The Business Year

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QATAR - Telecoms & IT

Lana Khalaf

Country General Manager, Microsoft

Bio

As Country Manager for Microsoft Qatar, Lana Khalaf oversees Microsoft’s strategic partnerships in the public and private sector to enhance Qatar’s ecosystem, as well as investing in critical infrastructure in order accelerate innovation and sustained economic growth. She also drives Microsoft’s objectives in Qatar to promote diversity and inclusion in order to bridge gender parity gap, as well as encourage the role of women in the ICT sector. She started her career with Microsoft in 2006. Prior to that, she held positions in organizations such as Samsung and Active Mania. She has an MBA with focus on leadership from the Lebanese American University and majors in computer science from the American University of Beirut.

"Start-ups are a key segment in digitally-driven markets such as Qatar because they come with potential ideas and innovation for the country."

Lana Khalaf, Country General Manager of Microsoft, talks to TBY about the giant’s efforts to support Qatar in its pursuit of Vision 2030.

How would you assess the role of Microsoft in helping Qatar be in the right place digitally ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022?

Lana Khalaf: Qatar being chosen as the first country in the Middle East to host the FIFA World Cup is a milestone for the country and the region, and we are honored to be a part of this historic moment. We have been heavily involved in partnership with Qatar to deliver amazing technology for the FIFA World Cup 2022 that will create a truly amazing experience for the fans. Leveraging our past global experience working with the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Tokyo Olympics, La Liga, and several other sporting events around the world, we have been working closely with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy to realize their vision for the role of technology in shaping the overall experience of the tournament. We have also worked in partnership with the government, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), and many others in order to build new smart infrastructures and capitalize on the existing world-class infrastructure that Qatar achieved for the event.

What is the potential significance for Qatar to become an Azure region?

Lana Khalaf: Cloud and disruptive technologies are key enablers of the infrastructure development projects that the Qatari government has been investing in as part of its mission to diversify the economy in line with Qatar National Vision 2030. Microsoft shares this vision, and we are committed to working closely with the Qatari government to realize it. Our investment in local infrastructure through the launch of our new Azure region in Qatar will enable not only the FIFA World Cup and TASMU smart cities, but also drive the digital transformation across every industry, every organization and every person in Qatar enabling them to leverage the power of technology to achieve more. By providing them with an ever-expanding set of trusted cloud services that help them meet local compliance and data residency requirements, the data region truly brings unprecedented opportunity to the country. Additionally, a study that we did with the IDC to calculate the impact of such investment to the country showed that it will create a USD3.14 billion opportunity for revenues in the economy in the coming five years, which is a major benefit to the country. And it will increase employment by bringing 24,000 new jobs to the market as a result of cloud technologies. This includes the innovation, transformation, and everything else that this cloud will utilize.

How is Microsoft partnering with local start-ups to promote better synergies between entrepreneurship and IT at the local level?

Lana Khalaf: Start-ups are a key segment in digitally-driven markets such as Qatar because they come with potential ideas and innovation for the country, so it’s important to develop and empower them to contribute to the growth of the economy. Microsoft is partnering closely with many companies and entities in Qatar such as QSTP, FinTech, QDB, Nautica 360, TASMU, and Tawteen to enable start-ups to grow and achieve more by empowering them with advanced technologies like AI and IoT that are secure and powered by the most trusted and the most sustainable cloud. To further ensure people are ready to use and support this technology, we will partner with Ministry of Communications and Information Technology as well as other schools and companies to launch a digital center of excellence that will offer certified skilling opportunities for Qataris and encourage them to them to pursue lifelong education. This initiative will have one track for youth and students; one for professionals on cloud AI, cybersecurity, and many others; one track for developers; and one for leaders. We are also utilizing the arm of Innovation Cafe to host the start-ups, and we are keen to invest, enable, and develop more than 20 start-ups every year. We also aim to establish the first unicorn from Qatar and are dedicating our efforts towards achieving this.

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