SECURING THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

Lebanon 2017 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hisham Itani, Chairman & CEO of RGH Holding, on digital security and cybersecurity offerings and how RGH has transformed government and private sector operations alike.

Hisham Itani
BIOGRAPHY
While completing his bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in business administration from the American University of Beirut, Hisham Itani was already immersed in his family’s printing business. He strove to add new technologies ahead of demand, and investment in R&D led to cutting-edge, globally competitive solutions. He took the security printing business to another level and expanded into different technology verticals. Itani established companies that are serving over 50 countries in more than 10 industries. He is now Chairman and CEO of RGH Holding.

RGH is a dynamic investment group with a broad portfolio of businesses. How would you evaluate RGH's operations over recent years?

Over the last few years at RGH, and in light of the digital era, we have made it a key mission to focus even more on our IT and R&D backlog. The company has consolidated its operations around IT, security, and R&D areas, enhancing our relationships with our clients as well as our ability to respond to their needs. The development of technology in recent years has allowed us to be extremely responsive to our clients more than ever before, especially those that are in need of major digital transformations. Various government agencies in our part of the world lag behind international standards and are a little more prone to security problems and issues arising from the digitalization of governmental processes. Many government agencies are still paper-based and lack automation, which makes the lifecycle of their processes and operations much harder than they should be. Inevitably, it also negatively impacts transparency and citizen services. The best way to level this process is to utilize the technology at our disposal in order to ensure systems operate more efficiently, and hence more effectively, and in turn greatly improve the end user's experience.

What role does RGH play in the automation processes of the government?

RGH plays a central role in automating governmental processes. The implementation of biometric passports is one of multiple projects that we have already completed at a local level. This initiative helped elevate Lebanon's image as international partners and citizens recognized that Lebanon was beginning to adopt the most advanced anti-fraud standards. The government can now combat terrorism and other illegal activities more effectively. This will most definitely constitute a solid platform on which the government and its agencies can build upon, creating more elaborate systems in the future. Other automation projects include biometric and electronic solutions for residence permits, work permits, driving licenses, vehicle registration cards, secure plates, and RFID stickers. This helps the government control, securitize, and electronically manage different areas of activity. This also accelerates the transition towards e-government, where digital security is a basic requirement.

What portion of your revenue is derived from the public sector?

The split is 70-30, with 70% being derived from the public sector. We are at almost 50-60% export as well. We export our services to the Gulf, though our real stronghold is sub-Saharan Africa. We are present in nine countries in that area of the world and service similar projects. We in fact started in sub-Saharan Africa in the early 2000s and then we returned to Lebanon to expand our operations here in 2013.

What are RGH's services and initiatives for digital security?

Our main offering to governments and the private sector is the ability to authenticate and identify their virtual clients, because in any digital transaction the question of identification is extremely vital. Governments and companies need to know how to ensure that a given activity or transaction is, in fact, being completed by the person in question. Authentication is a major obstacle and a major cornerstone of e-government, digital security, and digital transactions. This is where we focus our product offering and we complement this offering with a robust cyber security solution. We started developing the latter through our telecom division, which was established in 2009, and we position it as a regional integrator of choice. The operations of both subsidiaries (digital security and cybersecurity) go hand-in-hand with one another, and we are focused on providing solutions that fulfill both needs. By operating in an area that represents such a key meeting point for technologies, we are able to provide an invaluable service to governments and private firms alike.