Interview: Maziad Alharbi
As Kuwait continues to diversify its economy, what role might the local ICT sector play in accelerating the country’s post-pandemic recovery?
MAZIAD ALHARBI: Kuwait has been developing its ICT sector for the past decade. However, the Covid-19 pandemic hastened the rate by which the country adapted to challenging new scenarios. For example, the education sector had to implement and transition to remote learning and evaluation mechanisms. In this context, we had to accommodate a surge in online users. We overcame this challenge which reinforced the importance of ICT throughout the economy.
Today there is a new attitude towards the online world, which is more accepting of digital transactions and interactions. Government institutions and businesses invested heavily in the ICT sector, including infrastructure development, software implementation and acquisition of advanced equipment. These actions significantly accelerated Kuwait’s post-pandemic economic recovery, and all segments of society can feel the benefits of such advances. In the future, ICT will enable change that improves the lives of the local population in line with New Kuwait 2035.
Where are the most promising investment opportunities in the data centre market, and what is the country’s potential to become a regional leader?
ALHARBI: Expanding the availability of local data centres has become an essential part of the industry as the number of online services and applications continues to grow. The gaming industry is an example of this trend; having data servers close to end users is essential to ensure the highest service-level quality, improve customer experience and reduce latency.
Similarly, many companies provide services and applications through the cloud, promoting enhanced data privacy and cybersecurity standards. The entire ecosystem improves if data is stored domestically. The market is growing, and the opportunity in this segment is significant for companies with the space, procedures, tools and prices to meet demand.
In what ways can Kuwait maximise the returns from 5G network technology, and to what extent can the increase in data traffic affect revenue?
ALHARBI: stc Kuwait was the first company to launch 5G services nationwide, and we can see its impact on the economy and the daily lives of customers. Kuwait has the lowest data prices and the highest rate of data users per capita, supported by a young and tech-savvy population. The return on investment in 5G capabilities is therefore long term, as we have yet to see its full impact on the economy.
Today 5G primarily serves gamers and internet users who benefit from low latency levels on any application. The adoption rate by industry has room for improvement, and we will see an uptake in the transition from existing technology to new digitalised and interconnected machines in the coming years. The possibilities for the business community are endless with much greater implementation of advanced technology such as the internet of things, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).
How are fast-paced digital developments shaping future labour market needs in Kuwait?
ALHARBI: As we implement 5G, we are experiencing a revolution in the ICT sector, AI, automation and robotics. This advent will undoubtedly change the world and affect workforce needs and demands globally. This phenomenon is especially true in Kuwait since we have a high proportion of young people, and 70% of the population are foreign nationals.
Local stakeholders are already working together to determine the best path forwards to provide job opportunities for new generations of workers. We remain confident that expanding the broader ICT sector will not be detrimental to the local labour market.