Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon have committed to digitally transform their countries, discussing their roadmaps to support the Mashreq region’s integration into the rapidly evolving global digital economy.

The commitments came on the first day of the landmark, high-level forum on Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Development in Mashreq, which was  hosted by the Government of Jordan and organized jointly with the World Bank Group.

The three governments had identified the challenges and solutions that would allow Mashreq countries to realize more gains to their economies and societies. Digitalization is shaping the present and future of economic activities as it brings about higher productivity, efficiencies and quicker inclusion of lagging economic and social groups, such as women and youth.

Mobile and digital solutions are contributing to facilitating greater financial inclusion. E-commerce and other digital applications are being leveraged to promote entrepreneurship, including the empowerment of women as entrepreneurs, and digital solutions are being sought to improve access to learning resources in an easier and less expensive way.

The Mobile Gender Report for 2018 lists a gender gap in mobile ownership among women in the region which can reach up to 20%. while this gap is only 2% in countries like Egypt or Turkey. Bringing this gap to less than 4% everywhere in the Mashreq would bring income opportunities for women in the region. Broadband access is estimated to increase employment among married women by as much as 4% in high income economies.

Broadly speaking, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon face similar obstacles to their quest to transform Mashreq into a regional hub for IT and Business Process Outsourcing.  Policymakers, international and regional businesses, startups and investors all convened at the King Hussein Business Park to enrich the discussion with their expertise and experience on how to push this agenda forward.

The digital roadmaps were presented by the three ministers holding the Information Technology portfolio in their respective countries. World Bank Group  committed to supporting these countries achieve their goals with specific focus on increasing broadband access, establishing cashless payment systems and bridging the gender gap in mobile usage.

Iraq

The Government of Iraq (GOI) is committed to further advancing the digital economy and aims to ensure affordable access to high speed internet, by doubling access to broadband to 54% in 2021 and 90% by 2030, achieving 100% broadband network coverage, establishing a conducive regulatory and policy framework for digital payments, developing interoperable digital payments infrastructure, and striving towards 100% financial access. The GOI is also committed to delivering digital government services and ensuring highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy to boost consumer trust. The GOI is also keen to ensure that education and training programs meet current and future job market skills needs.

Jordan

The Government of Jordan (GOJ) is committed to advancing the digital economy as strategic growth sector for the Kingdom. On digital infrastructure, the GOJ commits to further developing access to internet broadband to reach 100% penetration rate by 2021. As part of that, the GOJ is opening the National Broadband Network (7,000 kilometers of fiber) for Public Private Partnership, allowing affordable fiber broadband to 1.3 million households around Jordan. On digital payments, the GOJ commits to increasing country-level cashless payments from 33 to 50% by 2020 and to digitizing 80% of government to citizens payments by 2021.  On developing digital skills, the GOJ will launch a national skills development initiative to train 35,000 people on the 21st century skills and mainstreaming digital skills in public schools to train 300 thousands by 2022. To enable a friendly business environment for entrepreneurs, the GOJ is committed to launching a regulatory reform process in 2019, following a participatory approach with ecosystem representatives. To complete automation of Government services, the GOJ commits to automate key services by 2021. Building on the recent transformations of the Ministry of ICT to Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, the GOJ will launch its digital transformation action plan in partnership with the ecosystem by end of 2019.

Lebanon

The Government of Lebanon (GOL) is committed to building a Digital Nation and to transform Lebanon into a regional technology and innovation hub. The GOL  is in the process of finalizing its digital transformation plan and aims to double the knowledge economy’s contribution to GDP and double the employment in this sector by 2025. To achieve this, the GOL plans to: (i) reach 100% broadband penetration rate by end of 2021; (ii) develop and execute the digital transformation of the public sector and offer citizens a fully digitized journey across all government services, with 500,000 users signed up to the government digital platform by end of 2021; (iii) provide a supportive regulatory framework to help grow the Fintech industry and facilitate digital payments, launch a new national digital currency by the end of 2020, and launch an Electronic Trading Platform (ETP) to improve financing for private sector activities in 2020; (iv) leverage its pool of skilled and entrepreneurial talent in Lebanon and abroad to build a digital economy focused on innovation and private initiative, increase the number of start-ups fivefold and double yearly venture capital funding by 2025; and (v) address the existing skills gap by preparing the youth for the global, digital jobs of the future through launching a national training academy by 2021.

The World Bank commits to support Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan in achieving their visions and plans for digital transformation by providing the necessary resources and instruments. The World Bank will work closely with the Governments, private sector, academia and civil society to maximize the impact of digitization and reap the digital dividends for their societies. This support will include: (i) pursuing plans to ensure affordable access to high-speed internet and facilitate investment in broadband; (ii) delivering digital government services and improving access to data, while ensuring the highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy; (iii) developing a modern digital payment infrastructure; (iv) scaling up digital entrepreneurship; and (v) ensuring education and training programs meet current and future skills needs.

