|Topic:||In the wake of the Revolution: Insights on Egypt’s ICT sector|
|Author:||H.E. Dr Magued I. Osman|
|Organisation:||Ministry of Communications & Information Technology|
Dr Magued Osman is the Minister of Communications and Information Technology in the Egyptian government after the Egyptian revolution, a position he has held since February 2011. Prior to this, he most recently served as chairman of the Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) from January 2005, director of the Cairo Demographic Center from January 2004 to January 2005, and a professor at the Department of Statistics of Cairo University’s Faculty of Economics and Political Science from March 1998 to December 2003.
Dr Osman holds a B.Sc. in statistics and an M.Sc. in applied statistics from Cairo University and an M.Sc. and Ph.D., both in biostatistics, from Case Western Reserve University in the USA.
Mobilization and further actions were possible for the People’s Revolution of January 25th because the ground had already been prepared. The Revolution is a true testament of how Egyptians value what technology can do for them and what they can do with it.Egypt’s ICT sector already stands out as a model for reform and innovation will continue. Plan 2011-2015 aims at the utilization of ICTs in the everyday life of Egyptians; innovation and entrepreneurship are its key components.
When young Egyptians decided that mobilization was needed for reform, they resorted to the Internet. In practical terms this means social media. Those who pursue more participatory governance in Egypt find that the online world is giving them space and ownership. And we are proud of this advanced philosophy.
Mobilization and further actions were possible for the People’s Revolution of January 25th because the ground had already been prepared. Infrastructure and technology platforms, a technology-enabled youth community, access to ICTs and different modes of self/freedom of expression both on and offline were all in place combined with, of course, a genuine conviction for a better Egypt.
As we all agree, technology played a specific role in the Revolution. It helped in spreading awareness and confidence, creating solidarity, organizing, mobilizing, maintaining momentum, and participation at limited cost.
Since 2000, Egypt’s government, in collaboration with the ICT private sector and NGO communities, has taken the responsibility to lead Egypt into the information society. Several initiatives in line with global trends were put into action. Strategic plans paved the way: for the years 2000-2003 state-of-the-art infrastructure,a liberal legal environment, access to ICT services and tools were the focus. The period 2004-2006 witnessed developmental initiatives on several fronts: education and learning, health, and government services. Developing and exporting added value out of Egypt and creating a talent base to serve such niches were the targets between 2007 and 2010. For the next five years we will focus on innovation and entrepreneurship with an emphasis on youth, start-ups and SMEs in support of reform efforts.
The Revolution is a true testament of how Egyptians value what technology can do for them and what they can do with it. Forecasts confirm that Egyptians will continue to utilize ICTs in the quest for long-term political reform and development.
During this coming period our vision is to capitalize on such achievements and proud wins. Building on this potential and effort, our aim is to empower political participation and civil engagement.
The focus will be on ‘inclusion’ (participation) and not ‘exclusion’. New technologies and the Internet are the supportive arms of delivery. The government confirms that creating the enabling environment is its mandate.
There is a strong drive to improve citizens’ access to information and knowledge, and to encourage public involvement. This is synonymous with transparent and accountable services and procedures in which individuals have access to their own data and can manage its privacy and, more importantly,are able to utilize such data as a tool for inclusion.
In conjunction with revisions of laws, technology will be used to ensure that participation, especially in voting, is fair and accurate. Ensuring accurate voter lists is a first and guaranteed step. The next step is to develop the infrastructure and tools that would allow e-voting, especially to allow Egyptians in diaspora to take part, but this will require modification of the law and the development of highly secure systems.
Let me shed light on one of our major challenges that – as a government – is being given high priority. This is unemployment. The ICT sector played a key role in addressing this challenge over the last decade. The two most solid experiences are the export of IT services and products (off-shoring and outsourcing) and developments in the telecommunicationssector (both mobile and fixed).
Large investments have been made in capacity building and human resource development for those two specific lines of business. Today, Egypt is being marketed as havingan excellent talented workforce based on a technology savvy, language capable generation. Egypt supplies technical expertise and developers of technology to the region with a niche in Arabic services and applications.
A model for reform
Egypt’s ICT sector stands out as a model for reform:from policy regulations in telecommunications to a full-fledged community, to a sustainable flow of global investments to a bouquet of public-private partnerships. The impact of those efforts on the economy and society was truly sound.
Telecom Egypt, our incumbent operator, is a global success story. The management of Telecom Egypt has been privatized and the company is partially owned by the public and the government. The success of the company yields annual support to the public treasury.
Broadband is at the heart of strategy for the period 2011-2015. Developing a complete roadmap adaptable to an evolving market and accommodating advancing technologies is a clear objective. Looking at the economic potential and impact of the development of such an industry from both a macroeconomic standpoint to a more focused outlook on other sectors of the economy, to looking further internally on the telecommunications sector from an infrastructure standpoint confirms Egypt’s commitment. Strategies and policies dedicated to broadband aim to stimulate growth through competition, demand and new business opportunities.
Amidst the challenges our nation is facing while working its way on the road to reform, we see budding hope and faith. The ICT community of Egypt is a model. Rarely can one find civil society activists, philanthropists, influencers and leaders from the political as well as the business scene, gathering to share a common agenda for change. We gather around a clear vision which aims to ensure the people’s right to communicate, a safe and secure cyberspace, and innovation for digital participation. Knowing that technology and its applications are a result of human intent and need, it will always remain an effective partner to traditional offline networking and activism.
Well it’s happening, in the spirit of the Revolution, and inspired and fuelled by enthusiasm and the commitment of local and global partners there is a strong belief in our younger generation and their role in solving today’s challenges with the technologies of tomorrow. Plan 2011-2015 aims at the utilization of ICTs in the everyday life of Egyptians; innovation and entrepreneurship are its key components.