The New Kuwait 2035 long-term development plan focuses on reducing the country’s oil dependency by fostering economic diversification and building up the private sector. Among other priorities, the plan seeks to establish the country as a prominent global ICT centre. This goal involves prioritising work on digital infrastructure to elevate the country’s global standing. Kuwait’s commitment to creating a diversified economy echoes a regional trend, with neighbouring countries developing plans to enhance their economic competitiveness and stimulate growth in their digital economies.

While Kuwait performs well by global standards, it lags behind some GCC peers in certain ICT-related metrics. The country’s national spending on technological solutions was projected to reach $10.1bn in 2024, according to a December 2022 report from Dubaibased research company Orient Planet, compared to $23bn by the UAE. In addition, the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s “Technology and Innovation Report 2023” placed Kuwait 51st out of 166 countries in the Frontier Technologies Readiness Index.

Increased ICT expenditure is expected to be driven by the further adoption of 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT). Digitalisation has already transformed many government services, and the country’s emphasis on IT development is expected to boost national technology expenditure and create opportunities for integrating technological solutions into ancillary industries that are important to the national vision, such as tourism, banking and education.

Structure & Oversight

The ICT sector in Kuwait has undergone a regulatory transformation over the years. Prior to the establishment of the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) in 2014, the Ministry of Communications (MoC) was responsible for overseeing the sector. CITRA now serves as the primary administrative entity, tasked with regulating the sector’s four segments: telecommunications, operators and fair competition, IT, and administrative and financial affairs. It also safeguards user and service-provider interests, and regulates telecommunications network services. Its mandate also includes promoting transparency and fair competition, and fostering a favourable investment environment across ICT segments. Encouraging technological innovation among SMEs and start-ups led by young Kuwaiti entrepreneurs is another key focus.

Additionally, the authority aims to implement international standards for e-government services and make them readily accessible. In June 2023 CITRA took a significant step towards accelerating 5G adoption by announcing a ban on the importation of 2G and 3G cellular devices starting from September 2023 to phase out outdated technologies while safeguarding consumer interests.


The Central Agency for IT plays a complementary regulatory role, supervising the implementation of e-government plans and connecting government agency systems through a unified information network to enable citizens to interact with government agencies electronically. The Kuwait Internet Exchange, established by CITRA in 2019 as a not-forprofit entity, is a carrier-neutral, community-directed internet exchange point that aims to bring together telecommunications companies in one database and create a regional peering centre. All internet service providers and mobile operators in Kuwait are members of the exchange, which continues to provide services for optimal peered traffic routes.

The Kuwait IT Society promotes the development and utilisation of ICT by providing training, organising industry conferences and conducting research to support governmental institutions. Elsewhere, the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) is a private non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting science and technology. Funded by a mandatory donation of 1% of net annual profit from private shareholding companies that operate in the country, KFAS provides support for research, trains scientists, and raises public awareness of various scientific and technological advancements to drive the development of the country’s ICT capabilities.

Kuwait leverages its national eID card to enhance citizens’ interactions with the government. The microprocessor-equipped civil ID verifies citizens’ digital identities and facilitates administrative processes. Managed by the Public Authority for Civil Information, the eID ensures secure data exchange among individuals, governments and companies. The card’s impact extends to the legal sector, where it enables lawyers to digitally access government portals to submit lawsuits. Companies can use the eID for enhanced communication, online services and simplified loan applications, ultimately reducing the need for physical visits.

Size & Performance

Kuwait’s ICT sector has experienced robust growth and emerged as a driving force in the country’s economic diversification. The overall value of Kuwait’s ICT market was nearly $18.6bn in 2022, and in July 2023 UK-based research firm Global Data published a report that forecast it to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 8.3%, surpassing $27.6bn by 2027. Over the period from 2022 to 2027, the cumulative revenue potential for ICT providers was estimated to be $135.5bn.

Critical application solutions that are fostering sector growth include security and edge computing – the processing of data closer to where it is being generated to increase processing speeds and volume – as well as IT management, client computing and business process applications. Diverse sectors such as government, financial markets, utilities and manufacturing are anticipated to play a pivotal role in the implementation of these solutions, while the top-three product and service categories in Kuwait are software as a service (SaaS), systems design and integration, and IoT software, with SaaS anticipated to dominate the ICT market through 2027. Vertical end-use segments demonstrate that the energy sector is the largest with a 34.3% market share, followed by the government. Notably, the financial markets sector is projected to grow the fastest, with an expected CAGR of 9.8% from 2022 to 2027.

