The CIT Ministry’s strategy: Port Said as Egypt’s first digital city, growing faster than the country’s GDP and exporting digital services

MCIT is diligently working on upgrading the quality, speed and coverage of the internet by executing a fibre optics cable project with 250 schools across Egypt (Photo Courtesy of MCIT Facebook page)

The 23rd Euromoney Egypt conference, held in the heart of Cairo’s downtown last week, hosted the country’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology (CIT) Amr Talaat to reveal the ministry’s plan for growing the sector in Egypt.

Talaat touched upon multiple topics including how the ministry is actively planning to digitize the country’s governmental services, along with revealing the ministry’s strategy and its implementation.

“I am very optimistic that across all sectors and segments [be it governmental or private sectors], everyone now understands the vitality of ICT in helping them grow,” Talaat pointed out.

Towards digitized governmental services
In a quest to offer government services digitally, the ministry is looking at starting a pilot with the city of Port Said by turning it into the country’s first “digital city”. The plan was already announced during the most recent National Youth Conference last month, revealing that the plan will take 12 months to implement. Around 25 government services are going to be rendered via internet and mobile to all Egyptian citizens, Talaat announced.

All sectors now understand the vitality of ICT in helping them grow

On whether this digitization will affect the job market, the minister said that the market is already being disrupted.

“The ICT sector is disrupting the labor market and jobs that were extremely important in the past will become trivial in the future because technology will provide more adequate and cost-effective alternatives. But there is another positive side to the same coin that there are more jobs that [will be] created and more opportunities that [will be] generated by the ICT evolution,” he suggested.

Talaat also highlighted that the ministry has already assembled the data of all governmental employees, compounding about 60 databases.

“We have a 360°-view of every Egyptian citizen registered in the database, and this helps in many aspects,” Talaat said, explaining that it removes many challenges that have been there for ages, mainly on the allocation of subsidies and their eligibility.

“This is a dilemma that we have had in Egypt for at least the past two decades,” Talaat emphasized, adding that “now, we can do that because we know the eligibility of each citizen for all types of social coverage projects, educational and health programs. We are also able to start any subsidy for any type of social support to any individual upon their eligibility. This will save a huge amount of funds.”

ICT industry can help in growing the economy, creating jobs and spurring investments

A strategy to contribute to economic growth
Currently, the ICT sector contributes about 3.1-3.2 percent to Egypt’s GDP annually – a number the ministry aims to double. Talaat believes that one way to do that is to accelerating the ICT’s sector growth at a faster rate than the country’s overall GDP growth. During the next fiscal year, the overall GDP growth is prospected to stand at 7 percent, according to the minister, and the ministry is aspiring for a 10-percent growth in the same year.

“I believe that the ICT industry is a bit different and unique from other sectors in terms that it has its own vital and important role in growing the economy, creating jobs, spurring investments and growing exports,” Talaat said.

The  ministry has a strategy that is based on various pillars. These pillars include growing local demand and partnering with other sectors in order to accomplish the digital transformation that all sectors of Egypt are now undergoing. Talaat explained that it is the ministry’s responsibility to partner with other industries and sectors to help them achieve that.

He further expounded that once a sector picks up on how the CIT can help its growth, it becomes easier to support them exploit the sector which will inevitably lead to the growth of local demand later on.

The ministry is also working on the ecosystem that is important for the ICT sector to grow – this includes legislations, framework and the skillset of the Egyptian youth.

Implementation of the strategy
There are several projects the ministry is currently implementing – and others that are still in the pipeline – to achieve the digital transformation.

“It is one of our main responsibilities to make sure that we build a capacity that is up to date, growing and adequate to the demands that we are trying to create, to expand our capabilities in growing skills and diversifying skills in new ICT disciplines,” the minster continued, adding that the sector is always evolving.

The ministry is diligently working on upgrading the quality, speed and coverage of the internet by executing a fibre optics cable project with 250 schools across Egypt.

“It’s not only meant for schools but [also for] various points and parts of the country that are extremely remote to ensure that the service gets there,” Talaat said.

Within its strategy, the ministry is looking at exporting digital services out of Egypt, based on the vast opportunities it sees in the field.

“[Egypt has] friends and neighbors in Africa [and the Arab world] who are also undergoing digital transformation and we are looking forward to partnering with them to exchange experiences, having joint projects and simulating our successful projects in these countries,” according to Talaat. Europe is the third market the ministry is looking at in that regard.

In a general sense, targeting these markets does not necessarily mean sending human resources there to work. “Egypt invites these markets to come and invest in [the country],” Talaat concluded.

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