In view of its keenness to strengthen ties with international organizations, the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) participated lately in the Samena Council Leaders' Summit 2020, which was held virtually this year under the theme “5G+X: Harnessing 5G Across Industries for Investment Revival”. The Summit tackled the global impacts of Covid-19 pandemic on various sectors and the role of the telecom sector in combating these impacts.
SAMENA is a regional organization that deals with telecom issues in the Middle East region in its events and activities. It aims to establish an enabling environment for decision-making among the senior executives and leaders in the telecom sector by providing a platform for various stakeholders from companies, governments and organizations, in addition to academic specialists.
Eng. Hossam El-Gamal, the NTRA’s Executive President, partook in the Senior Speakers’ Session that dealt with the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic on the digital infrastructure. This online session was attended as well by Queen Silvia of Sweden, Mr. Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Mr. Bassam Al-Bassam, Deputy Minister for Telecom and Infrastructure, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of Saudi Arabia, Ms. Tania Aidrus, Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister on digital transformation, Sheikh Nasser Al-Khalifa, Acting General-Director of Bahraini Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), and Dr. Amr Badawi, Chairman of the ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19).
Eng. Hossam El-Gamal, in his speech at this session, highlighted the fact that the Leaders’ Summit this year had distinctive nature and objective, as it was held amidst a world that has been facing a unique humane and health condition. This impelled the establishment of new constants and approach in various facets of life, notably, the new circumstances in which families rely mainly and largely on ICT services in all aspects of life, the way people work, study and shop, he added.
Furthermore, Eng. El-Gamal underscored the measures and initiatives that the Egyptian government had taken to ensure the sustained provision of diverse services (educational services, health services, economic and social services, etc.) to families of all categories. In this regard, the home internet monthly download quota was increased for all subscribers to meet the augmenting and simultaneous needs of the family, free access to the websites providing educational content was granted, electronic financial transaction fees were eliminated. Moreover, all doctors, nurses and staff working in isolation hospitals, were offered free airtime and free telecom services, he remarked.
At the end of his speech, the NTRA’s Executive President clearly stated that the health pandemic, despite its drastic impacts, has played a significant role in emphasizing the stupendous significance of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and artificial intelligence (AI) in providing unconventional solutions to deal with this pandemic.
The most important lessons learned from this crisis is the dire need to coalesce and band together, to maintain cooperation among various stakeholders to provide best solutions and practices to manage such crises. From this standpoint, we that that a positive definition of COVID could be “Collaboration for more Value of Internet Data”, he said.
In addition, her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, the founder of the World Childhood Foundation, spotlighted the serious damages and harms that befell children as a result of Covid-19 pandemic. Though such damages might not affect their health, they suffered from social and psychological harms that had significant negative impacts as they had to stay at home for long periods, not to mention their exposure to the dangers of some online content, she affirmed. Queen Silvia emphasized that all parties should shoulder their responsibility and band together to protect children and youngsters from any risks they might be subject to online.
For his part, the ITU Secretary-General stressed the significant role played by the Union to help countries overcome the repercussions of this grave crisis inflicted on all sectors, knowing that the ICT sector had a huge role to play in confronting them. The ITU launched a platform for all countries and stakeholders, that present the best practices for political initiatives, technical solutions and economic tools that could be used to overcome this crisis, he asserted.
Furthermore, Mr. Bassam Al-Bassam, the Saudi Deputy Minister for Telecom and Infrastructure, pointed out that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been taking great leaps in implementing Saudi Vision 2030, which requires expanding the deployment of broadband services, covering remote areas, and fostering infrastructure projects.
On the other hand, Mrs. Tania Aidrus, the Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister, referred to the digital plan of the State of Pakistan and the great aspirations that the government would attain and implement in the short term.
On his part, Dr. Amr Badawy, Chairman of the ITU WRC-19, delineated the most significant outcomes of WRC-19, alluding to the great and multiple potentials offered by modern technologies and the considerable breakthroughs they could make in the telecom world.