Looking at segments within the sector, Global Data valued Kuwait’s telecommunications market at $2.1bn in 2022 and projected it to expand at a CAGR of 3.3% through 2027, thanks to government initiatives and the increased adoption of new technologies. E-commerce is expected to continue its positive growth trajectory as well, with Indian research firm Mordor Intelligence projecting a CAGR of approximately 14.3% between 2022 and 2027. Retailers are expanding their online presence to meet rising demand for online shopping. According to the “Digital 2023: Kuwait” report published by data analysis firm DataReportal in February 2023, 62.7% of Kuwait’s residents made a digital payment in the past year, while 20.2% made a purchase using a mobile phone or other internet device. The latter figure is below the global average of 39% in 2023, indicating significant potential for growth.


The presence of more than 7.6m active cellular mobile connections in early 2023 significantly surpassed the population of 4.3m, reaching a 178% penetration rate. Mobile subscription penetration is expected to grow further, driven by factors such as increasing multi-SIM ownership, an increase in smartphone subscriptions, and the burgeoning machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT sectors. Post-paid services are also forecast to gain traction, supported by rising M2M and IoT adoption, and the introduction of value-added post-paid plans.

The Kuwaiti telecommunications market is dominated by three players: Kuwait-listed Zain; Ooredoo Kuwait, which has its group headquarters in Qatar; and stc, a subsidiary of Saudi Telecom Company. These companies invest significantly in infrastructure and technology to offer advanced services to customers, and actively participate in initiatives that support the Kuwaiti government’s efforts as part of its digital transformation.

Established in Kuwait in 1983 as the region’s inaugural mobile operator, as of September 2023 Zain had a commercial footprint in seven countries: Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan and Sudan. The company also holds a 15.5% stake in North African telecommunications company INWI through a joint venture in Morocco. Listed on Boursa Kuwait, Zain’s shares have no restrictions, exhibiting a 100% free float and public trading. As of February 2024 the Kuwait Investment Authority sovereign wealth fund held the largest stake at just over 24.2%, followed by Muscat-based Omantel with 21.9%. According to Zain’s annual report for 2022, it had a market share of 34%, serving 2.6m customers in the country. Zain also disclosed an 8% increase in revenue, reaching KD342m ($1.1bn). The company witnessed a 6% growth in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), totalling KD133m ($433m) for an EBITDA margin of 39%. Zain had net income of KD83m ($270m), reflecting a 3% increase. Furthermore, data revenue saw a 1% growth, constituting 39% of total revenue.

Operating in various markets, Ooredoo provides mobile, broadband internet and corporate managed services to a global customer base of 118m as of April 2020. The company’s 2.8m customers in Kuwait as of the end of the first half of 2023 marked a 7% increase in that market. In its 2022 annual report, Ooredoo disclosed a 12% increase in revenue, reaching more than KD236m ($768m). Its EBITDA also experienced 17% growth, to KD71.5m ($233m) due to improved operational efficiency across commercial business sectors. stc was listed on Boursa Kuwait in December 2014. In line with stc Group’s growth strategy, in 2019 the company acquired Qualitynet General Trading and Contracting Company, Kuwait’s leading internet service provider, to capitalise on emerging opportunities in the market. This was followed in April 2022 by the acquisition of e-Portal Holding Company, an ICT services provider in Kuwait. stc disclosed in its 2022 annual report that it had 2.3m subscribers in Kuwait at the end of the year, up from 2m in 2021. The report also showed revenue of more than KD336m ($1.1bn) in Kuwait. The company achieved an EBITDA of KD82m ($267m). Consequently, stc’s 2022 net profit in Kuwait was KD33.2m ($108m).


Investment in digital infrastructure by the three major telecommunications players has resulted in Kuwait ranking among the best in the world for download speeds. According to US-based mobile and broadband intelligence company Ookla, Kuwait’s median mobile download speed in December 2023 was 183.8 Mbps, the third-fastest globally. Meanwhile, its median broadband download speed that month was 154.7 Mbps, the 24th-fastest in the world. Kuwait also had a relatively high average 5G latency of 90.3 milliseconds in the first and second quarters of 2023, putting it ahead of the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain.

Fixed broadband penetration is anticipated to rise in line with the government’s New Kuwait 2035 programme, which seeks to enhance fixed broadband connectivity for smart city development. Fixed wireless lines are expected to remain the primary technology for fixed broadband delivery. According to the World Bank’s development indicators, there were more than 62,500 fixed broadband subscriptions in Kuwait in 2022, or 2.5 per 100 people, below the MENA average of 17.

Kuwait has already achieved near-universal internet coverage as a result of sustained investment in infrastructure. According to the “Digital 2023: Kuwait” report, Kuwait had 4.3m registered internet users at the onset of 2023, representing a 99% internet penetration rate. As of January 2023 there were nearly 3.6m social media users, or 83.7% of the total population. According to CITRA, in 2020 Kuwait had 5G and LTE coverage rates of 97% and 100%, respectively, which has helped foster digital inclusion.

