Key Ministers and officials from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) alongside representatives of the private sector, civil society, labour unions, the international community, donors and development agencies convened at a high-level conference yesterday in Erbil on E-Governance and Public Service Centres.

The Ministry of Interior of the KR-I organized the conference under the auspices of the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, H.E. Mr. Nechirvan Barzani, and with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The conference examined progress on efforts of the Ministry of Interior to simplify citizens’ access to basic government administrative services, such as the e-visa and the new drivers’ licence renewal system, through online electronic platforms that can be used also from the convenience of their homes.

This comes under a project entitled E-Governance for Better Service Delivery that the Ministry launched in March 2017, with help from UNDP, aiming to improve the responsiveness, transparency, and accountability of its delivery of quality administrative services to the public. To that end, the project promotes the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), including computer-aided platforms that can also be accessed remotely through the internet.

“The Ministry of Interior is committed to providing the quickest high-quality services to the citizens,” emphasized the Minister of Interior, Mr. Kareem Sinjari. “This will not only save considerable time and money for the citizens and Ministry alike, but it will help address potential administrative and financial corruption as well.”

By John Lee.

Restrata has been awarded a National Communications and Media Commission (CMC) licence to sell and maintain GPS tracking systems in Iraq.

The CMC Licence for GPS Tracking is an Iraq Government mandate and is being enforced locally through inspection teams running compliance checks on both vendors of GPS tracking systems, and their end users.

A Restrata spokesman said of the award:

“We praise the Iraq Government for taking a proactive stand on GPS Tracking standards and for championing the highest levels of compliance.”

Founded in 2001, Restrata is a British owned group with headquarters in the United Arab Emirates.

(Source: Restrata)

By John Lee.

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) has welcomed three new members, bringing its membership to 59 companies.

Menzies Aviation: An independent, time-critical logistics specialist serving the airline industry to the highest standards. At more than 200 airport locations across 6 continents, Menzies offer landside and airside services tailored to customers’ needs; timed to their schedules; and delivered by teams with the knowledge, tools and passion to set standards rather than chase them.

XReach: A leading supplier of mobile communications and cyber security solutions to businesses, government, military and law enforcement agencies. It employs high-end system, network and coding development personnel sourced from specialist UK military and government cyber security backgrounds.

The University of Leicester: A leading university committed to international excellence, world-changing research and high quality, inspirational teaching. The University celebrates diversity amongst staff and students; widening participation in higher education and engaging with local, national and international communities.

(Source: IBBC)

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

The Iraqi government, headed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, is seeking to penalize people for the hate speech prevalent in Iraqi society by arresting anyone who expresses such ideas or promotes slogans that insult former or current religious and social figures.

Each year around this time, millions of Shiite Muslims make the pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala for the festival of Arbaeen. People observing Arbaeen sometimes raise banners and shout slogans insulting Sunni figures. In the past, these people were met with public indignation — but not legal measures.

Wahab al-Tai, the interior minister’s media adviser, told Al-Monitor in an interview, “Up until Nov. 8, the ministry had arrested 76 people who were caught promoting sectarianism. Out of the 76 arrested, 25 were in Karbala and 51 in Babil [province]. Most were Iraqis, but some foreigners were arrested as well.”

The Interior Ministry was reacting to a video that has been circulating. The video, taken in Karbala during the festival, shows a group of followers of Shiite Grand Ayatollah Sadiq Hussaini Shirazi — a group known for promoting hateful speech toward important Sunni religious figures. The video shows a young man with a loudspeaker cursing Umar ibn al-Khattab, a senior companion of the Prophet Muhammad considered sacred by Sunnis. Despite all the arrests, that man is still on the loose.

Only two days after appearing in the first video, the same man appeared in another video saying that he was only “expressing his opinion.”

The ministry’s measures against promoters of sectarianism received both political and public support. Sayyid Ahmad al-Safi, the representative of Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani in Najaf, applauded the move in his Friday sermon in Karbala on Nov. 10.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the murder of a Kurdistan TV cameraman near Kirkuk and the previous day’s violence against media personnel by demonstrators in Erbil. The two separate incidents in the space of a few hours point to an alarming decline in the security of journalists in northern Iraq.

The cameraman, Arkan Shareef, was stabbed to death in his home in Daquq, 60 km south of Kirkuk, at around 3 a.m. yesterday by masked intruders while his family was shut in another room. The motives for the murder are not known.

Aged 50 and the father of three children, Abdullah had worked since 2004 for Kurdistan TV, which is affiliated to Iraqi Kurdistan’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). He was also a primary school teacher in a nearby village.

We condemn this murder and called for a prompt and impartial investigation by the Iraqi authorities with the aim of identifying the perpetrators and their motives,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.

The current political differences in this part of the world must not blind us to an unacceptable reality, namely crimes of violence against civilians and, in this case, the cold-blooded murder of a journalist.”

In a statement condemning Abdullah’s murder, Kurdistan TV said it was one of a spate of serious acts of violence against civilians, especially Kurds, and that it confirmed the lack of security in areas seized in recent days by the Iraqi army and Shia paramilitary forces (Hashd al-Shaabi).

When reached by RSF, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s foreign affairs department, Falah Mustafa, also spoke of the many human rights violations against civilians, especially journalists, since the Iraqi army and Shia paramilitaries pushed into the disputed territories.

