Telecom Review hosted its 7th successful annual Summit on December 13, 2016, held under the recurring theme: ‘It’s All About SMART Networking’. Once again, the Summit gathered the best telecom and ICT industry leaders under one roof at the Intercontinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City, to share knowledge and insights about transitions happening within the telecom and ICT industry. This year’s event focused on ICT as being the heart of a ‘Smart City’. Esteemed guests included His Excellency Mr. Yasser El Kady, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Arab Republic of Egypt, who delivered an inspiring keynote speech.
The 2016 Telecom Review Summit marked another milestone of success, bringing delegates together to learn and debate about developments in the regional and worldwide telecommunications community. The Summit delivered interesting keynotes and panel discussions throughout the day, moderated by experts in the fields of telecommunications, government, smart cities, regulation, consulting. Telecom Review’s very own Jeff Seal, Managing Partner, Telecom Review North America, moderated the panel discussion: ‘Data Traffic Growth: Security, Network & Solutions – Role of Operators and Wholesale Carriers’.
One of the most anticipated panels was the ‘Visionary Debate’ between Mr. Hatem Dowidar, CEO, Etisalat International and Mr. Scott Gegenheimer, CEO, Zain Group, who discussed challenges facing the industry, as well as opportunities, and how telecom operators can differentiate themselves. The ‘Telecom Leaders Panel’ was also highly recognized, featuring a discussion between esteemed speakers including Mr. Marc Halbfinger, CEO, PCCW Global; Mr. Ahmad Farroukh, CEO, Mobily KSA; Mr. Jay Srage, president, Qualcomm International, MEAE; Mr. Husein Rifai, CEO, MDIC; and Mr. Gary Heffernan, senior managing director, Communications, Media and Technology, EALA, Accenture.
In his opening speech, Mr. Toni Eid, CEO of Trace Media International and Editor in Chief of Telecom Review, expressed his gratitude to the esteemed guests for gathering at the Summit: “I’d like to extend to you all a warm welcome to Dubai, the most dynamic city in the world, which also promises to be the happiest,” he said. “We are gathered here today at the 7th Telecom Review Summit as we believe there is no Smart City without smart technology – which is well served by smart telcos and regulated by the best government practices.”
Mr. Eid noted that smart technology was on top of the agenda, as the Summit gathered smart city decision makers, smart city stakeholders, telecom operators, technology vendors and smart city consultants to discuss the best developments and planning of future cities. He shared plans for the event and topics to be discussed, such as telco and city infrastructure, looking toward 5G, network deployment, transport of the future, and data traffic. Looking ahead to a full day of presentations, Mr. Eid said: “As usual, our summit is about sharing ideas, knowledge and opinions in order to help shape the future together.”
Representing Dubai’s Smart City transformation, Mr. Wesam Lootah, CEO of the Smart Dubai Government Establishment, gave a keynote speech in which he discussed some of the key initiatives Smart Dubai has launched. He stressed the fact that everyone’s voice counts in Dubai and its transformation, and that the Smart Dubai Government Establishment strives to give citizens and residents a stronger voice. He said the government should work for people, not against them, and that the government needs people’s help in order to do so.
“Let me ask you a question: How many of you like taking surveys? Would many of you be willing to take a ten minute survey every time you interact with the government?” Mr. Lootah asked the crowd. Only one person raised their hand. “Your response – or lack of I should say – is what I expected. If the survey took two seconds I’m sure you would all interact and that’s why we’ve launched the happiness meter.”
The happiness meter, he explained, is a device that “gives everyone in the city a voice.” It lets the government know what citizens are thinking. This feedback is imperative for the government because it doesn’t always get things right, just like anywhere in the world, and it can then learn from mistakes. The happiness meter enables everybody in the city to let the government know what it can improve on. It’s a very simple interface, he said. It has been deployed across all channels: service centers, mobile phone applications, and on government websites.
“We have spent the last eighteen months collecting over four million votes and now this has been deployed in thirty-eight government entities,” said Mr. Lootah. “The private sector is now taking it up with 133 service centers adopting it. What’s the difference between this and a survey you might ask? Surveys are good, and they go deep and give you a large volume of information. However, it may take 3-6 months to do a survey. The difference here is that you get real-time information. City leaders and city managers can actually judge in real time if changes in their services are having the right impact.”
