TECH HEADS

Kuwait 2016 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Anas J. Meerza, Group CEO of the National Technology Enterprises Company (NTEC), on its mission to see companies use higher technology.

What sparked the creation of NTEC in Kuwait?

NTEC was created to diversify the economy through technology, creating new revenue streams besides oil and gas to serve the government's economic diversification goals. The driver behind this strategic decision is that Kuwait has the highest rate of people with Bachelor's of Science degrees or Master's and PhDs per capita in the region, with several having gone to some of the best schools in the US and Europe. They are able to work with technology, and they are able to integrate new technologies into their daily lives, their businesses, and their industries. This is a result of another strategic decision taken by the government back in the 1960s when it built the scholarship system, giving Kuwaitis incentives to go out and become educated and facilitating people to study abroad through cultural attaches around the world by financing their studies, providing them with a salary, and anything else necessary to succeed and return with a good education.

What are some of the current focal points of NTEC today?

We are instilling the understanding that technology is limitless. NTEC's first objective is to start, develop, and manage technological projects. We have been given the liberty to design business models that best fit the environment by understanding the community's capabilities. The second objective is to deliver advisory and consultancy services through research, government collaboration, and non-government institutes to advise on the best technologies and encourage the adoption of new technology. The third objective is to invest in technology for the purpose of transferring knowledge to the country. This was a significant element of our phase one strategy from 2005 to 2011; learning how to insert certain technologies into sectors and create awareness on what the benefits would be of doing that. The last objective is one of the most important, and that is capacity building and training.

What phase is the company currently in, and what is to come?

The first phase of investment has been completed and we have entered phase two, which was the “span-out mode," in which we transferred technology. We decided to segregate tech areas into NTEC subsidiaries, as each have their own individual KPIs but have the same mandate as NTEC at a micro level. We launched companies in life sciences, ICT, and energy, and created an advisory arm alongside an HR management arm. All companies are now operational, and we have entered the third and final phase, the operational phase, which is focused on project development and management. Gaining a solid understanding of the technology you have invested in and then seeing the shift from investment to building user capacity, and then implementation, is most exciting. When the penetration of technology reaches people's everyday business, it is very gratifying.

What technologies do you see as having the most potential to modernize Kuwait's economy?

ICT certainly has a part in everything by default, but the major change is what will take place in Kuwait once it begins adopting new types of renewable energy. Our approach is to teach people about these technologies through pilot projects and then get them to adapt to it. One of the major projects we have completed was a co-op in Kuwait called Zahra Co-op, where we built all of its parking with solar panels for shade. We have a working relationship with the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) and the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science (KFAS), and we collaborate on several pilot projects in order to create public awareness. We have several projects on the way. One that is approved is the building of a self-sustainable home in one of the residential areas of Kuwait, which will minimize the use of any of the country's traditional sources of energy. The home will be a museum for five years, and people can go in and see how it works. The objective is to show people certain technologies that they can use today that could reduce the waste of energy in Kuwait, and energy consumption on MEW, and give them a better and cleaner life with the use of LED lighting and water purification systems, among other technology.

Where do you see the most potential for technological change in Kuwait's energy sector?

The need today is not bricks and mortar or designers, it is energy, as the MEW does not have enough energy to supply the new homes being built in Kuwait. Thus far, the Public Housing Authority in Kuwait has distributed thousands of plots of land, though not enough power is currently available to support homes to be built. They would have to wait until a new power plant was built. We are trying to present solutions to this problem, as there are technologies everywhere that are developing rapidly. There is technology that uses air to produce water, for example, and it has been available for a long time on industrial scales.

What are your priorities in the ICT sector?

Our two priority focus areas in ICT are security and e-Government. Everything we do in the ICT sector focuses on providing services for the government that could make the community life easier while transitioning into e-services.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

What we hope to see over the next several years is the aggressive development plan of Kuwait coming into action. We are a small company compared to the mega projects that the government is doing, but we are attempting to make minor changes in every government institute. We are hoping that these changes could assist the government in assessing the issues that they have put forward in the development plan, and we want to be a catalyst for the implementation of projects. We are thankful for the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) giving us the opportunity to show what we can offer. We are certainly interested the development plan, but we are hoping to be more prevalent once the development plan as a whole is put into effect.