CAIRO: Creating cutting edge technology isn’t just about driving sales at Intel.
This dynamic company is committed to bringing the benefits of technology to emerging markets through their World Ahead program, and gaining new markets in the process.
As former director of the World Ahead program for the Middle East and North Africa, Intel Egypt’s new managing director Taha Khalifa knows that making technology available to all is the best way to boost Intel’s business and image regionally.
The Intel World Ahead program seeks to drive progress in accessibility, connectivity, education and content through a variety of regional programs.
Regionally, Intel runs World Ahead projects in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.
They have also endeavored to work in conflict zones, collaborating with (American Near East Refugee Aid) ANERA on a project in Gaza, and working with Iraq’s Ministry of Education to bring technology to local classrooms.
Recently returned to Egypt after 15 years at Intel in the United States, Khalifa is already making big strides towards accelerating growth and providing affordable technology to local schools and small enterprises.
“We believe that technology in general has a big impact on people’s lives. Technology allows people to gain the necessary skills for being competitive on a global scale in the 21st century, he explained.
“We believe that our initiatives can have a transformative effect, he continued.
Helping expand the reach of technology also opens up opportunities for growth as Intel’s sphere of influence expands to emerging markets in the Middle East.
“These countries offer great opportunities for growth, especially in the area of technology. Some areas have only 2-3 percent PC penetration and less than 1 percent broadband usage,
In Egypt, numerous initiatives under the World Ahead program have paved the way for expansion in the local market.
“Egypt is one of our fast growing markets – over the past few years we’ve seen 25 percent growth in PC use, and 40 percent growth in mobile computer technology. That’s why we’ve been doing lots of initiatives here over the past few years, he said.
According to Khalifa, providing value to customers will be the key to Intel’s expansion in the Egyptian market.
“We work with unions, universities and other organizations to make it easy for people to get PCs. Some of our products, such as the netbook, are built with affordability in mind. We try to offer the best value possible, such as a 3G modem with every laptop, he said.
The combination of technology with connectivity is vital for Khalifa, who says that the expansion of broadband will be a priority for Intel Egypt in the coming years.
“Broadband is one of the catalysts for ICT growth. Over the past couple of years the number of local broadband users has doubled from 400,000 to 800,000, and 3G users have reached 100,000, he explained.
“Reductions in cost have helped increase penetration. We are working with the government to evaluate how different technologies can serve local market needs, he continued.
According to Khalifa, WiMax, a cost effective network, has proven efficient in other markets and could help Egypt provide broadband to more areas.
Russia, the US and Japan have already created nationwide networks using this technology.
Ultimately, however, affordable connectivity is the aim, regardless of specific technologies.
“We just want to make sure consumers and schools have access to the internet, said Khalifa.
Under Khalifa’s leadership, Intel Egypt will look to maximize growth potential with opportunities in other sectors while maintaining a strong footing in the company’s bread and butter business.
“We are focused on reaching a faster growth pace by penetrating the most promising sectors, especially education, health, and SME’s so we can take advantage of opportunities in each sector, he explained.
In the educational realm, Intel is working with the Ministry of Education to expand technology in schools and to train teachers to integrate ICT into their lesson plans.
While Intel has been consistently involved in offering solutions in education, healthcare is a wide-open area, according to Khalifa.
“The health sector is an untapped opportunity for us. We haven’t focused on it before, so we are looking to address the needs of that sector with appropriate technology, he said.
“SME’s in particular have a low penetration of ICT and need solutions that will help them become more competitive and reduce costs, he continued.
While Khalifa admits that the financial crisis had an impact on Intel’s numbers, a second quarter 2009 sales growth of 12 percent indicates that business is back on track.
While the trajectory of economic recovery is still unclear, judging by the goals Khalifa has set out for himself and the Intel Egypt team, we can expect to see Intel becoming a bigger player in the local ICT market as the recession fades into history.