Interview: Rashid Al Naimi

What would you identify as major opportunities for information and communications technology (ICT) services going forward?

RASHID AL NAIMI: Opportunities for the ICT sector as a whole will really flourish with the implementation of improved infrastructure, which is currently advancing very quickly. The Gulf Bridge International (GBI) submarine cables and fibre-optic solutions from the Qatar National Broadband Network initiative will add capacity and availability of bandwidth nationwide. Bandwidth was a major obstacle to ICT development in the past, and while cost still remains a concern, there are clear signs pointing toward the development of a more open market that will ensure more favourable prices for the client.

The sectors that offer the best opportunities for innovative applications are health, education and finance. Developing services in these segments will fall in line with the country’s long-term ambitions, and there are a number of opportunities for research in these areas. However, it is important to encompass all sectors of the economy given that the proliferation of IT services in business and society at large is being encouraged at a regulatory level and will be essential in staying competitive within the region and globally.

To what extent will cloud computing facilitate the growth of the private sector and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) here in Qatar?

AL NAIMI: The introduction of cloud computing services in Qatar will go a long way in helping businesses reduce their operating costs and enhance efficiency. Now that cloud services are available locally, companies don’t have to worry about storing their data across the Atlantic. Instead, they can use a local service with the expertise and knowledge of cloud computing.

Cloud-packaged solutions should prove particularly useful to SMEs, which stand to gain from using services that were built and hosted in Qatar with local IT support. Rather than acquiring the IT infrastructure in-house and incurring the cost of maintaining it, cloud-packaged solutions lend themselves more to SME needs as they view IT infrastructure as a pure overhead. This enhanced affordability will encourage far more entrepreneurs to start small businesses.

Cloud computing is becoming a vital part of doing business in the modern world. Because of this, international businesses are adopting cloud services at a rapid rate. Continued access to IT infrastructure, regardless of geographic location, has now become imperative in an increasingly globalised business environment.

What are the most significant challenges related to the adoption of cloud computing within the business community in Qatar?

AL NAIMI: The major issue is security and the lack of universal regulations that are needed to govern the privacy of data. This challenge is ever more present in fields where sensitive information is expected to be handled confidentially between businesses and their clients.

These segments of the economy include health, financial services and governmental organisations.

However, I am very optimistic that once key issues such as security are addressed the rate of adoption of cloud computing will grow rapidly. Another challenge is the maturity of the market. Europe and North America have a far more mature business environment so they are ahead in terms of adopting cloud services.

What is Qatar’s potential for becoming a centre for ICT research and development (R&D) in the region?

AL NAIMI: The IT industry is very competitive and adopting innovation is important for the survival of any company. I would say the long-term ambitions of the country place it in a strong position to become the Silicon Valley of the region. The Qatar Science and Technology Park offers a great platform for R&D and ICT development and we have noticed an influx of international and local businesses establishing a presence. The emphasis on Qatar migrating to a knowledge-based economy will surely encourage further R&D in the field.