Oct. 24, 2018


Lana Khalaf

Qatar

Lana Khalaf

Country Manager, Microsoft Qatar

“We are now packaging the cloud-based solution developed in Qatar to internationalize it.”

BIO

Lana Khalaf joined Microsoft in 2006, where she was responsible for empowering students and teachers across Gulf region to achieve more through technology and fostering innovation focusing on developing STEM students and capacity building for teachers and researchers. In 2010 she moved to Qatar and led the education sector in the country, transforming education in the State of Qatar. In 2014 she was appointed Director of Public Sector in Qatar leading the digital transformation journey across government, health and media. Earlier in her career, Lana worked in a variety of roles at Samsung, and ActiveMania developing smart solutions and building strategy for enabling smart and automated workplace and homes. Lana has a computer science degree from American University of Beirut (AUB) and an MBA from Lebanese American University (LAU).

Microsoft has recognized the achievements in technology by Qatari companies such as Gulf Warehousing Company and Nakilat. What was the ground for this recognition?

No matter the organization, Microsoft recognizes we are all undergoing a digital transformation. Nakilat has done so through our “Azure" cloud solution. All its data is now saved on a public hybrid cloud with Microsoft, which enables it to have 99.95% availability, full security, and a cost reduction of 50%. This will also allow it to focus on its business and not consume resources managing IT. Gulf Warehousing Company adopted the cloud in a different way; it uses it to bring smart warehousing into the market. The great thing about these partnerships is that we bring new solutions locally. At the same time, we are now packaging the cloud-based solution developed in Qatar to internationalize it.

Ooredoo is also benefiting from Azure solutions. What has this entailed for the company and Ooredoo?

Additionally, Microsoft has partnered with Ooredoo, the biggest telecom provider in the country, to bring Microsoft Azure hybrid cloud services, which will expand Ooredoo's offering and enable Qatar's organizations to gain major business benefits by transforming from CAPEX into OPEX. For example, Ooredoo will be able to use the “pay as you use" model, which is new. This will comply with all the data regulations and guidelines within Qatar. It is an amazing partnership and will allow organizations in Qatar to innovate through enabling this hybrid cloud within Qatar locally. This will certainly play a key role in innovation and application development because now with the change in quantum computing of the future and how the cloud is transforming business, having this hybrid model now for the first time available in Qatar will allow an organization to go to the cloud and have a spike in any application they need in a second and then come back and only pay for what they are using, which is an amazing benefit.

Which projects do you currently have in Qatar to advance the country's education agenda?

Microsoft's mission in education is to empower students, educators, and institutions to achieve more aligned with the vision of education in the country. Technology plays a crucial role as it equips educators and students with the right tools and capabilities to develop for the labor market, even preparing students for jobs that do not exist today. In Qatar, we are training 1,000 teachers with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education as part of our capacity building program, which stresses on embedding technology in education, addressing things such as developing project-based learning, using technology in education, and using technological tools. We also provide every student in Qatar with free access to Office 365 from Microsoft. Microsoft in Qatar has in place a program called Imagine Academy for students to gain specific certifications and be empowered for the work place. Early on, we engage with students and train and certify them so that as they graduate, they are empowered and have the right skills, certifications, and qualifications to enter the job market. Additionally, we use a fair share of our resources in R&D and develop joint programs with Qatar Computing Research Institute, which is part of Qatar Foundation. Qatar is truly investing in education as it wants to become a knowledge-based economy, and this is an area where Microsoft has a great deal of capabilities and expertise to bring in.

The government has focused on offering e-services to an increasing technological population. How has this benefited Microsoft's operations in the country?

The Qatari government has a clear vision to move into e-services, which has benefited all IT companies in the country. Microsoft has worked with the Ministry of Transport and Communications to optimize costs for the country and accelerate innovation in e-services. We are developing a platform of e-services called Sadeem, where any ministry today can log into this e-services platform and offer a range of services to their stakeholders. We are also proud to have worked with Ashghal to improve its customer service solutions and develop its own CRM.

Which major technological changes do you see being implemented in Qatar in the next few years?

We are definitely moving into intelligent cloud solutions to guarantee full security between the cloud to the edge and the flow in-between. In Qatar, we see many technology advances coming in the near future. We see also hybrid clouds leading the future, as they provide the power of both private and public clouds at the same time. This is what we have done with Ooredoo, and most probably more companies will follow this pattern. The second thing is AI and machine learning. Data is the new currency and is key for the development of any country. With the flow of data, we will move toward e-services, business intelligence, IoT and smart city initiatives, in order to make well-informed decisions. We have been working closely with Texas A&M University in Qatar in the field of mixed and virtual reality as well as drone and robotic technology. These developments will be “Made in Qatar" as a result of the support of the government and the know-how of IT companies like Microsoft.

What would you advise girls who want to make their way in the IT world?

In IT, as in any other business, the key requirement to be successful is to have the passion and the persistence. The technology sector has had male prominence, but recent years have seen female emerging and taking on important roles. Fear is considered as a major component creating hesitation among many girls from following this career path. From my own experience, by hiring more females and bringing them into our teams, they can make major differences, especially in engaging and thinking differently. IT works to develop innovative solutions, for which it is extremely important to have different approaches to problems and, therefore, diversity. My advice would be to first have the passion for IT and learning because IT is in constant flux. Also, females do not have to think of IT as pure technology. IT today impacts all industries and most things in life. Females need to bear in mind the broad range of ways of applying technology to virtually everything to determine what they are most passionate about within IT.

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