CONNECTING THE DOTS

Kuwait 2019 | TELECOMS, IT & MEDIA | FOCUS: DEVELOPING CONNECTIVITY

Today, connectivity is hardly indispensible for individuals and the companies where they work. Kuwait's smart cities, considered elsewhere in the book, will thrive on it, and meanwhile the nation continues to register notable business deals from the informatics sector.

The national Vision, Kuwait 2035 rolls out long-term technology strategies that encompass both private sector connectivity and comprehensive e-government projects such as the national eID initiative. The latter is a major rethink on how citizen and resident alike access public sector services. Kuwait's goal is to leverage ICT and become a financial and cultural hub by 2035, and completion of 164 strategic programs supports this.

Measuring up for Tomorrow
Several major technology firms publish 360-degree sector reviews and rankings that track the global pace of adoption and digital readiness. One such study launched in 2014 is Huawei's Global Connectivity Index (GCI), which on this occasion benchmarks 79 nations that collectively comprise 95% of global GDP. So, what's considered? Essentially, those countries' adoption of ICT to advance digital competitiveness and ICT growth potential. The show-stopping fact in the latest study is that the business opportunities to be generated by the digital economy will be an additional market value of USD23 trillion by 2025, double the number for 2017. In fact, Huawei calculates the long-term return on digital technology investment at 6.7 times greater than the non-digital variety.

Nations at various points along the GCI S-curve are identified as Frontrunners, Adopters, or Starters. The study's 40 indicators scan vertically in terms of 'Supply, Demand, Experience, and Potential,' and horizontally by examining 'Broadband, Data Centers, Cloud Services, Big Data, and IoT.' Huawei's study encompasses the evaluations of digital economy experts from academia and commercial arena alike, plus World Bank policymakers, among others.

And the Score Is…
The 2018 study ranks Kuwait in 37th position with an overall score of 44 out of 100. This places it just above Poland and one below Russia. Kuwait picked up a perfect score for mobile broadband and smartphone, while its 4G coverage ratio improved YoY. Yet while the cloud service migration ratio and user experience remain on an upward trajectory, overall, the country has lagged average levels for high-end ICT technology. Specifically, fixed broadband penetration and commercial digitalization are earmarked for improvement. Prospective growth areas, meanwhile, are identified as cloud computing, e-government, and machine-to-machine services on the back of forthcoming infrastructure investments. One such project outlined in late 2018 is the proposed regional internet network outlined by the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority of Kuwait, (CITRA).

Laying the Groundwork
In 4Q2018, Huawei, which as of March 2019 ranked third in the Kuwaiti market by Mobile Vendor Market Share (13.94%) following Apple (27.19%) and Samsung (43.52%), named Kuwait's Zain Group as its strategic partner for providing Huawei Cloud services, first locally and subsequently throughout the MENA region, which sees estimated annual growth of 20%. Notable rises are reported in the Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) fields. Zain Group has an established pedigree in the provision of B2B solutions in the public and private spheres, making it best placed to meet the criteria of 'connectivity, scalability, security, and processing power.' In October 2018 it launched BEAM, its high-speed wireless internet to deliver high Internet speeds on par with those achieved by fiber optics. As taster, then, of the 5G possibilities shortly due for adoption.

Research Center Coming
With 5G being the gateway to smart connectivity, Kuwaiti teleco Viva is to set up a 5G Innovation Center with, yep, the ubiquitous Huawei. Scheduled to be up and running by end-2019, it will develop and launch 5G applications that could propel the country to the status of regional front-runner. It will also ensure a seamless introduction of Viva's 5G business in step, too, with national targets for ultra-broadband, IoT, and smart cities. Celebrating the telco's decade at the cutting edge, Viva intends to become the world's first operator to deliver a true 5G NR experience with nationwide coverage, enabling digitalization across vertical sectors such as telemedicine, smart cities, and security.
The frenetic activity in evidence in Kuwait's ICT arena confirms the urgency of Vision 2035, and the few projects touched on above, while significant in scale are but a taste of what's over the horizon.