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During the GITEX Global 2021, Telecom Review secured an exclusive interview with Kamal Ballout, Nokia’s head of enterprise in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. He elaborated how the company’s broad portfolio empowers the digitalization journey across multiple industries, what is the importance of having people as assets with deep expertise to help enterprises, and why telecommunication is not the end game, but an essential means to achieve digital transformation and accelerate Industry 4.0 for efficiency and productivity in a sustainable way.

What is Nokia highlighting in this year's GITEX? What is the rationale behind this?

GITEX is a very important platform for Nokia because it brings multiple industries into the same place. Now, the one common denominator across all industries is the desire to work on digitalization and the aim toward introducing Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) into their operations.

Thus, what Nokia is doing this year is putting a special focus on how technologies and concepts such as 4IR, cybersecurity, and 4G/5G come together to facilitate and enable the vision of digitalization for those industries.

As you go around our stand, you're going to find out that we are displaying what digitalization means for mining, oil and gas, smart cities, and logistics. We are showcasing the immense benefits of various use cases of our technologies for different verticals.

Harnessing the promise of the digital era, what makes Nokia a leading choice for enterprises' transformation journey?

When you look at Nokia as a company, it has a very broad portfolio that not only expands connectivity for wireless 4G/5G but goes also into optics, delivering middle and last-mile connectivity. That vast portfolio encompasses enabling software that includes data center management and digital twin creation. In this way, we can manage physical assets in the field and enable digitalization.

Nokia has all the ingredients to empower a digitalization journey. However, more important than the portfolio itself — the products and the software that we make —  I am very proud to say that Nokia has subject-matter experts that serve as perfect vision partners for our customers and various industries here in the Middle East and Africa.

Those vision partners are capable of going into the depth of the portfolio and really map a vision for enterprises. Hence, I would say that people are the most important asset we have. They know the industry very well and they work together with our broad technology portfolio to deliver the vision.

What are your go-to-market strategies to reach out to all enterprise segments across MEA?

Nokia has made a decision that, in order for us to have the biggest impact, we want to make sure that we are working with a large ecosystem. Regardless of how the end customer or the industry is actually procuring or pursuing the vision — whether they are going direct or via the indirect route (service providers) —  it doesn't matter.

We at Nokia have decided that we will continue to serve consistently the end customers/enterprises. If you look at more or less what's going on in the industry right now, different industries, prefer to go and implement different strategies.

Therefore, my team, the mission-critical enterprise team at Nokia, is working with different go-to market means (service providers, resellers, distributors, etc.) as well as the broader ecosystem at large in addition to partnering with smaller companies that can bring big value to our investments and bring them along to our industry.

What is the key telecom aspect needed to ensure smart, consistent, and long-lasting communications?

The way I look at it is how can communication play a role in ensuring high productive, automated, and low-risk industries. Telecommunication is not the end game; communication is a means to the end.

For example, in mining, the objective is not to have good communication but to boost automated operations. The question becomes how can I bring digitalization and less human involvement in the mine so that I can increase my productivity and lower the casualties and the number of people getting sick?

In my perspective, it can be done by automating the operation in a smart, secure, and reliable way. By automating that operation, you can create an environment with increased production quality and monitoring. Moreover, you can lower the number of people that are inside the mine and being exposed to danger.

Having said that, communication right now serves as the nervous system that sits on top and allows the operators to reach all the physical assets by automation, create a digital twin, and operate in a safe environment. This is why I think that having reliable, consistent, and secure communication on top of those industries is really the foundation of digitalization, forming multi-layer applications. 

At the core of Nokia's sustainability approach is the belief that technology improves people’s lives. How is this approach being demonstrated particularly in the MEA region?

In multiple ways. If you look at the Middle East and Africa right now, you're going to see that it is very active on multiple fronts. It is active in obviously the classical industries like oil & gas and mining, but the technology extends beyond this.

Within emerging smart cities, citizens expect more. They expect to be always connected, they expect to have access to the key services that the city has to offer, and they expect to be always updated on what's going on in terms of events and safety. These dialogues have to happen.

As a result, what would be demonstrated here is how technologies such as 4G/5G, cloud, IoT, all merge to create a better automated platform for oil and gas, better mining operations, and a better smart city platform where citizens believe that they are always online and they're always connected with their constituents. You're also going to see us presenting worker safety and how technology can save lives.

Overall, our emphasis here is that, though we always talk about how the technology works and what are its components and ingredients, it would be more relevant to demonstrate how technology can serve the various industries to make things more automated and safer in sustainable ways, thus generating higher productivity and more engaged citizens.

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