Posted on January 30, 2015

The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQATAR) released its annual report for the year 2013/2014, which sheds light on its most prominent achievements during the year in its pursuit to build a vibrant, advanced and secure ICT sector that will propel a thriving, diversified economy and benefit all the people of Qatar.

“When Qatar’s leadership began the journey to build a vibrant ICT sector that would spearhead the development of a competitive knowledge economy nearly a decade ago, it indeed seemed impossible to imagine that our ambitious blueprint for change would one day come to fruition. But significant commitment and investments on the part of the government and other stakeholders have helped drive real, meaningful progress in a short period of time,” said Dr. Hessa Al-Jaber, Minister of Information and Communications Technology.

The report showcases the Ministry’s various accomplishments during the past year and the progress made across the five strategic thrusts of Qatar’s National ICT Plan 2015 to achieve the Ministry’s goal in building a competitive, global, and knowledge-based economy and transforming the country into a fully connected society. The main achievements includes:

Launch of Es’hail 1 to support expanded broadcast services. Es’hailSat, Qatar Satellite Company, which received a 25-year operating license from the government in 2013, has already started to plan the design and manufacture of Es’hail 2, which is scheduled to launch at the end of 2016. This satellite will further boost broadband delivery, television and global connectivity.

Establishment of a New Independent Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) to ensure continued competition in the telecom market and the protection of consumer rights. To that end, CRA had finalized a new regulatory framework for quality of service, and the ratification of a revised numbering plan.

Progress Continues for the Qatar National Broadband Network (QNBN). QNBN, which is tasked with rolling out a passive fiber optic infrastructure network, had finalized its three-year strategy, secured major business wins and signed agreements with key market players to improve digital connectivity for tens of thousands of customers throughout the country.

New National Cyber Security Strategy. The strategy will generate cutting-edge safety measures that will further safeguard Qatar’s networks and people from cyber threats and ensure an open and secure cyberspace. This comprehensive plan addresses five essential components:

safeguarding the nation’s critical infrastructure, responding to and recovering from cyber- attacks, establishing the proper legal and regulatory framework for a safe and vibrant cyberspace with a robust set of cyber security and cyber-crime laws, fostering a culture of cyber security by raising awareness and encouraging information sharing among government agencies, businesses, and other institutions, and developing national cyber security capabilities through additional education and training. In addition to a series of prospective laws aimed at countering cyber-crime currently in development which include the Personal Information Privacy Protection Law—approved by Qatar’s cabinet, and now under review by the legislative committee— that will set privacy standards for all sectors in the country.

Nationwide e-Government 2020 Plan. Building on the progress made since Qatar’s i-Gov program was established in 2006, and in response to burgeoning demand for more user-friendly “anytime, anywhere” access to government and its services, a government-wide steering committee developed Qatar e-Government 2020 Strategy, a master plan to accelerate the nation’s e-government efforts. It has several objectives: to drastically increase the number of online government services to 100 percent by 2020, ensuring that users can complete e-services end-to-end online, to drive user awareness and adoption, to automate government functions, state-of-the-art applications and a common ICT infrastructure and to develop an even more open and efficient government.

New Digital Inclusion Strategy. Qatar continued its focus on bridging the digital divide in ICT access and usage with a new Digital Inclusion Strategy aimed at reaching all sectors of the community, including those groups that currently lag behind when it comes to technology and IT skills - namely, women, people with special needs, those living in small or rural communities, young high school dropouts, low-skilled transient laborers, and the elderly. The ultimate goal is to provide better access to basic technologies—and to teach the skills necessary to use that technology—in order to provide people with helpful abilities and information, improve their employment opportunities, and better connect them to their communities and the larger world.

The National Broadband Plan. This 10-year initiative promotes broadband market development and aims to address persistent issues such as the speed and affordability of both fixed and mobile broadband. A multidisciplinary steering committee will be appointed and tasked with coordinating stakeholder effort and an implementation plan will be launched.

Telecom Market Continues to Boom. The telecom market in Qatar remains healthy and dynamic, growing at a pace that is outperforming population growth with 2013 revenues increasing by 11 percent, from QAR 7.6 billion in 2012 to QAR 8.5 billion in 2013. Net profits remained stable at QAR 1.1 billion. Both mobile and fixed broadband subscriptions have also grown over the past year, with the former, in particular, skyrocketing by 32 percent to a total of 1,665,419 mobile broadband subscriptions in the country.

The Qatar’s ICT Landscape 2013 report highlighted the significant progress that Qatar has made in improving its online presence, with 95 percent of government entities reporting that they have a Web presence; 82 percent are bilingual. Qatar ranks among the top five countries in the world when it comes to ICT usage by the government, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2014.

Qatar’s ICT Landscape 2014 report found that ICT penetration and usage among both groups continue to increase and all segments of the country’s population now have access to Internet-enabled ICT devices, including smartphones, laptops, and tablets while far fewer people accessing advanced services such as e-commerce, online banking, and transactional e-government services.

The International Data Corporation, as well, predicts that total ICT spending in Qatar will increase at a rate of 7.4 percent a year, to QAR 17.1 billion by 2018, while Booz & Company expects the country’s ICT market, overall, to grow 10 percent annually, reaching approximately QAR 24.7 billion in 2016.

Q-Post Begins Transformation into a World-Class Service Provider. The Ministry took several steps necessary to further advance the Qatar postal sector and bring it soundly into the 21st century. The transformation began with the development and endorsement of a new, more effective, and sustainable postal sector strategy. The Ministry also launched a customer service call center for Q-Post clients to ensure a higher level of attention, care, and customer service, and formed the Q-Post Steering Committee to oversee the change process and advise on different aspects of Q-Post service enhancement.

Alongside these achievements, Qatar continues to steadily advance on a variety of international indices measuring network readiness, global competitiveness, ease of doing business, e-government development, and other important ICT-related indicators. In fact, we currently rank 23rd out of 148 developed and developing countries—and first among Arab nations— on the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Networked Readiness Index rankings, up from 28th in 2012.

“I am honored to be a part of such progress, especially as it continues to evolve and expand. Indeed, 2013/2014 was a period of transition and further transformation, with the formation of the new Ministry of Information and Communications Technology. The additional effort, resources, and excitement surrounding the new Ministry will only add to the growth and development we’ve seen in areas such as broadband rollout, ICT access and usage across all categories, and expansion of the ICT market and e-government services, as we continue to drive innovation well into the future,” the Minister, Dr. Hessa added.

Today, the ministry moves toward the completion of Qatar’s aggressive five-year National ICT Plan 2015 and the rollout of the National Broadband Plan, reaching its goal of creating a vibrant, self-sustaining ICT sector and reaping all of the economic and social benefits that come with it. It seems not only more and more possible, but almost inevitable, with continued efforts and investments on all fronts.

Source: Qatar News Agency, Al Sharq Newspaper