From Hiero­glyphs to bits: ICT links an­cient Egypt to in­tel­li­gent world


The Daily News Egypt - - Commentary -

Egypt has al­ways been the land an­cient civil­i­sa­tion of grand pyra­mids. But there is an­other im­pres­sive site that at­tracts a sub­stan­tial num­ber of visi­tors ev­ery year: the mys­te­ri­ous Val­ley of the Kings. About 700 km south of Cairo, in a patch of desert across the river from the modern city of Luxor,sits the an­cient Egyp­tian cap­i­tal of Thebes.

Over a 1,000 years ago, over 60 pharaohs were buried here. These an­cient kings in­clude fa­mil­iar names like Ramesses and Tu­tankhamun.The pharaohs’ wives were buried in the nearby Val­ley of the Queens, named Ta-Set-Ne­feru, mean­ing ‘the place of beauty.’

For the past two cen­turies, the Val­ley of the Kings has been a fo­cus of study for Egyp­tol­o­gists, and visi­tors have al­ways been stunned by the Egyp­tian civil­i­sa­tion. But for a mil­len­nium and a half, up un­til the de­ci­pher­ing of Egyp­tian hi­ero­glyph­ics in the 19th cen­tury, this desert cul­ture, nour­ished by the Nile, had been un­able to tell its story.

Then in 1822, French lin­guist Jean­François Cham­pol­lion submitted a the­sis to the ‘Académie des In­scrip­tions et Belles-Let­tres’ in Paris, an­nounc­ing a break­through in de­ci­pher­ing Egyp­tian in­scrip­tions. Fi­nally, the veil of mys­tery that shrouded An­cient Egypt has been un­veiled.

Over a cen­tury later, Claude Shan­non pub­lished A Math­e­mat­i­cal The­ory of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in which he pro­posed a for­mal def­i­ni­tion of “in­for­ma­tion” and “bit.”

For the first time, in­for­ma­tion could be quan­ti­fied, and with that, the in­for­ma­tion rev­o­lu­tion be­gan.

To­day, smart­phones are res­ur­rect­ing the as­ton­ish­ing civil­i­sa­tion of the pharaohs. For modern visi­tors to the Val­ley of the Kings, the an­cient script and the won­ders of Egypt are just sec­onds away, with in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy (ICT) mak­ing it all pos­si­ble.

Amer­i­can physi­cist John Wheeler once sug­gested that all things are ul­ti­mately in­for­ma­tion. He called the idea “It from Bit.” The hi­ero­glyph­ics in­scribed in the an­cient Val­ley of the Kings carry in­for­ma­tion across vast stretches of time, down to the present day. Now, atop the Val­ley of the Kings, a cell tower trans­mits in­for­ma­tion across the world, con­nect­ing peo­ple and en­abling con­ver­sa­tions be­tween civil­i­sa­tions.

Over a decade ago, Huawei and a lo­cal tele­com car­rier built a cell tower in the Val­ley of the Kings, pro­vid­ing mo­bile cov­er­age to the en­tire area.At the time,there were no roads to the top of the hill where we built the tower, so we had to haul all of the equip­ment and sup­plies, in­clud­ing con­crete, iron gird­ers, gen­er­a­tors, bat­ter­ies, and mi­crowave equip­ment, up by horse, camel, or on our own backs.

Since then, Huawei and our part­ners have built base sta­tions in al­most ev­ery corner of Egypt,fromAbu Sim­bel in the south, to Marsa Ma­truh on the north­ern coast; from Ar­ish in the east to the Sa­hara in the west. We have con­nected the heights of Si­nai to the deep Val­ley of the Kings, and the an­cient pyra­mids of Giza to the modern li­brary of Alexan­dria.

