Interview: Adel Hamed
What is the role of telecoms operators in driving the country’s digital transformation initiative?
ADEL HAMED: Digital transformation is a key pillar and enabler to the country’s sustainable development strategy, Egypt Vision 2030. The aim is to harness the power of digital technology to accelerate development, modernise the economy and improve the lives of Egyptians. We are working closely with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to enable this vision and we are very proud of our role in building the nation’s digital infrastructure. This starts with availing higher-speed fixed and mobile broadband to all our customers – individuals, enterprises and government bodies – then moves on to include data centres, cloud platforms and applications. The deployment of fibre infrastructure provides high-quality connectivity, enabling the provision of advanced applications to support the country’s developmental goals and the creation of an attractive foreign direct investment climate.
How can Egypt become a hub for ICT in Africa?
HAMED: Egypt’s distinct location puts it on the map as a natural centre for trade and transit, with 13 cables landing from the Mediterranean and 10 cables from the Red Sea. This vast network has made it one of the world’s largest subsea cable operators, and is in line with the goal of transforming Egypt into an international digital hub. Another aspect of this plan is the significant opportunity it holds for further expansion in Africa, but a successful expansion will require continued investment in new infrastructure, including submarine and terrestrial cables, as well as the establishment of landing stations and terrestrial crossing infrastructure to serve new cable projects. The National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has reduced regulatory fees to match the trends in industry pricing, thereby eliminating the unfavourable economic impact on transit traffic. This has allowed international operators to meet the exploding demand for big data. One of the most important outcomes of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement is the reinforcement of Egypt’s plans to expand in the African continent.
What opportunities exist for players in the ICT sector to expand beyond their traditional businesses?
HAMED: The internet of things (IoT) is one of the greatest opportunities in the telecoms sector. In addition to cutting down on operational costs for the operators themselves through remote monitoring and management, operators can capitalise on their infrastructure and ability to track consumer behaviour patterns to provide tailored consumer applications and deploy large-scale IoT services. Implementing IoT to provide business-to-business solutions is also profitable for telecoms operators, as businesses are more focused on process optimisation and cost-cutting methodologies. As a growing youth population is coinciding with the digital age, players have realised that directing their focus to the younger segment is vital. More traditional telecoms services such as long-distance calls and SMS are becoming obsolete, and access to social media, rich content and instant messaging are more important. Operators are creating digital platforms to push content that appeals to younger customers. Purchasing habits have changed over the years, and there is now a greater reliance on the internet to conduct daily activities such as online shopping and e-payments.
How can telecoms firms help start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to grow?
HAMED: Telecoms operators play an influential role in supporting ICT start-ups and SMEs, as providers can help entrepreneurs overcome challenges and get the best out of opportunities in the market. To that end, it is important that platforms be cloud-hosted, as this is an easy, fast and cost-effective way to build customised solutions for end users. In Egypt, affordability is a particular advantage for start-ups and smaller businesses.
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