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KW24_IT_stc_Maziad Alharbi

KUWAIT - Telecoms & IT

Maziad Alharbi

CEO, stc Kuwait

Bio

Eng. Maziad Alharbi was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of Kuwait Telecommunications Company (stc) effective on 2019, where he played a major role in building a distinct strategy that contributed to the company’s transformation from a traditional telecommunications service company to the expansion of the business solutions and digitization services through its acquisition of Qualitynet during 2019 and e-portal holding company in 2022. He has over 25 years of proven executive management experience across the telecommunications, media, and technology industries. In addition to serving as a Board and Committee Member in several companies, Alharbi also held a number of senior executive positions where he acquired a well-versed and diversified leadership, managerial, as well as technical expertise and capabilities in several areas. Prior to joining Kuwait Telecommunications Company (stc), Alharbi served as the Chief Technology Officer at Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) from 2014 to 2019 in addition to being the Chief Corporate Affairs Officer (CCAO) between 2017 and 2019. In his dual leadership positions at Mobily, Alharbi was responsible for overseeing Mobily’s internal corporate communications, external marketing communications in addition to coordinating company’s decision making processes and enhancing the telecommunications network. He was also responsible for overseeing the technology planning and deployment of the latest technologies to transform the Kingdom to a digital country. Alharbi started his career path as an Engineer at Saudi Electricity Company in 1995 before joining Lucent Technologies in 1996, Huawei Saudi Arabia in 2006, the Saudi Telecom Company (stc) in 2007, where he climbed the ladder from being a Testing and Maintenance Engineer to the position of Vice-President of the Home Business Unit. Alharbi received his Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from King Saud University in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1995.

"The Kuwaiti telecom industry is characterized by its intense competition due to several key market players."
TBY talks to Maziad Alharbi, CEO of stc Kuwait, about the state of the telecoms industry, new initiatives, and goals for the coming year.
What’s your assessment of the telecoms industry here in Kuwait?

The Kuwaiti telecoms industry is characterized by its intense competition due to several key market players. This competitive environment is further accelerated by the rapid evolution of technology and customer demand for different digital solutions. Over the last decade, the shift from traditional voice services to data connectivity has truly reshaped the market dynamics, introducing a new spectrum of services and products. While these transformations have positively impacted the sector, ICT sector in Kuwait is still facing some regulatory challenges relating to liberalization of telecommunications infrastructures. Despite these challenges, the country has earned global recognition for its cost-effective data rates and high mobile data usage, especially amongst the younger generation. It is without a doubt that the surge in Kuwait’s data consumption requires a significant investment in strengthening the country’s network infrastructure to maintain quality and frequency to keep pace with the growing demand. Yet, regulatory inconsistencies have stunted the industry’s growth, inhibiting its capability to align with emerging technologies. Considering the advanced features and technology used in the latest smartphones released today, it is essential to ensure that a robust infrastructure is set in place comprised of dependable fiber networks, international cables, and data centers to sustain a seamless and interruption-free experience. The implementation of 5G technology, pioneered by stc’s commercial launch in 2019, has been a game-changer, offering support during the challenges of COVID-19 by enabling remote work and online learning, while providing reliable high-speed connectivity. While certain government-backed initiatives, such as the recent collaboration with Google Cloud to roll out a comprehensive digital transformation roadmap across government entities and key state-owned enterprises, have progressed, key challenges remained unsolved. An adaptive regulatory framework is essential to support the dynamic telecoms landscape, comprehensive of timely investments and periodic infrastructure expansions. Given the timely process involved in constructing critical infrastructure such as data centers, strategic planning is paramount to cater to future demand and usage cases. In conclusion, Kuwait’s telecoms sector operates within a competitive landscape, influenced by technological innovations, data-centric requirements, and complex infrastructure considerations which suggests that the need for a well-conceived government regulations is pivotal. Such governance would contribute massively to the steering the direction of the industry in a sustainable way that can keep pace with the rapidly developing digital world.

To what extent do you perceive sectors like healthcare or education are pushing for digitalization?

Digitization has emerged as a cornerstone of modern society, revolutionizing how we interact, work, and learn. The transition from analog to digital platforms has not only made information more accessible and storage more efficient, but it has also paved the way for advancements like big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things. The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic reflected the importance in shifting traditional ways to a digital experience for businesses, employees, and their customers. This was evident in the implementation of remote working protocols, online access to products and solutions, online learning, and other functions that could be performed remotely. Looking closely at the healthcare and education sectors in Kuwait, there have been countless cases that have showcased the importance of a digitalized approach. When it comes to the healthcare system in Kuwait, we can now see platforms championed by the government to store information and keep track of health records. These platforms, as well as others in both the public and private sectors, can revolutionize the patient’s experience, store electronic medical records, and provide advanced data analytics that can support predictive care and refined treatment plans. The implementation of such technologies will support the seamless treatment process at healthcare facilities and retrieve essential patient information efficiently. In terms of the education sector, the integration of digital tools and platforms into educational institutions is transforming traditional teaching methodologies. Virtual classrooms and e-learning platforms have enhanced the reach of education, allowing students and educators to go beyond physical boundaries, this was especially implemented during the pandemic. Additionally, there are numerous benefits to a digitalized education system where data and information can be shared in an instance with real-time feedback. The storage and analysis of key metrics in the educational system will allow educational institutions to make informed decisions on curriculum adjustments, teaching methods, as well as other factors that may positively enhance the learning experience for students.

Could you elaborate on your recently launched initiative inspireU?

‘InspireU’ is an entrepreneurial incubator and accelerator designed to support SMEs and entrepreneurs in various strategic ways. Initially launched over a decade ago by the stc Group, stc Kuwait is now proud to extend this comprehensive program to the Kuwaiti society under the “Weyak” initiative that aims to offer support to the growing future leaders in Kuwait whether through providing marketing exposure opportunities, collaborations with stc and customized packages to help grow their business. Apart from facilitating the crucial first step of converting a simple idea into a workable business plan, inspireU offers invaluable guidance, targeted training, and numerous social networking opportunities. The program also provides opportunities for financial backing, further supporting these businesses in materializing their ideas into a successful operation. Moreover, as part of stc’s rich and sustainable CSR agenda, stc has always been keen on supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs reflected through the “Weyak” initiative that emerged during the pandemic.

What are your most urgent priorities and goals for stc?

In these dynamic times, our foremost priority at stc is to provide our customers with a seamless experience that enriches their lifestyle choices through the latest technology, connectivity solutions, and innovative products in today’s digital era. Being connected has become more crucial than ever, and at stc we strive to provide a reliable service that meets the diverse needs of our growing customer base. Prior to the pandemic, we invested in strengthening our 5G infrastructure to sustain the level of demand that we had anticipated at the time. Now that we have witnessed the substantial increase in demand for 5G connectivity and products, we are focusing on strengthening our exposure and investing significantly in the ICT sector. Our commitment to drive the evolution of Kuwait’s economy is backed by our strategic investments in refining our solutions and expanding our operational scope. With several strategic acquisitions, such as QualityNet and E-Portal Holding, we managed to provide a range of innovative and new-to-market services that cater to corporates through our specialized business arm, solutions by stc. These initiatives, as well as others, embody stc’s strategic vision, allowing us to utilize our vast capabilities to create synergies and integrate our various solutions. We believe that this in return will support and fortify the growth ambitions of the Kuwaiti economy and positioning it as a pioneer in the evolving digital era in line with Kuwait 2035 vision.

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