SAMENA Council’s Telecom Leaders’ Summit Sends Reminder of High Expectations from the Digital Communications Industry


With the official patronage of Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the UAE, the South Asia – Middle East – North Africa (SAMENA) region’s most prestigious annual ICT leadership event, SAMENA Telecommunications Council’s Leaders’ Summit, held in partnership with Huawei Middle East and sponsored by Nokia, Ericsson, du and Etisalat, reminded the industry to set new aspirations and counter challenges of making the digital world more inclusive and constructive for the human cause.

The Leaders’ Summit was honored by the presence and keynote address of the UAE’s Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, SAMENA Council’s Guest of Honor in the Leaders’ Summit. Sheikh Nahyan emphasized to stakeholders of the digital communications industry that connectivity for everyone is a basic human right and it is rapidly transforming from being only physical to also being virtual. It was reiterated that digital is the new way of life, and thus the industry must work tirelessly, driven by innovation and co-operation, to capture its true value, develop new pricings systems and do everything in its collective power to connect everyone to the Internet; with the aim of eliminating digital divides, which still persist and may still be growing, despite high rate of adoption of connectivity services and investment by telecom operators. The industry must also work collaboratively to go beyond connecting people to promoting the usefulness and the relevance of digital communications in the evolving human society.

Highly renowned public figures, industry experts, and distinguished guests from the ICT domain and beyond, representing private and government sectors, and world-class names in the digital communications industry took part in the Leaders’ Summit. Core discussions of the Summit focused on the use of new digital communication technologies. With the purpose of aligning the industry stakeholders on the creation and provision of digital services, the discussions also invited attention on reducing costs, increasing flexibility to deliver new digital services through cloud for a better customer experience, meeting policy efficacy and regulatory efficiency requirements for facilitating fair and healthy business practices, and creating open digital platforms.

Industry stakeholders, which included leaders representing STC Group, Batelco Group, Zain Group, Orange Jordan, Viva Kuwait, Ooredoo Group, Etisalat Group, GSMA, TRA-UAE, NTRA, CITC, TRA-Oman, ICTA/BTK, Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, among others, also took part in exclusive bi-lateral stakeholder meetings, organized by SAMENA Council on a “by-invitation-only”  basis, in accordance with the main theme of the Summit, “Aligning Visions to Meet the Demands of The Digital World”, to facilitate sector development partnership and stakeholder inclusion.

The SAMENA Council’s Leaders’ Roundtable (SALT) meeting focused on the current state of the digital ecosystem and how it requires open and flexible and technology neutral governance models that should facilitate innovation, competition and local and regional value-creation through investment, while protecting consumers. While the meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule, the underlying objective of the discussion was to drive a transformational reset and to define a regulatory paradigm through collaboration among policymakers, regulators, and operators; for which common operator visions and positions are necessary for communication with regulators. Similarly, the bilateral meeting held between telecom operators and Internet applications and content providers focused on the need for developing symbiotic relationships, given that there are opportunities and goals, which are common to both, and challenges that both view differently, with varying perspectives. A new Inclusive Internet Index was presented by Facebook, with publically accessible data. The index promises new possibilities in stakeholder co-operation by using new findings and insights on where Internet is and is not being accessed and the factors contributing to this lack of access and adoption. Held also was a bi-lateral meeting among terrestrial and satellite operators, with the purpose of bringing together both industries to develop a minimum common agenda, move forward together, and explore new opportunities that exist for both.

Recognizing the Leaders’ Summit as an important platform for the digital communications industry during his speech, HE Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, TRA-UAE’s Director General stated that: “We are on the threshold of a big transformation. The Internet of Humans is evolving into the Internet of Things. The world is witnessing an explosive boom in artificial intelligence and connectivity of devices and objects. By 2020, billions of interconnected robots, devices and data sources will make humanity enter an era of unprecedented features and relations. One of the funny predictions of Gartner is that by 2020/, the average person will have more conversations with robots than with their spouses. Therefore, numbers of such flowing data exchanged among devices will be astronomical and unprecedented. Words like ‘Zettabyte’ will be a widely used term then.”

TRA DG also participated in two of the aforementioned bi-lateral stakeholder meetings, set up by SAMENA Council as a part of its continuous co-operation and coordination-building efforts among industry stakeholders from within and beyond the SAMENA region.

As the event partner for the fourth consecutive year, Charles Yang, President – Huawei Middle East, stated, “This year’s event has clearly demonstrated the strong commitment by the ICT industry to accelerate the region’s digital transformation by effectively aligning towards a common vision that underpins the creation of a true digital economy.  Huawei’s presence at this important gathering enables us to share our global expertise and Open ROADS strategy for a Better Connected World, while working with leaders from the SAMENA region to define a cloud-driven roadmap that can deliver on the region’s transformational needs.”

Dr. Khaled Biyari – SAMENA Council Chairman & STC GCEO, Mr. Bocar BA – SAMENA Council CEO, Mr. Charles Yang – Huawei President Middle East Region, Mr. Lan Yun – President, Carrier Network Business Group (CNBG) – Huawei Middle East, Mr. Ted Matsumoto – Softbank Corp. Senior Advisor, Mr. Osman Sultan  – du CEO, Dr. Robert Pepper –  Facebook Head of Global Connectivity and Technology Policy, delivered keynote speeches and presentations.

Moderators and speakers of the Summit and its bi-lateral meetings included Mr. Phillipe Defraigne – Director – Cullen International, Mr. Bahjat El Darwiche – Partner, Strategy &, Dr. Andrew Arowojolu – Group Regulatory Division Zain Group, Sh. Nasser Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa – Deputy General Director – TRA Bahrain, Dr. Kamal Shehadi – Chief Legal & Regulatory Officer – Etisalat International, Mr. Karan Ponnudurai – Chief Digital Officer – Batelco Group, Dr. Ismail Shah – Chairman – PTA Pakistan, Mr. Eric Loeb – Senior Vice President – AT&T, Mr. Noel Kirkaldy – Business Development, Public Sector, Advanced Mobile Network Solutions – Nokia, Mr. Jawad Abbassi – Head of MENA GSMA, Mr. Chua Ghim Sim – VP IT America Branch Huawei, Dr. Mohammed Altamimi – Director of Service Providers Affairs Competition & Legal Dep – CITC, Mr. Indranil Das – Vice President, Head of IT& Cloud, Region Middle East – Ericsson, and from SAMENA Council Ms. Imme Philbeck, Dr. Mustafa Aykut, Mr. Roberto Ercole, and Mr. Izhar Ahmad, who provided initial roadmap of the discussions.

Mr. Bocar BA, CEO of SAMENA Council, expressed his happiness on the success of the Leaders’ Summit and remarked that “This year’s Leaders’ Summit was especially important due to the direct support of the UAE’s government, made possible through the TRA UAE’s presence and participation, and the confidence given to SAMENA Council by HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan as the Guest of Honor and HE Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori as the Patron. As mentioned by SAMENA Council’s Chairman Dr. Khaled Biyari, the expectation to draw useful value out of digital is among our greatest challenge and opportunities areas, and SAMENA Council is keen to playing its role in assisting the stakeholders realize such value for the common good. Participation from the public and the private sector leadership at the Leaders’ Summit has indicated that our governments and business leaders are aligned to embracing collective success through collective efforts.”

The SAMENA Leaders’ Summit is an annual, discussion-centric private and government sector leaders’ gathering, composed of various bi-lateral meetings held among stakeholders in a world-class setting. The next Leaders’ Summit will be held in 2018, and event partnership opportunities for world-class industry players are open for coordinating and defining the future agenda of the Summit.


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