The Etisalat Group unveiled its vision for regional economies to catalyse rapid growth and achieve national development goals through a co-ordinated response to ICT. The Middle East’s largest telecommunications company shared its blueprint for a modern economy to a think-tank of regional decision-makers at the Harvard Arab Alumni Annual Meeting held at the St. Regis Hotel, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. The opening address to the Etisalat sponsored event was delivered by Dr Anwar Gargash, minister of state for foreign affairs and minister of Federal National Council affairs, who was immediately followed by Essa Alhaddad, chief commercial officer at Etisalat Group who presented the operator’s ICT strategy. Speaking at the event, Alhaddad said: “ICT growth and development has a direct impact on local economies through job creation and boosting GDP. Intellectual capital is the ‘foodstuff’ of the future and this must be cultivated to enable entrepreneurship and drive innovation. “A co-ordinated response is the key component in accelerating economic growth, stimulating innovation, enhancing efficiency, encouraging new fields of collaboration, and very simply, improving everyday life for people across the region,” he added. Etisalat is operational across 17 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and has deployed world-class infrastructure and the latest ICT services to support the development of local economies. According to research by Booz & Co, ICT sector investments in a country such as the UAE have the potential to double by 2016 to Dhs100 billion which will act as a catalyst for greater economic diversification, creating an additional 16,000 jobs with a corresponding increase in the number of ICT small medium sized enterprises rising by 2,100 to 12,700. Etisalat is a prime mover in creating the right environment to accelerate social development and economic growth by delivering innovative solutions that can transform communities and businesses. “Every industry will be touched by ICT developments, and those that have already been touched, will be touched again,” commented Alhaddad. “The challenge now is for nations to carve a strategy from which to leapfrog ahead not just seek to lead. They should look to maximise the impact of their national assets and coordinate a common vision for success. Organisations such as the ICT Fund have a key role to play in achieving this potential.” The UAE’s is currently ranked 30th in the Network Readiness Index published annually by the World Economic Forum. The index measures a country’s ability to exploit ICT opportunities based on analysis of market, political, the regulatory and infrastructure environment and how they are optimized to benefit from an ICT-enabled future. Etisalat today is one of the world’s fastest growing telecommunications groups serving more than 167 million customers with Internet, voice, broadcast, roaming and corporate data services. With operations in 17 markets across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, the Group today is valued in excess of Dhs80 billion ($20 billion) of market value and is the largest operator in the Middle East. Etisalat aims to develop communities by focusing its innovation in the field of ICT to achieve social and economic development. In addition to providing the fixed-line and mobile broadband services which serve individuals and corporations, through Thuraya satellite services, Etisalat has been able to invest heavily in submarine cable technology. This commitment to technological advancement has provided the platform for access to almost 2 billion people generating increased revenues while also stimulating local healthcare and economic development. Etisalat has been a pioneer in the introduction of Internet services in the region and 3G services in Egypt and Afghanistan. Etisalat’s innovative services have received numerous regional and international accolades, some of which were two GSMA Global Mobile Awards in the ‘Best Mobile Health Innovation’ and ‘mWomen Best Mobile Product’ categories for its mobile health innovation. In addition to, the ‘Best Mobile Money Innovation’ award for Etisalat’s Commerce platform.