More details, including a video of the procedings, can be found here.

The second high-level Digital Mashreq Forum will convene in Beirut in June 2020.

(Source: World Bank)

Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon have committed to digitally transform their countries, discussing their roadmaps to support the Mashreq region’s integration into the rapidly evolving global digital economy.

The commitments came on the first day of the landmark, high-level forum on Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Development in Mashreq, which was  hosted by the Government of Jordan and organized jointly with the World Bank Group.

The three governments had identified the challenges and solutions that would allow Mashreq countries to realize more gains to their economies and societies. Digitalization is shaping the present and future of economic activities as it brings about higher productivity, efficiencies and quicker inclusion of lagging economic and social groups, such as women and youth.

Mobile and digital solutions are contributing to facilitating greater financial inclusion. E-commerce and other digital applications are being leveraged to promote entrepreneurship, including the empowerment of women as entrepreneurs, and digital solutions are being sought to improve access to learning resources in an easier and less expensive way.

The Mobile Gender Report for 2018 lists a gender gap in mobile ownership among women in the region which can reach up to 20%. while this gap is only 2% in countries like Egypt or Turkey. Bringing this gap to less than 4% everywhere in the Mashreq would bring income opportunities for women in the region. Broadband access is estimated to increase employment among married women by as much as 4% in high income economies.

Broadly speaking, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon face similar obstacles to their quest to transform Mashreq into a regional hub for IT and Business Process Outsourcing.  Policymakers, international and regional businesses, startups and investors all convened at the King Hussein Business Park to enrich the discussion with their expertise and experience on how to push this agenda forward.

The digital roadmaps were presented by the three ministers holding the Information Technology portfolio in their respective countries. World Bank Group  committed to supporting these countries achieve their goals with specific focus on increasing broadband access, establishing cashless payment systems and bridging the gender gap in mobile usage.

Iraq

The Government of Iraq (GOI) is committed to further advancing the digital economy and aims to ensure affordable access to high speed internet, by doubling access to broadband to 54% in 2021 and 90% by 2030, achieving 100% broadband network coverage, establishing a conducive regulatory and policy framework for digital payments, developing interoperable digital payments infrastructure, and striving towards 100% financial access. The GOI is also committed to delivering digital government services and ensuring highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy to boost consumer trust. The GOI is also keen to ensure that education and training programs meet current and future job market skills needs.

Jordan

The Government of Jordan (GOJ) is committed to advancing the digital economy as strategic growth sector for the Kingdom. On digital infrastructure, the GOJ commits to further developing access to internet broadband to reach 100% penetration rate by 2021. As part of that, the GOJ is opening the National Broadband Network (7,000 kilometers of fiber) for Public Private Partnership, allowing affordable fiber broadband to 1.3 million households around Jordan. On digital payments, the GOJ commits to increasing country-level cashless payments from 33 to 50% by 2020 and to digitizing 80% of government to citizens payments by 2021.  On developing digital skills, the GOJ will launch a national skills development initiative to train 35,000 people on the 21st century skills and mainstreaming digital skills in public schools to train 300 thousands by 2022. To enable a friendly business environment for entrepreneurs, the GOJ is committed to launching a regulatory reform process in 2019, following a participatory approach with ecosystem representatives. To complete automation of Government services, the GOJ commits to automate key services by 2021. Building on the recent transformations of the Ministry of ICT to Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, the GOJ will launch its digital transformation action plan in partnership with the ecosystem by end of 2019.

Lebanon

The Government of Lebanon (GOL) is committed to building a Digital Nation and to transform Lebanon into a regional technology and innovation hub. The GOL  is in the process of finalizing its digital transformation plan and aims to double the knowledge economy’s contribution to GDP and double the employment in this sector by 2025. To achieve this, the GOL plans to: (i) reach 100% broadband penetration rate by end of 2021; (ii) develop and execute the digital transformation of the public sector and offer citizens a fully digitized journey across all government services, with 500,000 users signed up to the government digital platform by end of 2021; (iii) provide a supportive regulatory framework to help grow the Fintech industry and facilitate digital payments, launch a new national digital currency by the end of 2020, and launch an Electronic Trading Platform (ETP) to improve financing for private sector activities in 2020; (iv) leverage its pool of skilled and entrepreneurial talent in Lebanon and abroad to build a digital economy focused on innovation and private initiative, increase the number of start-ups fivefold and double yearly venture capital funding by 2025; and (v) address the existing skills gap by preparing the youth for the global, digital jobs of the future through launching a national training academy by 2021.

