Saudi Arabia 2017 | TELECOMS & IT | B2B

Everything converges around technology, and the industry will play a fundamental role in achieving the goals of Vision 2030.

Amjad Abdel Hafez
Ali Abdullah Alayed

What are your main activities in Saudi Arabia?

Amjad Abdel Hafez NourNet is part of the Astra Group, the 23rd-largest privately owned business conglomerate in Saudi Arabia. We started as an ISP in 1998. At that time, over 40 licenses were issued and we were one of the very few who opted for a corporate market segment. We realized Saudi Arabia lacks services and after sales support, not infrastructure. It was with this in mind that we carved out a niche for ourselves by offering top-notch pre- and post-sales support and continuous service innovation. Having started with basic connectivity services, we have grown to become one of Saudi Arabia's leading converged services provider. It was not an easy feat to achieve because the convergence between information and communications technology is a bridge most telecom players in the region struggle to cross.

Ali Abdullah Alayed TAQNIA is one of the few organizations that did not have to change when Saudi Vision 2030 and NTP 2020 came out because its strategy was already fully aligned. 2017 is an important year for TAQNIA as it will begin executing several of its industrial projects that will make a big impact on Saudi Arabia, such as Aero Connectivity Services that allow airplane passengers to connect to a high-speed Wi-Fi connection at an altitude of 11km. Another project is the implementation of the Saudi Internet Exchange Point, which will reduce cost and latency, and heightened security of the internet usage in Saudi Arabia. Towards the end of the year, TAQNIA will be launching an academy to develop local capabilities in focus sectors relevant to the Kingdom. In terms of venture capital, the Riyad TAQNIA Fund (RTF) continues to close a number of investments in local start-ups. RTF is amongst the largest VC funds in the region, with a fund size of USD120 million.

How do you ensure data security in your cloud services and data centers?

AAH Security is an extremely serious issue. When we studied security solutions, we saw different ways to enhance the service to satisfy customers. We have a strong partnership with vendors in Saudi Arabia and customized solutions for them on the security front. However, the weakest link in this chain is still the end user. Therefore, there is a great deal to do in terms of education. While we work on educating our customers on strengthening the weakest link, our security services focus around protecting the users as much as protecting the enterprise IT infrastructure.

What are the details of your partnership with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST)?

AAA The arrangement is a result of research conducted within KACST in the satellite industry. The research resulted in forming the partnership between TAQNIA Space and Digital Globe to manufacture six satellites. Three of them will be focused on the Middle East, while the remaining three will be marketed internationally. Marketing will be performed by both TAQNIA Space and Digital Globe. Eventually the manufacturing of the satellites will be fully or partly localized in Saudi Arabia as KACST operates world-class research institutes that are progressing well in the field. The technology will be further developed and localized in the future.

How does the current localization drive across the country represent an opportunity?

AAH We fully understand the importance of localization because it is about identities that a country does not need to lose. One of the key reasons behind NourNet's success is our strong local presence through local infrastructure and local services. There are in fact more interesting ideas that are being discussed. Saudi Arabia is well positioned in the region. Almost anything that is successful in Saudi Arabia can be easily extended to most countries in the region. Thus localizing in Saudi will eventually spread services across the whole region. We have to innovate as a country to be ahead of others. We have to be sharper and more agile to find out what works and what does not and continue our growth.

AAA In terms of completely manufacturing aircraft locally in Saudi Arabia, initially we will bring the parts and assemble them here. Complete manufacturing is not easy due to the requirements for building engines. The engines will eventually be imported but the body of the plane and most of the things that we are able to manufacture here will be done. As we progress, TAQNIA will strive to develop the local supply chain so we can gradually reach complete manufacturing localization. The plant is being built and we plan to produce the first plane between 2020 and 2021.