Telecoms & IT

Digital Innovation in Kuwait

State policy is feathering the nest of digital innovators with tangible results.

Kuwait’s digitalization drive, fundamental to Vision 2035, has tamed bureaucracy through accessible e-government, while the Sahel application unifies electronic services across government departments. It has also galvanized industrial efficiency from manufacturing to logistics, and championed consumer choice and convenience. The agents of change, the fintechs and content creator SMEs, are systematically plugging any gaps to create a more fluent, and circular, digital economy.

Momentum is brisk, and according to Allaedin Karim, Country Manager of Microsoft, “The government and private sector are in the process of mapping out digital transformation to fit their current challenges and opportunities and see how they can take it forward.”

Creative Playtime

In a landmark moment in May 2022, Virgin Mobile Kuwait became the world’s first telco to launch in the Sandbox Metaverse. This will expedite digital literacy and showcase potential money-spinners. Furthermore, Virgin Mobile inked an MoU with US global digital content provider Nonvoice LLC to keep Kuwait abreast of digital innovations. In the nature of beast, practicality itself is gamified, and interested Kuwaiti coders were invited to test their mettle through Virgin Mobile Kuwait’s MetaTribeKW Community.

It was underlined at the time that Kuwait ranks second worldwide in TikTok penetration, boasting a legion of eager content creators living the app lifestyle—all fertile soil for digital consumer services from banking to shopping and education. Incidentally, market data indicates that Kuwati youth across the board prefers solutions of minimal customer interaction. While we leave the emotional consequences of that to the sociologists, one thing is sure. There is nothing optional about going digital to capture the attention and wallet of Gen-Z.

A Forceful Cough

In a TBY interview, local venture capital firm Impulse International for Telecommunications CEO Izzat Abou-Amarah notes how the pandemic demonstrated the “country’s ability to be dynamic, flexible, and adapt quickly to circumstances.” COVID-19’s catalytic effect has prompted government “initiatives and plans to undergo transformations as seen in the different regulations of the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) and cloud services.” In the information economy, big data is all about actionable information.

And to advance Kuwait’s capacity to generate it, he adds that “next year, we are planning a strategic infrastructure opportunity [given that today] connectivity, data, and analytics are becoming increasingly valuable to enterprises.” This requires development “on the infrastructure, back end, processing and securing of data, and provision of analytics, and we are embedding our portfolio into the market to deliver that.” When ushering new technology into Kuwait and the wider region, the company tends to “invest in the business idea once it is past the starter and initial seed stages of capital funding.” The rest is up to good business practice, good old market forces, and a pinch of luck.

Not Just Toying Around

Creative digital solutions offer a wealth of verticals. One Kuwaiti example is e-retailer Dabdoob—translating to teddy bear. Co-founder and COO Suleiman Al Anjeri explained to TBY how his initial slogan of “just toys” was swiftly amended to “just kids,” given the platform’s scope. “We are now focused on gifts and toys but […]also want to include products for babies, mothers, newborns, and school supplies.” The education arena is also in the crosshairs. Knowing a branding opportunity when he sees one, “Dabdoob,” he insists, “wants to be the Mickey Mouse of the region.”

At the Starting Line

Microsoft’s Karim argues that “SMEs and start-ups are in a better position than they have ever been, [encountering] no borders or limitations in the market.” Meanwhile, prominent digital service provider Zain in 2022 sponsored Kuwait’s preeminent outdoor vehicle for local SMEs, Bugsha Market. Through various competitions the event identified tomorrow’s pulsing brains of the digital economy. The year before, Zain had premiered the region’s first Startup Innovation Digital Video Report, in conclusion of the sixth edition of its digital start-ups accelerator program: Zain Great Idea (ZGI). The event shone the spotlight on 25 digital start-ups, namely finalists who pitched their ideas to potential business partners from the MENA region.

Looking ahead, Izzat Abou-Amarah reveals the company’s next juicy endeavor to be “enterprise automation, namely automating processes or workflows whether they are related to business, assets, or tracking, for full automation and digitalization of a client’s business.” Kuwait is keen to play its role in Industry 4.0, with increasing reliance on local talent for in-country value. And while the playground of the private sector, digitalization is ultimately a state policy. And so we leave the final word to Microsoft’s Karim, who observes that “finally, for the first time, Kuwait has a minister focusing only on IT and communications.” Proof positive, he maintains, that the “leadership understands the importance of digital transformation, […] a journey without end.” ✖