Interview: Hessa Al Jaber

What are the challenges associated with encouraging the private sector to adopt cloud computing technology, and how are they being addressed?

HESSA AL JABER: Introducing cloud computing services is a global challenge that is not an issue of investment or development, but rather a problem regarding the lack of universal regulations. Promoting local cloud computing is easy, but at the moment to fully reap the benefits of cloud services companies must be willing to have some data hosted internationally to be cost-effective. This creates problems and concerns with determining which data privacy laws should be applied, especially in instances of dispute or legal action. International rules and regulations will likely evolve to provide more universal guideline. For now the challenge is encouraging companies to adopt cloud services where data is not sensitive or private, or adopting cloud solutions such as software as a service. It is understandable institutions will remain cautious of storing critically sensitive data in the cloud, but that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from other cloud offerings.

To what extent is there a need to find a balance between strict privacy laws and support for innovation and the free flow of data?

AL JABER: The more control and restrictions that are applied, the less room for innovation and creativity. A balance is needed when it comes to protecting the privacy of individuals. There is, of course, data which you share with your health institution or bank, and the law should protect this data. However responsibility should also lie with the individual in what they share. This comes down to education and awareness levels. Some countries apply strict restrictions on exploration of data related to national security or the economy. The extent to which countries should be allowed to protect government information is debated since such knowledge is crucial for innovation, education and decision-making. Social media is also an area where a balance is needed. I believe there should be no restrictions as to what people are allowed to say on social media sites, as long as they are not propagating false or vicious information, or causing harm. Such cases would require intervention and mediation.

What advantages will the planned EsHail satellite have for Qatar and the region?

AL JABER: Qatar’s satellite program is aimed at boosting broadcasting capacity for Qatar and the region.

With our first satellite scheduled to be launched in 2013, we expect to be able to meet Qatar’s growing needs for connectivity and advanced multimedia communications services. We also plan to expand the satellite program so we can offer more next-generation services such as HDTV, 3D communications and more.

We are working with stakeholders to ensure broadcasting capacity needs in the region are met for years to come, and that we have varied channels for connectivity and broadcasting. The satellite program will also create many new business opportunities.

How will the Electronic Accessibility Policy create new opportunities for the private sector?

AL JABER: Qatar took a step towards equal technology access and benefits for all with the introduction of the progressive, comprehensive National e-Accessibility Policy. This policy identifies key barriers to information and communications technology (ICT) use for people with disabilities; limited access to assistive technology; and a dearth of accessible digital content, especially in Arabic. It aims to surmount these barriers, laying out practical, achievable mandates and strategies for putting ICT equipment, content, and services within the reach of all constituents – particularly those with a disability. One important effort is in making assistive technologies and software available in and compatible with Arabic. Working with our Assistive Technology Centre, Mada, and other stakeholders, the policy will help connect to people with disabilities to new opportunities in both the public and private sector.