Opportunity For Improvement

While the sector has seen marked improvement in recent years, addressing certain challenges will be key to the sector’s long-term, sustainable expansion. The first is addressing the digital divide between local and expatriate communities. The London School of Economics’ “Digital Inequalities Report 2022” noted that migrant workers from Asian countries in Kuwait are more likely to be limited to smartphone access only, and more likely to have lower digital social skills than their Kuwaiti counterparts. This limits the activities they conduct and the outcomes they can achieve online.

Another area for improvement is cybersecurity. In September 2023 Parliament reported that the level of the country’s national cybersecurity was “novice” in comparison to global standards in aspects including strategy, policy, training, skills, regulatory frameworks, technology and controls. In response to this evaluation, the government redoubled its proactive measures to enhance cybersecurity capabilities, which include the implementation of the National Cybersecurity Strategy and the establishment of the National Centre for Cybersecurity. These initiatives aim to concentrate efforts to build a robust infrastructure at the national level to safeguard crucial digital interests and fortify defences.

Strategic Initiatives

In September 2023 the MoC declared its commitment to completing the final phase of a delayed national project that aims to extend coverage of the fibre-optic broadband access network throughout Kuwait. While the MoC’s fibre broadband network initially reached 55% of Kuwaiti households in October 2018, subsequent progress has been sluggish. To expedite this initiative, the MoC is working to launch a competitive open tender process in collaboration with the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects. The public-private partnership is expected to take shape as a specialised company, licensed by CITRA and co-managed by government and private-sector representatives. The MoC will retain ownership of and maintain the fibre broadband network infrastructure, and offer wholesale access to Kuwaiti internet service providers and telecommunications companies. These companies in turn will provide fibre services to end-users.

This expansion of fibre optics is in line with the broader objectives of New Kuwait 2035 to create job opportunities and enhance competitiveness in the ICT sector. The open competition is set to invite qualified international and regional companies to construct an advanced telecommunications infrastructure to enhance the national digital economy. In October 2023 Kuwait’s diplomatic attaché to the UN outlined how the country’s ICT objectives align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The country envisions ICT as a key player in achieving the SDGs, providing tools and technologies to spur economic growth, enhance education, improve health and bolster environmental protection. Kuwait has committed to achieving the SDGs by leveraging advances in IT, while acknowledging a close link between its energy and ICT ecosystems. In pursuit of these goals, Kuwait aims to use the Government Communication Centre established in 2019 to upgrade government communication tools, foster integration and coordinate efforts among government agencies, working in tandem towards fulfilling the SDGs.

From a more regional perspective, Kuwait’s technology start-up ecosystem is in the earlier stage of development in comparison to other countries in the region. According to Switzerland-based start-up research centre StartupBlink, Kuwait’s ecosystem ranked eighth in the Middle East in 2023 and 94th globally. Nevertheless, there are various examples of Kuwaiti start-ups that are seeking to accelerate the development of innovative solutions. Baims, a Kuwaiti education technology start-up that blends education accessibility with technology, raised $4m in Series A funding in early 2023 and has a presence in four other countries in the region. In late 2023 Raha – a firm focused on intelligence-driven logistics consultancy, systems integration and third-party logistics services – secured $7m during a pre-Series A funding round, bringing its total funding to $14m.

International Partnerships

In February 2023 Zain Kuwait and ZainTech, Zain Group’s ICT solutions provider, joined forces with US tech conglomerate Microsoft to introduce a national cloud offering for the public and private sectors in Kuwait. The collaborative initiative aims to integrate Microsoft’s portfolio into Zain’s private cloud infrastructure, fostering the development of an advanced cloud environment.

In January 2023 US-based Google Cloud established a strategic alliance with the Kuwaiti government, demonstrating its commitment to supporting the country’s digitalisation efforts. The government of Kuwait is set to be granted access to Google Cloud’s technology and expertise in data analytics, cybersecurity and AI. Google Cloud expects to play a pivotal role in assisting the government in digitising the services of various governmental entities and major public enterprises. Similarly, in August 2023 Ooredoo selected Curity, a Swedish application programming interface and digital security firm, to safeguard its customer-facing applications. This strategic move ensures secure and flexible access to digital services for Ooredoo customers.

Meanwhile, in September 2023 senior Kuwaiti officials engaged in discussions with executives at Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei to contribute to Kuwait’s national development plans and build upon previous memoranda of understanding covering infrastructure, environmental, recycling and development projects. Further advancing technological cooperation, in February 2023 stc signed a memorandum of understanding with Huawei to pursue strategic cooperation in the realm of 5.5G technology in Kuwait.


Kuwait’s ICT sector is set to be the beneficiary of numerous tailwinds and advantages in the years ahead. The industry already has elevated smartphone and internet penetration, and its importance is underscored in the country’s long-term development plans. In 2023 there was an increase in international partnerships with leading telecommunications providers around the world that could help accelerate the adoption of new technologies and support the country’s development agenda. While some projects have been delayed, the strategic initiatives recently launched aim to maintain the sector’s momentum into the future.