In an attempt to shed light on one the ICT industry’s experts, Telecom Review spoke to Eng. Mamdouh Assi, Chairman of Telco -Zone and representative of ICT specialized European companies, in an exclusive interview to learn more about the ICT consultancy and services he offers. He also shed light on the Iraqi market evolution and development in this field.

In our last interview, 10 years ago, you were working in the VAS field but you’ve now changed sectors. Why did you decide to change your field of work?

Indeed, we are still working in the ICT industry; however, due to the regression we witnessed at the level of VAS in the past decade, we’ve been focusing more on offering comprehensive ICT, cybersecurity, big data, digital transformation, and consultancy solutions.

We’re working with leading international players in the areas of distribution and services to offer integrated solutions, expertise, operations management, logistic support, equipment installation, training and professional services in Iraq, and across the globe.

We boast a vast experience in managing large and integrated projects all over the world which cover various sectors in the abovementioned fields, and we have succeeded in doing so with high level of dedication and commitment.

What are the services you offer to enterprises in terms of cybersecurity?

We provide large enterprises with integrated solutions that protect their information and fundamental systems against cyber threats and malwares, along with a 24/7 support. Some of our offerings include a cybersecurity platform for education, training, testing, and research, and an integrated cybersecurity operations center and network operations center solution. We also offer a whole range of consulting services in the field of data security, notably monitoring, risk assessment, work continuity, etc.

Can you tell us more about the cybersecurity platform?

It’s a unique platform for learning, training, testing, and research enabling diverse offensive and/or defensive scenarios and cyber-drills in a controlled replicated environment where real network and software components are created and hosted on virtual machines; in order, to enhance cyber skills and capacities of any organization staff at various levels.

This platform presents a series of cyber-drills and challenges that vary in their degree of difficulty, and that require participants to exercise different skillset to solve. This platform can be deployed for different purposes:

  • - Education and training: Improve cyber security skills though theoretical and hands-on training.
  • - Testing and benchmarking: Test and benchmark the cyber posture of IT hardware/software and operational technology’s components.
  • - Research and development: Simulating most complex hybrid environments to analyze new threats and develop new solutions.

To whom do you offer this technology consulting?

All user categories can benefit from these solutions, namely the sector’s regulating bodies, security ministries, and law enforcement entities, ministries of infrastructure including gas and electricity, finance ministry, universities, among others.

What makes your big data platform important?

Our big data analysis platform used by law enforcement entities processes, analyzes and links the big data generated by different sources and offers a wide range of capabilities including cooperation and task automation, data discovery, and advanced analysis.

It’s a very powerful yet user friendly portal that allows the analysts limitless to explore without limits in all dimensions the data, while making graphical analysis, sending complicated queries, running different types of algorithms and applying different types of AI analytics.

What are the services you offer to the telecommunications sector in terms of big data?

The communications metadata analysis platform is designed to ingest and manage Call Data Records (CDR) of telecom operators in order to correlate and analyze them using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. The latter will allow the identification of hidden patterns and suspicious behavior that crosses multiple cases within billions of transactions, analyze relations and flows between transactions. We believe that this platform shall play a significant role in increasing income, discover fraudulent transactions, examining revenues, among many others.

How do you evaluate the progress in the implementation of Baghdad’s e-government plan?

The involved parties in the Iraqi governments are more eligible to answer; however, as a specialist in the field and being well informed about this plan and all Iraqi developments, I find that it’s facing a lot of issues and delay in execution for many reasons, including the lack of investments budgets between 2015 and 2022, the complex bureaucratic measures, the absence of transparency, corruption, and insufficient educational competencies among some of the leaders.

Nonetheless, we count on the progress of the fiber optic project in all Iraqi provinces, which constitutes as a beacon of hope in the quest to find new and advanced technological services at the economic level.

Did the officials who are handling e-government tasks accept this change?

The success of this experience has been relative. Just like any country in the world, there’s a big difference in the success percentage of using these applications between the young generation who have received a modern university-level education and the older generation who have found it hard to adapt to automation.

Allow me to highlight here the need to have training programs which focus on such applications, and that happen periodically in the workplace. Such programs should also incentivize those officials, otherwise progress will be very slow and tiring.

How do you comment on the announcement of the new Iraqi cybersecurity strategy made recently?

We’re looking positively at the cybersecurity strategy for 2022-2025 announced on February 16, 2022, even if it came a bit late, and we look forward to moving to the execution phase. The adoption of a special strategy that covers all essential sectors is of utmost importance, notably in terms of the following sectors: security and defense, finance, telecommunications, oil, electricity, and industry.

Any last note on cybersecurity?

We’ve been noticing insufficient investment in this field; in fact, Iraq needs tremendous investments to be made in this field, given the need to evaluate the cyber status of each enterprise, elaborate a development plan, and draft a timetable for execution. It is also crucial to establish cybersecurity research and training labs at pertinent ministries and high education institutions.

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