Telecom operators and technology providers from around the South Asia, Middle East and North Africa region gathered in Doha today along with ICT policymakers to discuss the evolving digital landscape and the challenges and opportunities it presents.
The conference was held under the theme "Meeting the Digital Agenda: "Maximizing Telcos' Revenues through Harmonized Excellence".
According to SAMENA Council CEO Bocar BA, The SAMENA Council's "Beyond Connectivity Conference" this year represents a key milestone in the Council's progress towards achieving the Digital Agenda. The participation of the different telecom industry stakeholders in the conference reflects the spirit of cooperation towards building consensus around major industry challenges and opportunities like: achieving the digital agenda, the rise of spectrum needs, satellite broadband emerging technologies, international mobile roaming and the cooperation across the content stakeholders." Group CEO, Ooredoo and Chairman of the SAMENA Council Dr. Nasser Marafih said "The Summit is an unrivalled industry platform for our region, helping facilitate meaningful discussions between a wide variety of telecom industry stakeholders. This is important as the future of our industry is dependent on our ability to work together to find solutions to the issues discussed today. As an industry we have a responsibility to provide the best possible service for the people of this region and to continue removing the barriers which prevent us from fully supporting their increasingly digital lifestyles."
ictQATAR 's Assistant Undersecretary for Digital Society Development Reem Al-Mansoori commented "In Qatar, ICT and, of course the adoption of it are integral to our vision of becoming a knowledge-based economy. It also aligns with the Human Development pillar of the Qatar National Vision 2030. We are making considerable progress in increasing connectivity, improving digital literacy and fostering economic development through ICT.
"It takes more than just building the infrastructure to realize true benefits. ictQATAR is inclusive in its approach ensuring that ICT is adopted by all segments of Qatari society. Everyone needs to be digitally enabled, and we need to ensure that no one is left behind due to lack of access or skills to use technology.
"ictQATAR has designed a number of programs to bridge the digital divide, including among others, Haseen program- digital content on cyber safety integrated into English and Arabic lessons in schools; TumuhaTEC initiative to bring ICT into the workplace through attraction and retention.
In addition we are also working to develop e-skills and digital literacy for our youth who are digital natives and are working on reaching out to the elderly through their children and grandchildren as part of an inter-generational lCT Learning program, 'Wasla'." Mohammed Al Yami, Chief External Affairs Office at Vodafone Qatar , said "Over the past 6 years, Vodafone 's role was and remains as one of the key enablers of the digital agenda of the country backed by our steadfast commitment to continuously invest in the development of the sector. However, our nation and region's digital ambitions cannot be achieved unless we all work together towards the common goals for the benefits of our industry, our customers and our stakeholders."
Mobile operators today face a disruptive landscape, with increased competition from a variety of players, exponential growth in mobile data usage, industry consolidation and regulatory change, said Peter Lyons, Director, Middle East and Africa, GSMA.
"Against this backdrop, operators are strategically aligned on important issues such as consumer trust and the value of being local, the relevance of the SIM, as well as the importance of global interoperability and scale. The GSMA is focused on driving collaborative action to enable operators to capitalise on new technology and market opportunities and address industry challenges, while providing significant socio-economic benefits for consumers, businesses and governments globally," he added.
Jawad Aslam, Head of Networks at Vodafone Qatar said: "We are seeing a triple digit data growth y-o-y and this is a trend across the market. The spectrum situation in Qatar - being a 2-player market - is probably not as challenging as bigger markets for example in Europe or India but we still expect, in the foreseeable future, the spectrum situation to come under stress. Additional spectrum would be necessary for increased usage while enhancing customer experience. Global or at least regional harmonisation of any future spectrum is important to keep the cost to consumer low and to enable roaming." On 5G, Aslam said: "There's a lot of potential on M2M that is still untapped by mobile operators and regardless of the terminology there are two things which will unleash this potential and these are: consistent Quality of Experience and lower latency."
Discussion at the conference started with an interactive discussion on the theme 'Meeting the Digital Agenda' which seeks to identify measures of success in comparison to the application of the Digital Agenda and explore constructive solutions to the economic, regulatory and security challenges that may hinder adopting the digital society.
Participants also discussed the potential social and economic benefits related to the digital agenda, with a focus on the impact of communication on human capital in particular.
SAMENA Telecommunications Council is South Asia - Middle East - North Africa (SAMENA) region's sole operator-driven industry association that represents telecommunications service providers from around the region, and beyond. SAMENA is a not-for-profit organization, with membership comprising more than 90 leading regional and international organizations. Headquartered in the UAE, SAMENA was founded in 2006, chaired by Dr. Nasser Marafih and led by Mr. Bocar A. BA. SAMENA collaborates with leading non-profit international organizations, including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the European Telecom Network Operators' Association. With an expanding member portfolio, the Council is quickly securing strong footing in the region. SAMENA's current network consists of 25 countries from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. However, organizations from countries of Asia Pacific, Europe and North America also form part of the SAMENA membership.