Human side of Telecom

Telecom Review Magazine Launches “Human to Human” (H2H) Initiative during its Summit “The Human Side of Telecom”

Telecom Review Magazine represented by Toni Eid, CEO of Trace Media, launched the “Human to Human” (H2H) initiative during the “The Human Side of Telecom” summit aiming to encourage people to keep enjoying the good side of life while helping communities make better usage of telecommunication.

The summit was held in Beirut on August 12, 2013, at the Le Royal Hotel under the patronage of H.E. Nicolas Sehnaoui, Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications, with a record attendance of ICT experts and industry leaders from across the Middle East and Africa region.

H2H Initiative
“As you all know, one of the fastest growing technologies today is Machine to Machine (M2M). I would like to encourage all of us today to launch another initiative that I refer to as H2H, human to human, and keep enjoying the good side of life,” commented Toni Eid, CEO of Trace Media and Editor in Chief of Telecom Review.

“The new generation must be aware that there is more to life than the smartphone. There’s a lot more to life than just surfing the net. Technology can be harmful if we are not mindful of it,” added Eid.

“We have become connected to technology rather than to people. By doing this we have crossed every social boundary, both on an individual level as well on the community level as a whole.”

The summit addressed the challenges and opportunities of always being connected through an innovative gathering where industry leaders discussed for the first time, the non-tangible side of telecommunications far from the technology aspect.

Lebanon: A Digital Hub
At the summit, Sehnaoui discussed his vision regarding the digital economy in the country. He said that the protection of the digital economy is a national task and asked all parties to work together to achieve it. Sehnaoui also called on everyone to draw the attention of officials to the importance of the digital economy and the competencies it presents for the young generation in service to the nation.

Furthermore, Sehnaoui highlighted the importance of the efforts made by the Ministry in the past 2 years, especially in the modernization of the network and the infrastructure. The Ministry has invested around $200 million dollars for 3G, 4G and fiber optic upgrades in addition to the launch of Beirut digital district.

“There are many milestones that need to be achieved in order to reach the dream of making Lebanon a regional digital hub, and we have already achieved most of them (FO backbone, international connectivity redundancy, 3G and 4G),” added Sehnaoui.

“During the past two years, we have succeeded in almost isolating the telecom sector from the other sectors in Lebanon, to break the general rule of paralysis, especially when it comes to the government. We have enabled it to move fast and even leapfrog,” concluded Sehnaoui.

Alfa 4-Life
During his presentation, Marwan Hayek, CEO, Alfa, said that bridging the gap between telcos and customers is leading to more customer involvement, loyalty and retention. Operators can achieve that by being proactive, consistent and analytical. The can also attain that goal by leveraging society needs and achieving service quality excellence.

On the impact of telecommunication on societies, Hayek said that the evolution of connectivity has freed people from geographical constraints, flooded them with information and accessibility at no cost and allowed them to catalyze major political changes.

“However, high connectivity created a sort of mobile dependency, and the average person refreshes his social media feed every 30 minutes,” he added.

“Telco impact on lifestyle is substantial from learning to knowledge sharing and connecting people to knowledge databases.”

Hayek also talked also about Alfa’s CSR program. Alfa has embarked on a pilot program to follow the guidelines of ISO 26000 covering 7 core subjects in the sustainability journey. This includes: community involvement and development, human rights, labor practices, environment, fair operating practices and consumer issues.

The New Digital World
Delivering a very inspiring keynote and presentation, Osman Sultan, CEO du, highlighted a side of telecom that all of us look at, but seldom see for real.

Sultan opened his keynote with a video highlighting how from the moment they are brought up, today’s generations are raised to acknowledge, cherish and embrace technologies. Nevertheless, this video was only a facade to disguise the undeniable effects of technology on the human race, shedding light on how humans are moving step by step into virtual realms, thus putting aside the more humane side of how they should really interact and communicate with one another.

Sultan strongly believes that mankind could still communicate with mankind on a more humane level if the right business models and right players are joined together on the same platform.

He believes that content has not really changed, but what has changed is the way this content is being transported and moved. He highlights how all tasks in the past were done separately, one at time, thus each task or action had its own impact and momentum. Nowadays, on the other hand, there is this surging trend of convergence of behavior, where everything is done at once and on the same device.

This, in fact, is what tainted today’s ecosystem with this rush towards adopting more and more virtual means of communication, thus neglecting more traditional ones.

In the era of technology, emerging trends and ever changing means of interaction and communication, Sultan believes, “Convenience will be the determining factor for how people interact and connect with their surroundings. Users are dictating their wills on operators and telcos, who in turn are rushing and struggling to follow and cater to their accelerating and ever evolving demands.”

Moving on to talk about how new ways of interaction and communication are being created non-stop, he says, “Innovation happens in 3 ways: by necessity, exploration and accidental discovery.” One of these innovations, which for the past few years or so has changed the way people interact and share information, is social media.

Sultan comments, “Social media happened completely out of the universe. It happened because consumers wanted to do something different, and what we are witnessing today is the result.”

He further adds that no one expected such a boom in social media platforms when they were first created, yet no one today can imagine a world without tweets or likes!

The evolution in mobile technology, on the other hand, also played an important role in reshaping the networking phase and means of communication, where attention shifted from depth to breadth.

