May. 27, 2020


Wael El-Kabbany

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Wael El-Kabbany

Managing Director, Enterprise, MEA, Microsoft

In an advanced market like Abu Dhabi, Microsoft is keen to work with local enterprises and government institutions to help them adopt today's most transformative technologies and solutions.

BIO

Wael El-Kabbany is an experienced ICT leader, with more than 25 years of experience in managing operations and growth in a number of companies across the Middle East and Africa region. He holds a BSc in communication engineering and did his postgraduate studies in corporate governance, international trade, and financial planning. Prior to joining Microsoft in 2017 as the Managing Director for Enterprise, MEA, El-Kabbany was with BT for 11 years. In 2006, he served as vice president for BT's Middle East and North Africa region. Earlier in his career, El-Kabbany held a number of regional management roles with regional and international ICT corporates operating across the Middle East and Africa. He also serves as non-executive board member with a number of companies in different fields across the region.


Can you tell us about Microsoft's positioning within the UAE and MENA IT sectors?
Microsoft has been in the region for decades and has been a significant contributor to technological advancement in the region. Our goal is to enable businesses and governments to use IT services to deliver on their objectives and transform their societies. MENA covers a large area, with pockets that are as advanced and maybe even more than other regions. Some of our customers here, in government as well as enterprise, use cutting-edge technologies that Microsoft uses to develop its own product sets globally. There are locations where we are working predominantly on the infrastructure layer, helping to build a vibrant IT base that can act as a springboard for national development and close skills or education gaps. In other, more advanced locations, like the UAE, we are working with local enterprises and government institutions to help them adopt today's most transformative technologies, from IoT, AI, and blockchain and quantum computing. Overall, we are well positioned in a market that is keen to adopt the most advanced technology solutions.

What impact does investing in advanced technologies have on a company's bottom line in the Middle East, and what is Microsoft doing to ensure that such investments pay off?
Microsoft has seen some cases with a number of our key customers, as well as government agencies, where adopting our cloud architecture results in an immediate benefit to their bottom line. However, that is not the most exciting part. The real benefit is when our customers' adoption of cloud technologies transforms their policies, their interaction with their customers, and ultimately their whole business model. That is when we see them really disrupt their markets and give themselves what I call a 'risk insurance certificate' against being disrupted by competitors and other industries. We have great examples of disruption, from banking to insurance and even agriculture, in companies that have really sought to use these technologies not just for immediate cost savings, but to really affect their customers and the societies in which they are operating.

How can large corporations like Microsoft help companies alleviate cyber fatigue and better prepare for cloud adoption?
One of the biggest inhibitors to adopting and embracing new technology is a lack of necessary prerequisite skills. We are sharing something we call the cloud-readiness model or the cloud-adoption framework, which helps enterprises and governments examine their readiness for adoption. We have also embarked on a number of activities over the past few years, including Microsoft Cloud Society, an online education and up-skilling portal that helps individuals and corporations educate their employees on cloud skills. With Etihad Airways, we have helped to create an AI Academy to train their employees—not just the IT teams, but other employees as well—in understanding AI and embracing new technology in their daily business. These kinds of initiatives, once carried out in an adequate and scalable way, have a massive impact end-to-end.

What do you see as the role of the private sector here in the UAE in democratizing AI and delivering its benefits correctly?
I would compare the role of AI in democratizing information today to the role of the printing press in the 15th century. We are lucky to be in this era and to witness this type of change. The word “democratizing" is key in AI because we have to ensure that we are providing AI solutions for every individual and every government or organization, regardless of their size. That is why we are on a mission to democratize AI. That mission is founded on driving AI adoption in a fair, sustainable, and scalable way, including with our 17,800 partners in the MENA region. We want to help them to develop their applications and services using Microsoft's AI engine, so that it can reach the public in an ethical, fair, and scalable manner.

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