In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Amr Talaat, the minister of communications and information technology (MCIT), said that the information and communications technology (ICT) sector grew by about 16% in the first quarter (Q1) of this fiscal year (FY) 2018/19, and technological exports reached $3.2bn, stressing that MCIT has prioritised digital transformation.
Talaat added that his ministry aims to launch the unified card in Q2 of 2019, which will provide subsidy services. The minister pointed out that the Cairo ICT Exhibition 2018 is an annual event, where we review the sector’s progress during the year, and inform users about the coming year’s plan.
This event delivers a strong message that the ICT industry in Egypt is well-established, and has the capabilities that can be solidified, Talaat said. “The exhibition provides an opportunity for foreign companies to share with us the latest developments related to communications and information technology.”
Talaat explained that resources are limited, which begs the need to be selective to achieve the greatest returns and benefits to the society. He pointed out that the exhibition is an important opportunity for local companies to offer their products to local and regional markets.
Cairo ICT also represents an opportunity for government agencies to showcase the services and solutions that have been developed, and what will be achieved in the future.
Talaat said this year’s exhibition will witness the representation of a number of ministries across different pavilions, and this is due to the fact that the telecommunications industry has become a fundamental pillar for all state sectors as no field can now grow without relying on ICT.
The ministry will also host representatives from the ministry of interior to present the new technological solutions that both ministries have cooperated to complete.
He added that the exhibition is based on two pillars: the first is developing the Egyptian citizen within this important strategic objective with several insights in this framework.
The second is derived from the speech of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, when he said that digital transformation is a responsibility shared among all sectors.
Talaat noted that foreign ministers of several countries will participate in the exhibition to learn about the latest technological developments in Egypt, and the progress of the sector.
Regarding the unified smart card system, Talaat said that a meeting was held recently with the prime minister, in the presence of all concerned bodies, including the governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE); the ministers of supply and CIT, and officials of a number of bodies to discuss the progress of implementing the new system.
He stressed that the aim of the unified card system is to facilitate providing services for citizens, along with delivering subsidies to its real beneficiaries, in addition to providing instantaneous data for the aspects of disbursement of subsidies to the decision-maker.
The minister noted that each card will be linked to a bank account or an Egypt Post account, based on citizen’s desire, which is the first step towards financial inclusion. He noted that some 28 million people use government services, so opening new bank accounts for them will push financial inclusion forward.
The meeting witnessed agreement on implementing the project on three phases. They also decided to form a supreme committee chaired by the prime minister, to take all the necessary strategic decisions to implement the project. The governor of the CBE and the head of the technical secretariat of the National Council of Payments (NCP) will form a steering committee for the project. Its members will be representatives of the ministries and entities concerned with the implementation of the project. It is responsible for following up the implementation of the project, as well as the decisions and assignments issued by the project’s higher committee.
Talaat revealed that they aim to launch the unified card in Q2 of 2019, noting that the first service to offer will be subsidies.
Regarding a previous meeting with Ahmed Badawy, head of the parliament’s CIT committee, Talaat said they discussed a number of topics on the legislative agenda prepared by the MCIT, and the most important projects currently being implemented by the ministry to achieve the transformation to a digital society.
The meeting dealt with the legislation and laws related to the ICT sector, including legislation to combat cybercrimes, regulate electronic transactions, and protect personal data. They discussed the global trend towards protecting personal data in the wake of issuing the EU regulations, which impose obligations on data processors, and the importance of informing citizens about the optimal use of their data when dealing with the digital environment.
The meeting witnessed a review of the projects implemented by the MICT in cooperation with various state sectors, to develop technological solutions and to provide excellent services to citizens. These efforts also aim to develop and modernise the infrastructure of communication networks in the country to improve the quality of services within the framework of the government’s programme, to improve citizens’ standards of living.
Talaat said that his ministry is preparing a draft law on e-commerce in coordination with the concerned authorities in the state, and it will be likely submitted to parliament before the end of the current legislative session.
He pointed out that the law of electronic signature is linked to activating the digital transformation, and there is a tendency to benefit from the technology which contributes to the activation of this service, indicating that it is not necessary to amend the law.
Government services are important in the digital transformation, and a number of new government services will be announced at the exhibition, Talaat said. The services will be launched through five outlets: Egypt Post, government services’ offices of the ministry of planning, call centres, electronic platforms, and mobile applications.
As for the volume of technological exports, the minister revealed that it reached about $3.2bn so far, noting that the sector has achieved 16% growth in Q1 of this fiscal year.
For the latest developments in the Technology Parks project, Talaat said that they are among the most important mechanisms for developing the ICT industry, where they have developed four parks so far in Borg El Arab, Assiut, Beni Suef, and Sadat City.
As for the company that will measure the quality of mobile services, he said that the ministry has a contract with them and they are likely to offer their services next year.
On Egypt’s membership in the International Telecommunication Union, he stressed that this reflects Egypt’s pioneering role in the telecommunications sector and the confidence of the international community in the Egyptian competencies and expertise.
On the importance of this step, he said that next year will witness the beginning of developing the standards and the foundations for launching the 5G network.
Regarding the ministry’s efforts to boost local electronics industry, Talaat highlighted the importance of value-added, which would contribute to localising the ICT industry and solidifying it to be capable of absorbing any shocks in the global economy.
He pointed out that the ministry is currently in serious discussions with a number of international companies in this field.
On his evaluation of SICO’s experience in manufacturing cell phones, Talaat said it was very good, where they were able to manufacture phones and compete in the local market within one year.
The MCIT’s indicators showed a decline in the number of mobile users during the past months affected by the imposition of the development fee on a number of subscribers. The minister said that the amendment of development fees is under study. “Laws cannot be changed overnight. The decline in the number of sales is due to unofficial sales of mobile lines. Reaching 95 million subscribers is more realistic.”