Press Release

Press Release

At the Saudi-hosted Council of Arab Ministers’ Meeting, SAMENA Council Elevates 5G beyond another "G" and Terms it as an Opportunity for Reframing Investment-Friendly ICT Policies

The private-sector representative body calls on policy-makers and regulatory authorities to rethink policies, regulation, competition, investment sustainability, and collaboration

Dubai, Dec 22, 2019 - SAMENA Telecommunications Council was present at the 23rd session of the Council of Arab Ministers of Communications and Information, hosted by Saudi Arabia on the 17th and 18th December 2019. Among a handful of private-sector entities present during the on-hour discussion session held on December 18th, planned earlier by SAMENA Council in collaboration with the Communication & Information Technology Commission of Saudi Arabia to bring Private sector and Public sector thought-leaders together, focusing on productivity, competition and sustainability challenges in the age of digital economy, SAMENA Council delivered a cohesive stance on treating 5G not as another “G” but rather as an altogether different technology genre; one that offers a completely new set of opportunities for inclusive human connectedness, socio-economic development and human progress, but which must be harnessed through timely policy-regulatory-investment considerations and approaches.

Arab Council of Communication & IT Ministers Meeting in KSA provided a rare opportunity for the private sector to communicate with policy-makers, directly, which in SAMENA Council’s views is essential to catalyzing and maintaining a change in mindsets and pace in digital transformation. It is through open communication that sensitive industry matters such as technology use-case based investments, digital trust building and cybersecurity, and adjacent sector development may be effectively addressed.

The panel discussion during the Arab Ministers meeting contributed insights on digital economy from four angles: taking stock of key new challenges, understanding the 5G revolution, maintaining international co-operation, and building trust in the digital era. Global digital communication service providers and global institutions, such Facebook and the World Economic Forum, accompanying SAMENA Council during the discussion, provided perspectives to help support work underway to fulfill the Arab region’s ICT development needs in the long term and facilitate new investment and co-operation building in the regional ICT sector as well as among adjacent sectors in the near term. It was recognized that digitalization  triggered a new  wave  of  innovation, which carries multiple implications for the region, for humanity, changing relationships among citizens, the role of governments, sustainability of businesses, and  collaboration between Telecom non-Telecom sectors and industries, thus altering the structure of societies and economies.

In the 5G era, growth, productivity and human development will increasingly be determined by the level of integration into the digital economy. Therefore, Governments and the Private Sector need to be aligned on setting conjointly defined priorities and be prepared to respond to and benefit from advancements taking place in the digital sphere. Securing the benefits from and minimizing the risks of digitalization, requires new approaches, policies and strategies to drive equitable and evenly spread benefits of digitalization across all populations and across all economic sectors. Resultantly, issues related to competition, productivity, sustainability, consumer protection, data ownership and protection, privacy, taxation and trade in the digital economy must be approached with a new mindset and out-of-box thinking with regard to policy-making, regulating, and fostering partnership between the Public and Private sectors.

Bocar BA, CEO and Board Member of SAMENA Council, stated that “It was a privilege to be present at the Council of Arab Communication & IT Ministers in Riyadh. The Arab Ministers approved the joint Arab Digital Declaration, which charts out a roadmap for building a prosperous and sustainable  digital economy in the region. SAMENA Council considers this Declaration to be an important milestone and the five principles it sets forth truly require very close collaboration among Governments and Telecom Operators. Moreover, there is a need to harmonize and accelerate timely development of 5G, which is not just another mobile network technology, but refers to a large digital ecosystem, considering 5G will facilitate multiple digital segments, such as IoT, Industrial IoT, AI, VR, MR, blockchain, among others, to thrive and contribute to the regional vision of smart-city development.”

He continued, “Challenges in the digital economy are multiple and range from extending basic connectivity to the still-unconnected and addressing privacy and user-protection online, and from investment sustainability to engaging other economic sectors in a synergistic manner. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals agreed by all the UN Member States for the next decade, several of which were represented here in this Arab Ministers meeting, serve as a motivation and guiding force for us, the private sector, and our leaders in the realm of policy-making and regulation to closely work together. Out of respect for national ICT visions and necessity, SAMENA Council calls on all stakeholders – from Telecom regulators and network operators to non-Telecom regulators and industries - to come together for collaboration and consider 5G as an area of opportunity unlike any other we have ever witnessed. I congratulate Saudi Arab’s CITC and Ministry of Communication & IT for successfully organizing the Arab Ministers meeting and for the opportunity to share the Private sector’s views with the regional Policy-makers.”