Concluding his keynote, Sultans asserts that “Being connected is a basic human right.” He concludes by saying, “I have faith that we will make the best out of the digital opportunities presented to us. We have what it takes to transform this digital world into a real enabler.”

On a more human level, he says, “Everything is articulated around the human factor. We need to embrace the digital age and learn how to incorporate the two characteristics together.”

CEO Panel: Bridging or Widening the Gap?
In the last 15 years, technological and telecommunication developments have changed the face of communication and granted humans permission to connect and interact in many different ways. Mobile phones have made communication between people much easier, but at the same time they have unconsciously affected people’s patterns of behavior, especially the youth as they grew to depend heavily on smart devices in their daily lives. Many sociologists noted that in some cases, social human behavior has been negatively affected.

Addressing these issues, the summit was opened by a CEO panel, moderated by Toni Eid, CEO, Trace Media.

Participating in the panel was a fine lineup of ICT leaders who came together to debate these issues at the Telecom Review summit. Marwan Hayek, CEO, Alfa; Hussein Rifaї, CEO, MDIC; Osman Sultan, CEO, du; Patrick Farajian,  CEO, Sodetel; Naji BouHabib, CEO, MT2; Margot Moussy, Head of Sales MEA & Africa, TeliaSonera; and Mohamed Bader, CEO, Moov Niger replacing Nagi Abboud, CEO, Atlantique Telecom.

Some panelists believe that the new means of communication have made life easier and have helped human beings save time. Others debated that communication through mobile phones, instant sharing apps and the internet are not as effective as face-to-face interaction.

Persons who depend mainly on technological means for communication might acquire bad habits and become isolated; it could even weaken family bonds and, consequently, negatively affect society in the long run.

Social Media and Apps: A Matter of Trust
The summit continued with an interesting panel moderated by Emile Zarife, Editor of Telecom Review, debating the security issues of social media and apps. The panel featured Salam Yamout, ICT Strategy Coordinator, Council of Ministers; Ralph Aoun, Managing Partner, Com Fu and Social Media Advisor of Ministry of Telecom; Diana Bou Ghanem, Head of ICT office, MOT; Mario Hachem, Managing Partner, apps2you; and Samer Geissah, Vice President Innovation at du.

Commenting on the social media trend, Yamout stated that with social media platforms, “Everybody has become a source of information and are able to share their ideas with the rest of the world. Before, you used to be tied to a couple of channels and newspapers; whereas nowadays, you can choose who you want to listen to. These sources might not be official sources of information, but they could be someone we respect, either from other countries or from our country.”

“All of the politicians in Lebanon have understood that social media is very powerful and represents a way for them to stay in touch with the people. As we can see, most of them have very active twitter accounts, and they take this matter very seriously. They meet people and even choose advisors sometimes through Twitter,” she continued.

Talking about his social media strategy to bring citizens closer to the Ministry of Telecommunication, Aoun said, “We noticed that there has been a huge gap for many years between the citizens and the government. It was due to lack of trust or maybe lack of actual reform activity on the government’s side. So, what we started doing revolved around two important keywords, which are trust (that we are trying to build between citizens and the government) and synergy.”

Aoun also talked about engagement, which means keeping people informed about the activities of the Ministry, and more specifically digital reforms.

Debating whether social media has made the government more reachable and whether or not people are actually being heard, Bou Ghanem responded, “Social media is a very important tool, so we, as a government, found it was a good opportunity to regain this connection between official figures and citizens. We can impact people’s lives and create this new virtual world for them. This tool can help us receive their messages in order to change our regulations and policies as well as adapt them to their needs.”

Mario Hachem spoke about the information collected whenever an application is downloaded. “Today, not even applications are allowed to collect your number or read your SIM card,” he assured.

There were some disagreements from the audience concerning that matter. Some people mentioned Whatsapp and Truecaller. However, Mario explained that Whatsapp only used the number for verification through a pin code, and that we were willingly giving Truecaller permission to access our phonebook. This topic created a small controversy, since people were not only giving away their own numbers, but also their contacts’ numbers. Thus, he suggested downloading such apps on tablets instead of phones to avoid this problem.

Concerning the list of permissions, he said that Whatsapp and Facebook were “credible brands”, which is why there is no need to read the terms every time. For other applications, it is very important to check them out before accepting. He also affirmed that “Apple supports privacy and Google is starting to enhance it.”

For Geissah, “Social tools are an evolution of the communication.” Some people are very concerned about what our kids are being exposed to, but this is actually the natural evolution of things. He gave the example of his son having access to what he personally hadn’t seen until he was in college and said it was similar to when his father had seen the colored TV for the first time at the age of 40. He thinks that this evolution is very positive and that we should be optimistic about it. Regarding privacy, he believes that it is safe to give away data, but only when dealing with a trusted brand.

The panelists also discussed the regulations set by the government to verify apps, and Bou Ghanem specifically mentioned a deontology code that needs to be signed every time an application is to be posted on the app stores of Lebanese operators Alfa and touch. However, she said that the government does not have any control over the applications downloaded from iOS or Android app stores. Mario confirmed that by saying that no one has verified any of the 150 apps they have developed so far.

In general, most of the panelists were in favor of social media and believed that it is making everything more accessible and easy for people. It is up to the public to personally decide who to trust and what information to post.