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Being connected is not only a basic human need, but a basic human right, said Osman Sultan, CEO of UAE telecom provider EITC (“du”) speaking at the GSMA Mobile 360 MENA event in Dubai on Oct. 9. Being connected is essential, he said, if you want access to decent education, healthcare, etc. But societies today are built on an “abundance model” whereby the amount of data consumed is “multiplying exponentially”.

“People today are submerged in a tsunami of content,” said Mr. Sultan.  “Everything will transform from physical to virtual. As telcos, our networks need to move to the cloud to become software developed networks. Moving from physical to virtual, we will also see things move from centralized to decentralized, and that is an important part of the ecosystem.”

Mr. Sultan referred to app-based ride sharing companies Uber and Careem as examples of companies that have embraced a “decentralized” business model. Calling a taxi cab using a smartphone, rather than calling a central point like you do when you call a taxi company, for example, is easy and any passenger can benefit from it, as is the case with Uber and Careem.

Blockchain technology, the a digitized, decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions, is another example Mr. Sultan highlighted of the way decentralized models are becoming more prominent in the digital age. The technology decentralizes the entire system of authentication, registration and inventory of assets, he said.

The government of Dubai aims to have all documents on a blockchain by the year 2020. du is the official strategic partner of the Smart Dubai Office and the platform provider for Smart Dubai, the government entity behind the Dubai Blockchain Strategy, launched by the Crown Prince of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as a result of a collaboration between the Smart Dubai Office and the Dubai Future Foundation.

Mr. Sultan stressed the need for industry collaboration in today’s digital age – a contrast to the earlier days of the telecom industry when telcos “did everything themselves”: the infrastructure, the access, the services and even the content. Mr. Sultan reflected on the days when there was no need for a company like du to collaborate with other organizations like music providers, IT firms, handset manufacturers, etc.

“We lived in our unshared certainties,” said Mr. Sultan. “But today we are forced to sit at the table and collaborate, and we have to confess that we are sharing uncertainties, because the models have yet to be constructed. None of us can claim we know the model, and this mindset is fundamental for us as an industry, and also for other industries in being able to address the questions we are facing today.”

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