Interview: Omar Alomar, Chairman and CEO, Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority

Where do you identify challenges and opportunities to boost productivity, transparency, service quality and efficiency through digital solutions?

OMAR ALOMAR: Digitalisation has the potential to streamline processes, and increase transparency and efficiency. Adopting digital platforms can notably diminish bureaucratic obstacles, fostering more effective citizen-government interactions. However, there are significant challenges in integrating digital technologies into government structures.

The government has been progressively embracing digital transformation. This shift was accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which highlighted the necessity for digital solutions to maintain essential services. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics in government processes can lead to more responsive and individualised services, reflecting the rising demand in sectors like health care and banking.

Challenges remain in the areas of data storage, processing and security. The reliance on mobile and wireless connectivity, and the slow adoption of fixed connectivity like 5G, are limitations that place pressure on wireless networks and underscore the need for a more robust digital infrastructure. The complexity of laws and regulations related to telecommunication and technology can impede the adoption of new technologies and hinder investment. The need for a balanced regulatory approach that fosters innovation while also ensuring data privacy and security is crucial. This includes simplifying licence acquisition processes and easing regulations for cloud service providers and financial technology companies.

The impact of digitalisation on the labour market also presents challenges and opportunities. The new generation’s inclination towards digital-based business models necessitates a workforce skilled in digital technologies. Partnerships between public and private sectors are crucial in developing local human capital in the ICT sector. Training and education initiatives are essential to prepare the workforce for the evolving demands of the digital age.

Which economic sectors are best positioned to benefit from deeper digitalisation, and what is the role of data and AI in shaping policy?

ALOMAR: In the context of technological transformations, sectors like health care, education and public services are best positioned to benefit from deeper digitalisation. The role of data and AI is pivotal in this transformation. By harnessing AI and big data, policies can be more evidence-based and targeted, leading to efficient resource allocation and better outcomes. For instance, AI can aid in predictive analytics in health care, which can improve patient care and management. Similarly, tailored education experiences can be crafted through data-driven insights, significantly enhancing learning outcomes.

Blockchain technologies, the internet of things and AI have the potential transform citizen engagement and public administration. To improve technological adoption and implementation, the government must foster a culture of innovation, invest in skills development and create robust partnerships with technological firms. A proactive approach to embracing these technologies is critical to reap their full benefits.

At the same time, because of the growing amount of sensitive information online, cybersecurity and data protection are increasingly vital in a digitalised economy. As we move more services online, the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks rises. Therefore, investing in advanced cybersecurity measures and continuously updating them to address emerging threats is essential. The most pressing need for the local business community is to establish comprehensive cybersecurity frameworks and regular audits to ensure data integrity and security. This requires technological solutions and human expertise in order to manage and respond to cyber threats effectively.