Interview: Adel Hamed
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected company digitalisation initiatives in Egypt?
ADEL HAMED: Covid-19 has upended the Egyptian market, catalysing the need for digitalisation in business. Around the globe, government restrictions to ensure social distancing have hindered multiple business processes. However, in their bid to increase productivity, many companies have adopted remote-work policies using various video-conferencing applications operated through reliable cloud platforms. Many companies have also been enhancing their technological capabilities to ensure that all customers are able to carry out their day-to-day activities from home. This has taken place in different sectors, such as education and health care, which now heavily rely on cloud services to enable e-learning and e-consultations. Furthermore, we have discovered that business process outsourcing increases productivity and significantly reduces costs.
It is important to note that these changes are not just reflective of the current situation but are here to stay. I strongly believe that remote work will continue to be enforced even after the pandemic subsides. This means that our reliance on cloud services will only grow larger. Furthermore, digital platforms such as e-payments and digital customer support, among others, will be key to ensuring growth for all companies moving forwards.
In what ways do you expect the role of telecoms firms to change over the short to medium term?
HAMED: The role that telecoms operators play in the Egyptian market has now become more important than ever before. Over the short to medium term, all telecoms companies will continue to connect people in the most efficient way, and the current global situation provides a very fertile environment for growth and development. Over the longer term, telecoms operators will continue to facilitate the national digital transformation strategy. The situation brought about by the pandemic has highlighted that internet access has become a necessity, just like the right to utilities such as water, electricity and gas. Furthermore, a plan to connect around 32,000 government entities with fibre-optic cables to provide various online government services has been put in motion. This, of course, can only succeed if residents and households also have access to high-speed internet. This has prompted the government to draft a set of regulations for the industry. This, along with the government’s national digital transformation strategy, the growing use of e-commerce and digital banking, and Egypt’s under penetrated data market, will provide opportunities for all operators to expand their portfolios.
What is being done to substantiate Egypt’s position as a leading digital centre?
HAMED: ICT is Egypt’s fastest-growing sector, thanks to significant improvements in all segments, most notably data and infrastructure services. Agility is key in the current state of affairs, making high-speed internet a must. The Egyptian government has invested in improving education and health care facilities with fibre-optic cables, connecting state buildings in governorates with fibre to provide online government services to all, and ensuring new communities in Egypt have fibre-to-thehome connectivity, among other projects. In terms of the country’s international presence, an extensive network of submarine cables connecting the East and West solidifies Egypt’s position as a digital centre.
As Egypt strengthens its competitiveness, nationwide digital transformation, international network infrastructure expansion and human capital development are important areas of focus. Looking at the country’s youthful population and extensive investment by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in capacity-building programmes such as innovation centres, training centres and artificial intelligence application centres, it is clear that Egypt is capable of establishing itself as a leader in this field.
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