New ICT tech­nolo­gies like cloud com­put­ing, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, and the In­ter­net ofThings are con­nect­ing not just peo­ple, but ob­jects as well. They also con­nect the present to the fu­ture, and to the an­cient past. Cham­pol­lion’s de­cod­ing of the hi­ero­glyphic code meant that peo­ple liv­ing in modern times could pass through Egypt’s “gate­way to the af­ter­life,” and un­cover the se­crets of the past.To­day, dig­i­tal ap­pli­ca­tions en­able us to see fu­ture vis­tas, and ex­plore new di­rec­tions for hu­man progress.

Re­cently, Huawei de­liv­ered a mas­sive com­put­ing sys­tem for the Bi­b­lio­theca Alexan­d­rina, the new li­brary of Alexan­dria.The new su­per­com­puter uses high-den­sity Huawei servers to sup­port spe­cialised ap­pli­ca­tions such as bioin­for­mat­ics, data min­ing, phys­i­cal sim­u­la­tions, weather fore­cast­ing, oil ex­plo­ration, and cloud com­put­ing.

The Bi­b­lio­theca Alexan­d­rina opened in 2002, funded by UN­ESCO and Egyp­tian donors. It was built on the site of the great clas­si­cal Li­brary of Alexan­dria, which 2,000 years ago was one of the great­est cul­tural and aca­demic cen­tres in the world.

Although the orig­i­nal li­brary and its con­tents were trag­i­cally lost to his­tory, to­day’s Bi­b­lio­theca houses six dif­fer­ent col­lec­tions with over 1m books. Com­pris­ing of four mu­se­ums and 13 re­search cen­tres, it is a new hub for the pro­duc­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion of knowl­edge that will foster di­a­logue, learn­ing, and un­der­stand­ing be­tween dif­fer­ent peo­ples and cul­tures.

In ad­di­tion to the Bi­b­lio­theca Alexan­d­rina pro­ject, Huawei has also built cus­tomised high-per­for­mance com­put­ing (HPC) plat­forms for War­saw Univer­sity in Poland, New­cas­tle Univer­sity in the UK, and Is­tan­bul Tech­ni­cal Univer­sity in Tur­key. We have es­tab­lished joint in­no­va­tion cen­tres with Poz­nan Su­per­com­put­ing and Net­work­ing Cen­tre (PSNC) in Poland, as well as other strate­gic part­ners.

All great civil­i­sa­tions have one thing in com­mon: the free ex­change of ideas and the ex­change and evo­lu­tion of knowl­edge.

Growth in com­put­ing power and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is mak­ing cross­dis­ci­plinary re­search and knowl­edge­shar­ing ever more popular. In the in­for­ma­tion age, the In­ter­net and other com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nolo­gies have cre­ated un­prece­dented lev­els of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween cul­tures. This new age is the start­ing point for Huawei’s new vi­sion and mis­sion which is to ex­tend dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion to ev­ery per­son, home and or­gan­i­sa­tion for a fully con­nected, in­tel­li­gent world.

Egypt also has its own vi­sion.The coun­try’s ICT 2030 strat­egy en­vis­ages us­ing ICT tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate a knowl­edge-based so­ci­ety. This will stim­u­late the econ­omy,drive so­cial de­vel­op­ment,and pro­mote free­dom and equal­ity. Smart cities, smart cam­puses, dig­i­tal ed­u­ca­tion, and smart travel, are all rapidly de­vel­op­ing in Egypt. From an­cient sym­bols to modern dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, from sim­ple ex­changes to dense con­ver­gence and the col­li­sion of ideas, ICT tech­nol­ogy has in­spired surges in cre­ativ­ity, and driven the re­lent­less progress of civil­i­sa­tions.

These are the same goals that Huawei has been work­ing to­wards for the past 19 years in Egypt.Along the road to an in­tel­li­gent world, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy ex­tends wings to an an­cient civil­i­sa­tion.And we are the wind be­neath those wings.

Joy Tan,

pres­i­dent of Global Me­dia & Com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Huawei Tech­nolo­gies


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