Building the smart future
The development of smart government and smart cities will not be possible without the underlying communications infrastructure to support and connect next generation services.
Abdulla Ebrahim Al Ahmed, Senior Vice President, Government Sales, Etisalat, discusses how the UAE’s first telco is supporting smart cities and government, and the development of telecoms networks in the Emirates.
What is involved in your role as SVP for Government sector?
In my capacity as SVP, Government Sales, I am responsible for setting the strategy and the execution plan required for supporting and driving the ICT needs of the government sector in the UAE. I am also closely working with the public sector to align with their short, medium and long term needs and develop innovative smart solutions for the government initiatives in line with the smart vision of the UAE to meet their strategic objectives.
Does Etisalat have any programs to support the UAE’s smart government initiatives?
In terms of innovative smart solutions for, and in partnership with the government, we have rolled out several programs and initiatives at both federal and local levels. One such example is enabling federal and local e-Government entities to transform by providing them with the blueprint — design and delivery — of an end-to-end program to enable the centralization of government services through a shared services model.
Similar programs were rolled out for educational institutes at both federal and local level to centralize and enhance the quality of the educational services. Such programs involve providing state-of-art ICT infrastructure for schools, supported by reliable connectivity between schools and data centres to consume the services through the cloud.
The government shared services model opens up a new area of capability and value added services enabling the utilization and use of multimedia and unified communications, digital channels like mobile applications and smart data solutions in a highly secured manner.
Similarly, we continue to collaborate with many other local bodies and departments in various sectors — healthcare and research to name a couple, where our expert teams are heavily engaged in driving these initiatives and projects towards success.
How does Etisalat support the development of smart cities?
In general, ICT service providers have a crucial role to play in building or developing smart cities. Etisalat, as a leading integrated telecom provider of the country, has been working closely with governments and policy makers to increase the adoption of broadband and mobile as a basic right. Etisalat has laid down the foundation and infrastructure to power the UAE’s smart city development plans and is investing in leading edge technologies to reach every citizen as part of smart city requirements. Etisalat has established a comprehensive Digital Services unit with the aim of increasing the adoption of ICT and digital solutions to enable smart city and smart government initiatives that can deliver better and more efficient services to the citizens and visitors, and promote growth and innovation.
In coming years, Etisalat expects to invest significantly to support the government’s vision in shifting to a knowledge-based economy.
Do you have any specific programs for smart city development?
Etisalat has invested billions and kick-started mega plans to support the smart city and governmental initiatives. Our nationwide fibre rollout, 4G development and 5G rollout plans, strategic investments like our flagship Khalifa City Tier III Data Centre in Abu Dhabi, the Etisalat Cloud and M2M/IoT platform, also a cloud-based and open smart city platform, are a few projects that we have undertaken to support the smart city vision. This year, you will see more development plans, specifically related to smart cities and smart governments.
Does Etisalat work with government on broadband deployment and ‘connecting the unconnected’ or increasing broadband uptake by reducing cost?
Etisalat has excellent infrastructure covering the entire country — both mobile and fixed — to provide high speed broadband connectivity to residents in most of the areas. This has been developed in line with the UAE’s government vision and objectives to maintain its high speed of technology adoption through an extended broadband infrastructure as well as advanced telecom technologies and services. Etisalat continues to invest heavily in upgrading networks and improving its product and service portfolio to be able to deliver value through high-quality connectivity.
Etisalat pricing for broadband service is highly competitive on a global scale, based on the quality of service provided by Etisalat on the state-of-the-art FTTH network. Pricing has never been a challenge for the broadband uptake and this is demonstrated by the ranking of the UAE on a global scale in terms of penetration. Having said that, we are always ready to seize any strategic opportunity which allows Etisalat to provide more value, capabilities and outstanding customer experience to our customers.
What technology do you think will have the biggest impact on life in the UAE in future?
Technologies that will have the biggest impact on life in the UAE are the ones driving the digital experience of business and consumers. Connected devices, mobility, smart education, innovative healthcare, intelligent transport systems, augmented reality, big data analytics, location based services, managed IT services are some of the technology tracks that will drive new disruptive business models supporting digital innovation and business transformation.
The future will see more digital natives inhabiting the UAE as opposed to the majority of us today, who are digital immigrants. Digitization will have a huge impact on future generations of our society whose expectations will be much higher than our expectations today.
I can imagine our kids and the new generation will only use digital or social means to communicate, transact and experience.