The World Bank commits to support Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan in achieving their visions and plans for digital transformation by providing the necessary resources and instruments. The World Bank will work closely with the Governments, private sector, academia and civil society to maximize the impact of digitization and reap the digital dividends for their societies. This support will include: (i) pursuing plans to ensure affordable access to high-speed internet and facilitate investment in broadband; (ii) delivering digital government services and improving access to data, while ensuring the highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy; (iii) developing a modern digital payment infrastructure; (iv) scaling up digital entrepreneurship; and (v) ensuring education and training programs meet current and future skills needs.

More details, including a video of the procedings, can be found here.

The second high-level Digital Mashreq Forum will convene in Beirut in June 2020.

(Source: World Bank)

A new low-cost satellite broadband service will be launched across Iraq and Afghanistan as Belgium’s SatADSL, a provider of professional VSAT services via satellite, and UK-based Talia agreed to expand their long-term partnership.

The two companies’ current agreement lets SatADSL link directly to Talia’s teleport to provide services across the whole of Africa, with Talia’s equipment providing high performance and low-cost per megabit. Under the new deal, SatADSL will also be able to access Talia’s new platform in Jordan Media City, enabling it to offer Ka-band services across Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We are taking our relationship with Talia to the next level by using its facilities to offer our innovative services across Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Caroline De Vos, Co-founder and Chief Operations Officer at SatADSL. “The use of Ka-band High Throughput Satellite capacity, combined with Talia’s equipment means the services we provide can be quickly and easily installed by users and offered at an extremely competitive price, taking a significant step towards bridging the digital divide.”

By connecting its Cloud-based Service Delivery Platform (C-SDP) to Talia’s hub, SatADSL will be able to offer the full range of services available on its platform in Iraq and Afghanistan, including vouchers, VNOFlex, Wi-Fi Hotspots, etc. The C-SDP is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution which enables operators to deliver a full range of satellite-based connectivity services without investing in physical infrastructure. SatADSL expects to have worldwide coverage by the end of the year, further expanding the reach of its C-SDP.

To enable connectivity, Talia uses capacity on the Arabsat 5C Ka-band satellite, located at 20o East. Talia is offering its services based on the Newtec Dialog® multiservice platform which features small VSAT antennas (75cm) on the remote site to create a new lower price point for Internet access and innovative setup guides for self-installation via a smartphone app. A variety of Newtec’s broadband satellite modems have also been deployed, supporting different bandwidth allocations to ensure optimal bandwidth usage. This includes Newtec’s dynamic Mx-DMA technology to achieve the efficiency of SCPC with the dynamic bandwidth allocation of MF-TDMA.

“We see this next chapter with SatADSL as building upon what has so far been a hugely successful partnership in Africa, enabling many developing countries to have access to affordable fast satellite Internet,” said Jack Buechler, VP Business Development at Talia. “Just as in Africa, the services which SatADSL will provide in Afghanistan and Iraq, using our infrastructure will help bridge the digital and economical divide and transform societies for the better.”

(Source: Talia)

By John Lee.

Plans are reportedly progressing to launch a free ka-band satellite broadband service in Iraq in the second quarter of 2018.

UK-based Quika promises the world’s first entirely free high-speed satellite internet for consumers in developing countries.

Its free plan will be funded by paid-for services for enterprises and internet providers.

According to Engadget, the company is led by the chief of satellite provider Talia.

(Source: Engadget, Quika)

TBI Vision reports that Middle East subscription video-on-demand service Icflix is being launched in Iraq through a partnership with mobile telco Asiacell.

Both prepaid and postpaid Asiacell customers will be able to subscribe to the icflix library of content for a monthly fee of 10,000 IQD (US$8.56), a weekly fee of IQD4,000 or a daily subscription for IQD1,200.

Content available will include Arabic female teen superhero animation series Dunia, Arabic series including Al Arrab: Taht Al HazemLayali El Helmya 6 and Al Tawarid and Hollywood movies Lone SurvivorGrace of Monaco and Need for Speed.

(Source: TBI Vision)

The Basra Industrial Community (BIC) has welcomed MEOSAT as a new resident company.

Residents of BIC now have access to the fastest, most secure and most stable high-speed satelite internet in southern Iraq.

MEOSAT is the only active authorized distributor of O3B in Iraq and has just completed testing. O3B provides high-speed internet via a system of Low-Earth Orbit satellites.

As BIC continues with its Phase 2 expansion, it has offices and accommodation units for lease and can also provide custom design/build service centre solutions. If you have questions about bringing your company, products and services into Iraq or have questions about accommodation, offices and warehouses in BIC, please contact Andres La Saga alasaga@schwob.com +971 50 115 7940.

