Kuwait Financial Centre “Markaz” recently published the executive summary of its report on Qatar ICT. In this report, Markaz examines the status of Qatar ICT sector and highlights the growth drivers, opportunities and key challenges for the sector. The report also presents an overview of the key players in the industry and a comparison of the ICT sector in other GCC countries.
According to Markaz’s report, Qatar leads the Arab world in the Network Readiness Index, which ranks 144 countries on broad criteria to determine the present status of their ICT sector. The country advanced five places to 23rd in the rankings as government’s effort to expand its offerings of online services and increase the online participation of citizens paid rich dividends. The overall level of penetration and use of ICT in the country is high with the country ranked 16th in the world in this category. Mobile broadband subscriptions have jumped from 9.6 per cent in 2010 to 70.3 percent in 2011. More than 85 per cent of the population falls within the 15 to 64 years age range, which indicates a good percentage of working population with high disposable incomes. Increasing government expenditure in infrastructure and youthful demographics, had led to Qatar emerging a world leader in ICT penetration and usage.
Driven by government investment and a thriving hydrocarbon sector, Qatar has kept pace with an increasingly digital world by making rapid strides in Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Since the late forties, when Qatar introduced its first telephone exchange, and up until 2006, when the monopoly in the sector was lifted, Ooredoo (formerly Qatar telecom) was the dominant telecommunication company in the country. Vodafone Qatar Q.S.C became the recipient of the second Public Mobile and Fixed Telecommunications Networks and Services License in the State of Qatar and began operations in early 2009.
The establishment of an independent regulator, the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology, ictQATAR, in 2004 was a good move in creating a knowledge-based industry that would directly benefit all the stakeholders. Public and private investments in the sector rapidly increased, and Qatar’s telecommunication infrastructure expanded and evolved with communication networks, widespread service, a rising network of submarine cables to increase speed and bandwidth, and the launch of a high-capacity communications satellite in 2013.
ictQATAR initiated “ConnectQatar” to deploy a core broadband network for facilitating e-Health, e-Education, and e-Enterprise projects, which needed considerable investment in ICT infrastructure, and “Hukoomi”, a centralized government portal that aims to pull all government transactions, information, and services onto a single platform.
It is expected that in the coming years, the ICT spending in private sector will increase, as the various sectors implement technology to make services easily accessible to consumers and to compete, both at a local and global level. Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are expected to invest in IT to boost sales and improve their market competitiveness. A survey by Ooredoo in 2012 found that 77 per cent of SMEs had plans to increase their ICT spending, with an average increase of 20 per cent, and this investment by SMEs is expected to drive the fast growth of the Qatar ICT sector for the next four years.
To meet the increasing demand for faster and more secure networks and with the aim to boost overall ICT access, ictQATAR is working with telecommunication operators to build an advanced FTTH (Fiber-To-The-Home) network that will enable universal access to high-speed broadband. They have also planned to manufacture and launch Qatar’s first high-capacity communications satellite and install two international submarine cables that will improve international connectivity, and extend free Wi-Fi access across the country. The ICT sector contributed approximately USD 1.5 billion to the country’s GDP in 2010, and according to the goals set out in Qatar’s vision document, it seeks to double the contribution to USD 3 billion by 2015.
With the 2022 FIFA World cup in the horizon and the government’s attempt to diversify the economy and increase GDP contribution of non-hydrocarbon sectors, growth in construction, transport and tourism are expected, which in turn will fuel the growth in the ICT sector.
About Kuwait Financial Centre “Markaz”
Kuwait Financial Centre K.P.S.C “Markaz”, with total assets under management of over KD 1.04 billion as of September 30, 2013, was established in 1974 has become one of the leading asset management and investment banking institutions in the Arabian Gulf Region. Markaz was listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) in 1997.