Harassment of Kurdish media

Pro-KDP Kurdish media have been affected by the tension between the Kurdish authorities and the Iraqi federal government in Baghdad. On 23 October, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC) ordered the suspension of two pro-KDP Kurdish TV channels, Rudaw TV and Kurdistan 24, claiming that they lacked licences and had been broadcasting reports that incited violence and hatred.

By John Lee.

Despite the exceptional socio-economic circumstances coupled with the continuation of intense price competition, Zain Iraq achieved USD 811 million revenues due to the impressive growth in data usage and numerous customer acquisition initiatives in the northern regions of the country.

The operation’s efficiency drive saw EBITDA reach USD 281 million, reflecting a 35% EBITDA margin.

Net income amounted to USD 24 million for the period. Zain Iraq leads the market serving 13.7 million customers, which represented an impressive 16% Y-o-Y increase.

(Source: Zain Group)

By John Lee.

Ooredoo Group has reported that to reactivation of its sites in Mosul has contributed to an 11% increase in Asiacell‘s customer base (12.5 million customers) in the first nine months of 2017.

Revenue increased 6% to QAR 3.3 billion, “demonstrating Asiacell’s leadership in the market despite the difficult political and economic situation“, the company said in a statement.

EBITDA also increased 2% for the period, reaching QAR 1.5 billion, positively impacted by the increased revenue and good control of operating expenses. Good operational efficiency and cost control helped to maintain the EBITDA margin at 45%.

(Source: Ooredoo Group)

Finland’s Nokia will modernize and expand Zain Iraq‘s radio networks with its most advanced technologies across Karbala, Najaf and Basra, with a special focus on the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, to support the expected increase in data and voice traffic during Zeyara as millions of people converge on the region.

Zeyara is an annual event in the holy city of Karbala, which culminates in the event of Al Arba’een. It attracts visitors from across the globe and is one of the world’s largest public gatherings.

Once completed, the upgrade will allow users to enjoy improved indoor and outdoor coverage in both urban and rural areas as well as increased data throughput, leading to an overall superior customer experience.

Nokia’s project management and proven services expertise will be used to expand and modernize Zain Iraq’s 2G and 3G network, providing ubiquitous coverage and faster mobile broadband.

Additionally, the Nokia Mass Event Handler will be deployed to address the surge in data and voice consumption expected during Zeyara. The network modernization will allow visitors to remain continuously connected with their loved ones through superior voice and data connectivity during Al Arba’een and beyond.

Ali Al-Zahid, Chief Executive Officer of Zain Iraq, said:

Our top priority is to provide superior services for our subscribers. This network modernization and expansion is only the beginning of providing the best possible service quality and coverage with the most advanced technologies across the overall Karbala and Najaf and rest of sourthern region.

“We selected Nokia, our longstanding technology partner, for this important project, as we are confident that its advanced technologies will enable our network to provide such superior services. The current project will also enable a best-in-class mobile experience for visitors to Zeyara when we expect a high turnout this year.

Bernard Najm, head of the Middle East Market Unit at Nokia, said:

“Nokia fully understands Zain Iraq’s requirements and is committed to providing leading technologies to enable pioneering services for its subscribers. Nokia’s solutions cater to the unique connectivity requirements of mass events, and will help Zain Iraq address the expected surge in data and voice consumption during Zeyara.”

Overview of the solutions:

  • The high capacity and energy-efficient Nokia Flexi Multiradio 10 Base Station will be used to add the third carrier of 5 MHz on the 900 MHz band, to enhance capacity and increase coverage in suburban and rural areas.
  • Nokia’s Mass Event Handler will ensure network performance is not adversely affected because of heavy traffic during Zeyara. Another feature of the software – HSUPA Interference Cancellation – handles data more efficiently, enabling end users to upload pictures without any network glitch.
  • Nokia FlexiZone will be deployed to enhance coverage and capacity of the existing 3G network in Karbala.
  • Nokia’s refarming service will refarm GSM 900 MHz frequency to expand the operator’s 3G network.
  • Nokia’s NetAct virtualized network management software will provide robust capabilities for troubleshooting, assurance, administration, software management and configuration.
  • Nokia’s Network Planning and Optimization (NPO), Network Implementation , and Care services will ensure smooth execution of the project and maximize the return on Zain’s technology investments.

(Source: Nokia)

By John Lee.

Mobile phone operators based in Iraqi Kurdistan have reportedly been told by the Iraqi government to move their headquarters to Baghdad, following the region’s recent vote for independence.

Asiacell is based in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah, while Korek is based in Erbil; Zain, however, is based in Baghdad.

According to a report from Reuters on Tuesday, neither Asiacell nor Korek has received any formal demand to move.

(Source: Reuters)

UK-based Talia Limited has announced the acquisition of Northport, a licensed broadcast teleport operator in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The company said that, as it looks to continue expansion within the country and support of existing broadcast customers, the acquisition of Northport represents a commitment to its ongoing presence within the region.

With Talia’s strong technical team in Iraq and recent partnership with satellite operators, including the recent announcement with Arabsat to deliver both SD and HD channels to the region, Alan Afrasiab, CEO and President of Talia stated:

Continued growth and interest in the region for additional capacity within the broadcast sector means we have been looking for an opportunity to open a bespoke and dedicated facility for some time.

“The acquisition of Northport, will enable us to provide broadcast services to regional and international clients more efficiently and affordably by integrating into our global MPLS and satellite network.”

(Source: Talia)