READY FOR A CON­NECTED FU­TURE

Qatar Today - - SPOTLIGHT INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY -

POW­ERED BY VI­SION, QATAR'S FORWARDTHINKING ICT STRAT­EGY IS PRO­PEL­LING THE COUN­TRY INTO THE HY­PER-CON­NECTED DIG­I­TAL ERA, CRE­AT­ING A SOLID FOUN­DA­TION UPON WHICH TO BUILD A KNOWL­EDGE-BASED ECON­OMY.

There couldn’t have been a bet­ter time this year to cast a spot­light on the coun­try’s bur­geon­ing ICT sec­tor. As Doha gears up for QITCOM 2014, which is back after a hia­tus, heart­en­ing news reaches our shores. World Eco­nomic Fo­rum’s Global In­for­ma­tion and Tech­nol­ogy Re­port 2014 was pub­lished re­cently and Qatar’s com­mit­ment to bring­ing the power of in­for­ma­tion and con­nec­tiv­ity to each and ev­ery in­di­vid­ual and or­gan­i­sa­tion within its bor­ders has been val­i­dated in its pages.

The most strik­ing of the eval­u­a­tions pre­sented in the re­port are those that high­light the govern­ment’s push to help per­me­ate good and cut­ting-edge ICT prac­tices across var­i­ous sec­tors, both ver­ti­cally and hor­i­zon­tally. Thanks to the cease­less ef­forts of ic­tQATAR and HE Sheikha Dr Hessa Al Jaber, Qatar ranks first among the Arab states and 23rd glob­ally (out of 144 coun­tries) in the Net­worked Readi­ness In­dex. This in­dex ex­am­ines how pre­pared coun­tries are to fully ex­ploit the op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fered by the dig­i­tal age in three ar­eas: gen­eral busi­ness, reg­u­la­tory and in­fra­struc­ture en­vi­ron­ment for ICT; readi­ness of govern­ment, in­di­vid­u­als, and busi­nesses to use and ben­e­fit from ICT; and the ac­tual so­ci­etal, en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic im­pact of ICTs.

Qatar scored very highly on several fac­tors like the govern­ment pro­cure­ment of ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy (and how these de­ci­sions fos­ter in­no­va­tion) in which it ranks first glob­ally, the ef­fec­tive­ness of law-mak­ing bod­ies (in which it ranks third after Sin­ga­pore and Fin­land), mo­bile net­work cov­er­age (Rank 1) and the laws re­lat­ing to ICT re­lat­ing to e-com­merce, dig­i­tal sig­na­tures, con­sumer pro­tec­tion, etc. in which it ranks 6.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, “Qatar re­mains sta­ble at 23rd place and leads the rank­ings in the Arab world. In the past year, the coun­try has con­tin­ued to im­prove and up­grade its ICT in­fra­struc­ture and up­take, thanks to a de­ci­sive ef­fort led by the govern­ment’s strong vi­sion that has iden­ti­fied ICT as one of the key in­dus­tries that will di­ver­sify the lo­cal econ­omy and boost the pro­duc­tiv­ity of all sec­tors. Qatar is among the top 10 in the world in terms of In­ter­net users and house­holds hav­ing ac­cess to a com­puter and In­ter­net con­nec­tion, which has be­come al­most uni­ver­sal and has helped to achieve very high so­cial im­pacts. Eco­nomic im­pacts, while im­prov­ing, could be higher. Tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion re­mains mod­est, and just a quar­ter of its pop­u­la­tion is em­ployed in knowl­edge-in­ten­sive jobs. Con­tin­u­ing to ad­dress some of the weak­nesses in its in­no­va­tion sys­tem, which is quickly evolv­ing and strength­en­ing, would re­sult in a higher tech­no­log­i­cal po­ten­tial.”

Recog­nis­ing this, HE Dr Al Jaber said in a state­ment that “as we shift to a knowl­edge-based econ­omy, much work re­mains to be done, in­clud­ing im­ple­ment­ing the Na­tional Broad­band Plan, ac­cel­er­at­ing our e-govern­ment ef­forts, sup­port­ing an open and com­pet­i­tive ICT sec­tor, en­hanc­ing our cy­ber se­cu­rity and safety, and em­pow­er­ing our peo­ple with the ICT skills to thrive in the dig­i­tal world.”

Nev­er­the­less, the re­port serves as a great pre­am­ble to kick start the third edi­tion of QITCOM, which will run be­tween May 26 and 28 at the Qatar Na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. The first event since the new Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion was es­tab­lished, QITCOM 2014, hosted un­der the theme ‘In­no­vat­ing To­day for the Fu­ture of Qatar’, will fea­ture key­note speeches, talks and pan­els from global thought-lead­ers, schol­ars, busi­ness­men and aca­demics, in ad­di­tion to ex­hibitors in­tro­duc­ing the at­ten­dees to the next gen­er­a­tion era of ICT-led in­no­va­tion. Several sig­na­ture events like the In­no­va­tion Theatre, Ap­pathon, B2B Match­mak­ing, Tech Zone and more are in the off­ing, but more de­tails on speak­ers and pan­elists have yet to be re­vealed as

we go to print.

But Ri­nal Chaa­ban, Man­ager of QITCOM did an­nounce to the press re­cently that “more than 80% of the space ded­i­cated to the ex­hi­bi­tion has been booked. “We an­tic­i­pated from the very be­gin­ning that QITCOM 2014 would achieve ex­po­nen­tial growth and we feel even more op­ti­mistic now that the ex­hi­bi­tion space is more than 80% booked,” she said.

The hope is that ef­forts like these will trickle down to the bot­tom to drive more in­vest­ment from the pri­vate sec­tor into tech ven­tures. Given the coun­try’s ex­cel­lent ICT cre­den­tials and in­fra­struc­ture, the con­cen­tra­tion of world-class in­sti­tu­tions and the nat­u­ral drive of its ci­ti­zens to­wards cre­at­ing a busi­ness from scratch, the coun­try ought be a fer­tile breed­ing group for tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies. There is a con­cen­trated ef­fort by en­tre­pre­neur groups and in­cu­ba­tion cen­tres to change the tra­di­tional mind­set around in­vest­ments in the coun­try and open peo­ple’s eyes to the risks and re­wards of putting your money on an idea. In­vest­ment arms of many banks and ven­ture cap­i­tal firms are think­ing about or have al­ready started to al­lot funds specif­i­cally for ICT-re­lated busi­ness ideas, though at the mo­ment their ma­jor gripe is about lack of en­tre­pre­neur­ial ex­pe­ri­ence in the coun­try.

As the first gen­er­a­tion of tech en­trepreneurs start and sell suc­cess­ful ven­tures, they will be able to act as men­tors to the next co­hort, aid­ing them with their unique per­spec­tive on cre­at­ing a thriv­ing tech busi­ness in the Mid­dle East. In our ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions the ac­cent on en­trepreneur­ship is ob­vi­ous. Busi­ness plan com­pe­ti­tions, ca­reer fairs, startup weeks – these kinds of events are be­gin­ning to see more par­tic­i­pa­tion and en­thu­si­asm from young­sters brim­ming with ideas and know-how. In the mean­time, the govern­ment and pri­vate play­ers must con­tinue to nur­ture this tal­ent while en­cour­ag­ing and sup­port­ing the first crop of en­trepreneurs, for they are the spring­board to the tech revo­lu­tion

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