His Excellency Mr. Yasser El Kady, who later received the award for ‘Non Profit Organizations' Telecom Leader of the Year’ at the Telecom Review awards ceremony, also gave a keynote speech at the Summit, in which he said he was “very happy” to be at the event and extended his gratitude to Mr. Toni Eid for inviting him to the “fantastic” forum. Mr. El Kady began his speech by “exploring how we can link the Smart Dubai vision with our government’s [Egypt’s] plans for sustainable development.”
“In Egypt, and in other regions, governments are now executing plans for sustainable developments. We have recently developed 20-30 sustainable projects and we have other strategies in place for our country,” said His Excellency Mr. El Kady. “ICT is becoming – or has become – one of the most important pillars when it comes to implementing sustainable developments – and you will find that ICT in all its dimensions features prominently in our 2030 strategic development plan towards Egypt.”
Referring to the presentation by Mr. Wesam Lootah, Mr. El Kady discussed the important role of the government highlighted in the keynote speech, which “illustrated clearly the importance of political support.” This is very important, he said, adding that, “If you have a plan, and you have a strategy without a real high level of political support, then of course the plan can be executed, but not in a very strong way.”
“Having that support from a political point of view gives you a lot of support. In Egypt, the president of our nation has extended his full support to ICT. He looks to ICT and recognizes it as the real transformation for the country, and he has committed to building multiple entrepreneur centers to encourage innovation across the region,” said Mr. El Kady. “In Egypt, we have a population of 92 million and we have 27 governorates, but we are now in the process of constructing technology and innovation centers in each and every one of the governorates. This is designed to fully focus on innovation, enterprises and ICT.”
His Excellency Mr. El Kady elaborated on how the Egyptian government is constructing technology parks across seven governorates and has already integrated two in one year. In Cairo, he said the government has established a smart village, but “again it’s a matter of building the infrastructure and the platform towards real country transformation.” This is a “great initiative” he said, especially when considering the journey to smart city transformation. It’s not just an initiative here in Dubai, said Mr. El Kady, but an initiative that can be executed anywhere with the right planning and execution.
“As part of the plan for Egypt in relation to smart cities, we want to embrace this vision. The new capital of Egypt will be a smart capital, and a smart city. We are going to leverage all the expertise we have learned from Dubai and beyond in order to implement our vision. It’s important to share these ideas at events like these in order to deliver the proper services required to keep a population of 92 million happy.”
During another inspiring keynote speech, the charismatic CEO of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du), Mr. Osman Sultan, took a different approach to expressing his amazement at the rapid transformation of the ICT industry. When Mr. Toni Eid reached out to Mr. Sultan, he said he knew “it would be a challenge and a responsibility,” because Mr. Eid asked him to present a subject that would stimulate conversation during the day. After some consideration, Mr. Sultan decided to share some points that he thinks are “changing the world in which we live.”
“We only need to be looking around us to see that being connected is becoming a basic human right,” said Mr. Sultan. “When I had the privilege of chairing the ITU group for Arab World in the early 2000’s, I remember we were talking about mobility, and I made a daring statement that we could put a mobile in the hands of everyone. Some thought that this was over-promising.”
At that time, Mr. Sultan suggested that this would eventually become a basic human need. After the current revolution of social networking, he has since upgraded his statement to say that being connected is a basic human right. We can simply look to children for proof, he said. The first thing young people ask when they go to a restaurant is for the Wi-Fi password – this has become the “new reality that we live in.”
Mr. Sultan also spoke about the “abundance model” that we live under in modern society. “The evolution of technology is adding more and more speed to our lives, and is allowing the transportation of more and more volume, more and more data. Just to give you an idea, in 2015, if you wanted to watch one second of old videos on the networks, it would take you five years to watch this one second,” he said.
“In 2017, there will be 3x connected devices than the number of the entire population of the earth. It’s an abundance model, constructed not only through technology – yes, there has been the development of 2G to 3G and then 4G, and now some people are even talking about 4.9G waiting for 5G because we’re impatient – but this is not the full story.”
Mr. Sultan explained that when society started on its “internet journey” most people in the mid-90’s used to use the internet as a library of sorts. The key names in the industry at the time were Google and Yahoo. Then when early 2000 came around, he said people started using the internet for shopping because the commercial industry starting to become established online. For example, people started booking airline tickets, shopping for clothing from overseas, etc.
“There has since been an evolution of the ecosystem around the internet, and the real transformation came about in the mid-2000’s when people started going to the internet like they go to a café – to socialize,” said Mr. Sultan. “People now go on the internet simply to see what their friends are doing, which restaurant they are at, or what they are eating. Today, my kids don’t get information from going through various articles, but by interacting with their online social networks.”