The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held a well attended video conference on the subject of ‘The Adoption of Fintech and Online Safety and its impact on the Iraqi Economy‘, for members and a wider audience of Tech specialists in UK and Iraq.

The key speakers included:

  • Hugo Rousseau – Program manager for Fintech at Tech UK- who spoke on emergent trends in Tech and with companies emerging from UK.
  • Yazen Altimimi- Ceo Zain Cash, Iraq’s largest on line transactor and Telecom, who shared his view of the Iraqi Fintech market and the opportunities and challenges within it.
  • Ian Taylor- VP Government relations in EU for Mastercard- who provided an overview of the importance and relevance of Government if bringing forward changes to the Tech ecosystem, the regulatory framework and as a key drive for, change.
  • Botan Osman: CEO Restrata -The importance of safety and security software and crisis management expertise.

The panel provided insights into aspects and impact of Fintech for Iraq, including the benefits of an online and cashless economy, that development of Fintech in London has benefitted from being a financial centre and now has over $5bn FDI alone on Fintech.

Overall benefits of Fintech encompass transparency, efficiency and cost reduction, prevention of fraud and  Financial inclusion for the 32million Iraqis who do not have a bank account ( 2 billion world wide). But also the point that a cash economy is expensive and possibly more so than costs of implementing an online economy. The panel discussed the need for Government to lead and adopt technological changes that facilitate public uptake,including the mandating of online transactions in various service areas and including E Govt for licenses and driving changes with the Central Bank as well as a clear and positive regulatory framework  that is not too restrictive in the first instance, but fosters trust .

It was agreed that the public and consumer has a low trust in banking and online banking, for historical reasons- and that marketing and online wins need to be communicated to them to encourage adoption – something Zain Cash is doing, to realise its ambition to become Iraq’s first digital bank. To this point. Mastercard also added that the cost of online security has to be factored into costs for transactions, but that once its operating at scale the costs come down.

Tech UK also note that new non traditional players are entering the financial services market- such as Telecoms, and the giants like Apple, Google, and in Africa- E-PESA has been hugely effective in supporting development of the economy and overall efficiency – something that Iraq could rapidly adopt  as it has a high penetration of smart phones already.Data sharing, AI and Open Banking are impacting on the kind of services and shaping the agendas in EU in a positive way for both consumers and businesses.

Botan Osman made the relevant points that online tech and safety during Covid crisis has come to the fore as people are working remotely from home, but still need to remain vigilant on production platforms and safe from hackers- so Restrata have a platform that enable monitoring of assets and people and their online safety – Given the financial  efficiency pressures on oil and gas production, online monitoring and reduction in personnel  go hand in hand with their system capabilities, and this is likely replicated across many sectors in Iraq and Internationally.

He said that ‘ now is the time’ to make radical changes in Government and business, to adapt to COVID and low oil prices, and to embrace the opportunity and benefits Tech brings . Overall it was agreed that a mindset shift is required among Government and populations to embrace the opportunities now.

For more information on the panel, please view the video here.

Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) Tech forum Video Conference

Monday 27th April, 2:00 – 2:45 pm UK time.

Topic:

To discuss the adoption and benefits of Fintech and Cyber Tech and likely impact on the Iraqi economy, based on experiences elsewhere.

Speakers:

  • Hugo Rousseau: program mgr financial services TechUK (the UKs largest Tech association)
  • Yazen Altimimi: MD ZainCash – Iraq’s largest telecom operator and online transactor
  • Botan Osman: MD of Restrata -Software safety
  • Ian Taylor: Governmental Director of Mastercard Europe.
  • Ashley Goodall – IBBC (Chair)

Hugo Rousseau to provide an overview from UK of Fintech and Cyber in relation to dynamics of the Tech economy, and its benefits to UK plc, and likely benefits to Iraq.

Ian Taylor to provide insights into Mastercard digital operations and how they use Fintech to work with Govt and Financial service providers, and the likely opportunities for Iraq.

Yazen Alminimi – overview of Digital / Fintech operation in Iraq and how Zain’s online payments are being adopted – challenges and opportunities in Iraqi market and role of the Central bank?

Botan Osman – how Software tech can secure and support the development of online company digital services in Iraq.

 

General discussion: 10 Minutes

 

Please submit any questions you might have in advance for speakers to: London@webuildiraq.org

Total time- 45 minutes.

Please register using this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_jVTT3VMpT0CQw1a__meuyA

(Source: IBBC)

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

Hackers zap official Iraqi websites with cyberattacks

Hack attacks are growing at the speed of 5G across the globe, and Iraq has been hard-hit lately.

The official website of controversial Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was hacked Jan. 6 after he called for his followers to activate the Mahdi Army to fight US troops.

His call followed the US assassination of top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The hackers put Iraqi-US flags on the homepage, writing: “Iran no more.”

That intrusion came just weeks after several other attacks on official Iraqi websites — including the prime minister’s.

Click here to read the full article.

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

Hackers zap official Iraqi websites with cyberattacks

Hack attacks are growing at the speed of 5G across the globe, and Iraq has been hard-hit lately.

The official website of controversial Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was hacked Jan. 6 after he called for his followers to activate the Mahdi Army to fight US troops.

His call followed the US assassination of top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The hackers put Iraqi-US flags on the homepage, writing: “Iran no more.”

That intrusion came just weeks after several other attacks on official Iraqi websites — including the prime minister’s.

Click here to read the full article.

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 cybercrimes law that would impose heavy prison sentences and hefty fines against peaceful critics who express themselves online would be a devastating setback for freedom of expression in Iraq, Amnesty International has said.

The organization has highlighted its serious concern over the draft “Law on Information Technology Crimes” in an open letter signed by nine other NGOs. The letter was submitted to the Iraqi authorities this morning and warns that the proposed law would “establish a climate of self-censorship in the country.

If passed, this draconian cybercrime law will be a devastating blow for freedom of expression in Iraq. The vague and overly broad wording of the law means it could easily become a tool for repression in a country where the space for critical voices is already severely restricted,” said Razaw Salihy, Iraq researcher at Amnesty International.

More here.

(Source: Amnesty International)