(Source: BIC)

By John Lee.

The Minister of Communications, Hassan Rashid [Kazem Hassan Rashed] (pictured), has reportedly ordered a reduction in the cost of internet services, to make them more accessible to all segments of society.

Shafaaq News also report that the Ministry of Communications has completed an optical fibre project to provide high-speed internet access in Babil province.

(Source: Shafaaq News)

By John Lee.

Fiber optic company m2fx has announced a new partnership with Hevek Company, expanding distribution of its products into Iraq for the first time.

Hevek Company will provide customers with m2fx’s full product range, including its tough yet flexible range of pushable fiber cables, lightweight aerial solutions and microducts for Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networks.

Fariborz Ardalan, Managing Director, Hevek Company, said:

“With m2fx solutions now available in Iraq data providers finally have the opportunity to quickly respond to customer demands without needing expensive installation equipment or highly trained engineers.”

Hevek Company has already supplied m2fx cables and microducts to leading carrier Gorannet, which is deploying them as part of its FTTH customer rollout in Kurdistan.

Simon Roberts, sales director, Middle East and Africa, m2fx, said:

“The telecoms market in Iraq is changing very quickly as the country rebuilds and upgrades infrastructure, harnessing the power of high speed fiber to transform the economy.”

(Source: )

By John Lee.

IQ Networks, a wholesale internet provider based in Sulaymaniya, expects to open a $100-million (120-billion-Iraqi-dinar) broadband cable from Turkey to Iraq’s Gulf coast by the end of this year.

Reuters reports that, after spending an extra $30 million to replace lines and equipment overrun by Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL), the company aims to carry international traffic through Iraq to link Asia and Europe, boosting Iraq’s hopes of becoming an international hub for Internet traffic.

IQ Networks will be granted a 15-year renewable licence to operate the network, but will hand ownership of the cable outside of Kurdistan to the state-owned Iraq Telecommunications and Post Company (ITPC), and will pay 26 percent of all revenue to the government.

Martin Frank, chief executive of IQ Networks, told Reuters:

This will be the first privately built and privately run network of this kind outside of Kurdistan.

“We’re expecting large parts of the above-ground infrastructure – shelters, generators, power equipment and transmission equipment – to have been stolen or destroyed, but large parts of the underground infrastructure – ducts and fiber cables – (should) be okay.”

The company began to build the transit-only fibre network in 2010, but the project was awarded to another company in 2011, before that decision was reversed in 2013.

The network follows Iraq’s main oil and gas pipeline, and was nearing launch before ISIS captured areas through which the cable travelled in North and West Iraq.

As a result, IQ has had to lay an extra 1,000 kms (620 miles) of fibre to re-route the network further east.

According to the Reuters report, Iraq relies heavily on Kurdistan for internet connectivity after Baghdad’s insistence on state control of fixed infrastructure within its jurisdiction stifled development and detered private investors.

The government also segregates networks carrying transit and locally-destined traffic, meaning that the new network cannot carry data to or from Iraqi domestic users, and therefore will do nothing to reduce Iraq’s Internet costs.

Outside of Kurdistan a one megabit per second (mbps) broadband connection costs $399 per month versus $6.17 in Iran.

(Source: Reuters)

Level 3 Communications has announced it has been selected by internet and communication solutions provider, EarthLink Telecommunications — the largest Internet Service Provider in Iraq — to provide the secure global connectivity needed to support enterprise customers from EarthLink’s Middle East location.

EarthLink’s 400-plus points of presence enable its customers to communicate in its local market. Yet the company faced the challenge of an ever-increasing demand for enhanced online security and connectivity to worldwide markets, particularly from customers in key local business sectors such as the financial services and oil industries.

To meet the needs of its enterprise customers, EarthLink turned to Level 3’s MPLS/IP VPN (Multiprotocol Label Switching/Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network) services to deliver the necessary secure, private connectivity.

As a direct result of EarthLink’s ability to provide Level 3’s services to both its wholesale and enterprise customers, the Internet provider has already signed a new contract with one of the region’s major oil and gas companies.

Sarmad Hassan, Chief Executive Officer, EarthLink Telecommunications, said:

“Working with Level 3 gives us the ability to provide customers with a one-stop shop for connectivity services. We can therefore provide them with secure, robust and reliable network connectivity on a worldwide basis, while helping them to reduce costs.”

Andrew Crouch, Regional President, EMEA, Level 3, added:

As part of our mission of connecting and protecting the networked world, we deliver the services that are needed and where they are needed in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

“Working with organizations such as EarthLink, which impressed us with its local footprint, is another piece in the jigsaw in Level 3’s mission of connecting different locations across the world to serve customers.

(Source: Earthlink)