Interview: Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Badran
In what ways is the country developing and applying the smart city concept?
SALMAN BIN ABDULAZIZ AL BADRAN: We hear a lot about smart cities as win-win solutions. Cities with mature smart city deployments have significant benefits, including increased quality of life, reduced environmental impacts and increased operational efficiency. The smart city concept for Kuwait is more relevant now than ever, as there is a huge opportunity for operators and vendors. The smart city paradigm is based upon the fact that it connects virtually every aspect of a city – transportation, homes, government and businesses – and makes them more efficient. It is no surprise that in existing smart cities, major players are taking collaborative approaches in terms of focus and resources in the market, and leveraging public and government support. In fact, in many cities, government funding plays a key role in running trials and establishing smart cities. Meanwhile, telecom providers have the responsibility of making these multi-network connections happen, with connectivity being the cornerstone of successful smart city deployment. In addition, these firms should play a role in engaging various stakeholders in the deployment of the smart city, which is critical to the integration and success of any project.
How do you assess the current appetite for cloud-computing centres in Kuwait?
AL BADRAN: As with many other countries, the appetite for running cloud-based services and exploiting cloud opportunities is growing, especially for the business-to-business segment. Cloud computing reduces investments, minimises IT risks and improves the total cost of ownership in the long-term. In fact, virtualisation and provisioning software enables the efficient allocation of computing resources, rationalising the cost of hardware and storage and thereby allowing extensive exploitation of economies of scale. This also lays the foundations for a shift from upfront capital investments to operational expenses. In scenarios such as this, infrastructure components can easily be outsourced and used only when needed. This heavily reduces up-front risks, while improving concepts such as scalability and flexibility of infrastructure.
The mobility of cloud computing also allows users to carry out their operations in any part of the world provided they have internet access. New and innovative pricing schemes are also possible, such as pay-peruse pricing, which could significantly reduce up-front expenditures while only requiring users to pay for the capacity that they are using.
What are the authorities doing to attract higher levels of investment into ICT?
AL BADRAN: Kuwait is making significant progress towards enhancing its foreign investment climate. The latest Kuwait national development plan known as New Kuwait Vision 2035 has set the nation’s long-term development priorities by focusing on seven pillars, including public administration. National and international ICT players should look at this pillar favourably, considering the $40m plan to expand e-government and civil information system applications. ICT businesses may also benefit from investment incentives offered by the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority, including the allowance for 100% foreign-ownership of Kuwait entities and a corporate tax framework that includes exemptions up to 10 years.
The future in the country looks bright as a result of its ICT tradition, current ICT usage across sectors, the New Kuwait Vision 2035 programme and favourable regulatory frameworks. Household and business statistics are promising: smartphone penetration is more than 90%, six out of 10 households have access to a computer or a tablet and more than 80% of people have access to the internet. Similar numbers apply to businesses in Kuwait: 50% have a web presence and use business applications for their operations.
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