an audience at the ­Microsoft Future Decoded event in London in November 2014. “Our economy is now a digital economy and digital connectivity is becoming ubiquitous – it is the new oxygen of modern life,” he said.

When you consider just how many of us now own a mobile device, and how often we use it, it’s not surprising the role that mobile is playing in this digital revolution that Dunne mentions. Quoting information from an Ofcom report, Dunne said: “More people on the planet have access to a mobile device than electricity, clean drinking water or a toothbrush.” These devices are also never far from our side. “The furthest smartphone users are from their phone is usually the length of the charger cable,” he added.

What’s more, we’re also consuming and generating far more data than ever before. “More traffic was carried on the O2 4G network in its first six months than was carried on the whole of its data services since inception,” said the CEO. “In fact, in the last 12 months, O2’s data traffic has increased by 100%.”

The truth of the matter is, mobile devices and on-the-go connectivity are now an intrinsic part of our daily lives – at home and at work – and they will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

Discussing the role that this shift is having on business models today, Dunne explained that companies need to embrace digital connectivity and develop new ways of engaging their customers if they are to remain relevant and competitive. “Technology represents the rise of individualism and growth of consumer power and access and accountability,” he said. “Mobile is an accelerator of these for the future of our economy. This is the way businesses must change.”

As part of this, businesses need to accept that the rules of engagement are now driven by consumers. “The power of communication is in the hands of customers and citizens now, not businesses or governments,” he said, adding that personal information has the potential to become the currency of the future if businesses make a compelling enough case for customers to share their information.

At the same time, Dunne said that businesses also need to do more to engage the new generation entering our workforce, especially considering that millennials will make up 75 per cent of the UK workforce by 2025. “Digital literacy among our millennials is high, but in many cases our ambitions – reflected in our education system and by us as parents – are still analogue,” he explained. “Many of our most digitally literate in society are at risk of losing out as education and attitudes of employers change too slowly, while youth unemployment remains stubbornly high.”

According to Dunne, we need leadership, creativity and education in order to take full advantage of the opportunities that technology and data provide. “We are just at the start of the digital revolution, driven by innovation in social media, devices and operating ecosystems, where the possibilities of the technology rather than technology itself will reshape ourselves,” he said.

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