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Telecom Review hosted a virtual panel titled ‘Digital transformation driving the next phase of innovation’,  where C-level speakers discussed the important role of technological developments such as Cloud technology and also explored the opportunities and challenges  and investing in enhancing the digital skills necessary to meet today’s digital transformation goals.

The panel featured speakers, including Sebastian Alberto Delgado, vice president/Internet of Things & Artificial Intelligence, Etisalat; Karim Benkirane, CCO, du; Günther Ottendorfer, chief technology & infrastructure officer, Ooredoo Qatar; and Danial Mausoof, head of sales mobile networks Middle East and Africa, Nokia.

The panel was moderated by Ghazi Atallah, former CEO, NXN.

Setting the ground for an exciting discussion, Ghazi Atallah sought to explore how digital transformation (DT) was driving innovation across industries. To do this, he encouraged all the panelists to share their views on innovation in service delivery, infrastructure as well as integrating and engaging with people. He also asked them to share their thoughts on cultivating digital skills and the changes in business models as a result of digital transformation.

Sebastian Alberto Delgado started off by saying that the topic of digital transformation encompasses every one of us as citizens and as employees and with our different roles in the ecosystem. He was of the view that the Covid pandemic accelerated digital transformation and created new opportunities in uses cases along with some challenges. “In reality, Cloud adoption is key pillar of digital transformation and this is a component that all the governments and companies are looking at. The other one is telecommunication networks that helped business to transport large volumes of workloads during remote work as well as during online education,” he said. He was of the opinion that DT is happening across sectors, such as smart cities, governments and cited the role of innovation and technology in waste management, smart parking, industrial, manufacturing, healthcare, education as well as the automotive sector. Finally, he said that companies and governments need to embrace the digital transformation with the adoption of new and emerging technologies to compete and survive in this new environment.           

Shedding light to the conversation from a telecom operator perspective, Karim Benkirane said that he saw digital transformation a platform to “gain the trust and then to give the control in the hands of the customer.” “We see it as an opportunity to make sure that we can provide a seamless experience and take the customer to the next level to connect with them,” he said. He said that DT or new digital tools will help create new revenue streams with proper investments and digital talents. He also said that HR departments need to find an agile way to attract talents to create an ecosystem. “DT is a massive opportunity for telcos to build trust and transparency with their customers,” he added.

Sharing his views, Günther Ottendorfer said, “In Qatar, we have created an extensive network of 5G, covering more than 90% of the population here and to use this network, we are looking for new digital services. In parallel, the State of Qatar has a big digital initiative, especially for IoT services. DT is a journey, how do we get people on that journey. We have structured DT in four phases that will help us to enable our customers better digital services and bring more innovation. Firstly, we want to simplify and retire legacy system, then introduce digital enablers and automation, innovating with partners to help them with API to have faster access to our services and to bring that innovation into our core platform and services. To get that journey working, we need communication and we at Ooredoo Qatar have a one page digital strategy to make it clear to the team what we want to ultimately achieve. Based on our APIs and microservices strategy, we have defined a lego strategy of digital building blocks and these building blocks will help us to achieve those targets. That culture that you shape with these initiatives is what I think will enable digital innovation.

Danial Mausoof felt that the level of intense focus and initiatives for DT that are present in the Middle East, both on the government side as well as on the operator side was “quite amazing.”  He said that during the pandemic, the scope of digitally focused projects, government led initiatives in AI and blockchain grew exponentially in the region. “I believe, digital transformation allows us to drive continuous improvement and learning for all of us and we need to take technology as an enabler,” he said.  He cited an example of Cloud services that are “faster, better, and quicker in offering more for less.” He said that from a telco standpoint, the focus needed to be on cloud-native infrastructure which is built on an open approach such as getting APIs to allow easier service offerings access for customers. He also pointed out that for telcos, edge Cloud is becoming important with its ability to perform latency sensitive applications closer to the user. “We have limitations on the mobility and the devices and edge cloud is really becoming more important in this space,” he added. He also mentioned “5G as a key enabler for telcos to look at vertical opportunities and opening new revenue streams. He also cited an example of Nokia Bell labs study on mature digital industries such as retail banking being immediate beneficiaries of COVID-19; however, he said that those models were now changing towards the physical industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, etc and said that “there's a lot of opportunity that comes from digital transformation in these industries.”  “As an industry, we have a role to play in imagining no boundaries and what those business models should be,” he stressed. He also pointed out the importance of leadership focused on transformation and the need to realize employees as important as customers to drive that transformation with them. “If we focus on the compelling business outcomes and design and the purpose around it, we will see a clear path to the transformation. Digital transformation should focus on outcome instead of process,” he added.

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