Interview: Adel Hamid
How is Egypt’s ICT infrastructure changing to support the development of smart cities?
ADEL HAMID: The smart city transformation fuelled by ICT solutions can help reduce energy consumption, and reinforce pollution monitoring and governance. It also offers improved safety and security. Egypt is developing such technology in line with the Digital Egypt Strategy. Telecom Egypt is building ICT infrastructure in the New Administrative Capital (NAC) and 17 other smart cities, which will connect districts and buildings to data centres, network nodes, switches, and internet of things (IoT) devices and sensors. Such initiatives will allow for smart technologies to be applied across power grids, electricity meters, lighting, parking, waste management processes and transport systems, among other uses, to promote sustainability and carry out social and business activities in a more convenient way.
The NAC, in particular, is set to become a smart and sustainable city that employs innovative solutions to provide better economic opportunities for residents, as well as improve quality of life. The city will provide enhanced services such as smart traffic and utility management via data centres.
What steps are being taken to further facilitate internet accessibility in Egypt?
HAMID: Digital technologies are important tools used in almost every aspect of our lives. We, at Telecom Egypt, anticipated high growth in digital reliance before the pandemic-induced digital revolution, prompting us to launch the Internet of Egypt project in 2018 to replace copper cables across the country with fibre optics. By 2020, 90% of households were connected with fibre-to-the-curb technology.
In parallel to the Internet of Egypt initiative, we heavily invested in various digital transformation projects during the last three years, which included extending our revamped network to schools; connecting government buildings with fibre optics; building and deploying infrastructure for smart cities; and expanding our international cable footprint. We are therefore a key contributor to the government’s Digital Egypt Strategy, and this laid the groundwork for our contribution to the president’s Decent Life initiative that aims to alleviate various societal pressures and improve the quality of life in underprivileged areas of Egypt.
Our role in the project is to connect governmental buildings, homes, hospitals, schools, service centres and other areas in 4500 Egyptian villages with fibre-optic technology, providing high-speed broadband connectivity to over 3m households that include some 58m citizens. Such connections will facilitate access to Digital Egypt services, including online schooling and examinations, digital health care services, real estate and commercial registration, notary services, vehicle and driver’s licence issuance, court procedures, real estate tax payment and more. We began implementing phase 1 of the project in August 2021, which includes connecting about 1400 villages in line with government plans to develop public utilities infrastructure.
To what extent is generational change impacting digitalisation and internet use in Egypt, and how will this affect the ICT sector going forwards?
HAMID: According to the government census carried out in 2017, the youth – or individuals younger than 30 years of age – are a digitally native generation that makes up 60% of the Egyptian population. They are accustomed to the simplicity and mobility that technology provides, due to their familiarity with computers, smartphones and data-driven devices. They expect to conduct their daily activities with the same ease. Their growing demand for digital technologies is a crucial driver of digitalisation and an increased reliance on internet services across the country.