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Digital infrastructure investment in Saudi Arabia has yielded good results

Karim Hussami

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Digital infrastructure investment in Saudi Arabia has yielded good results

With Covid-19 affecting every aspect of daily life, countries have recognized the importance of implementing better digital infrastructure to deal with our change of lifestyle, utilizing technologies to cope, first, with the current health crisis and second, to set forth better planning procedures for any future public emergencies.

Saudi Arabia has taken decisions to invest in a health system and digital infrastructure, helping to successfully contain the spread of the virus and keep the Kingdom’s economic diversification plans on track. In 2016, the Saudi Arabian government launched a broad and ambitious socio-economic reform plan known as Vision 2030, with the main aim to diversify its economy away from oil, moving forward. This has prompted many strategic initiatives in the country to better serve the population and economy. Saudi Arabia is the largest in the Gulf region with a population of 33 million, and the largest economy in the Arab World with a GDP of $782 billion.

Telecom and health investments have really paid off in Saudi Arabia amid the pandemic. The global research and advisory company’s report highlights details of the measures implemented by the country’s telecoms sector, led by stc, which ensured business continuity during the period of lockdown, facilitating the implementation of work-from-home and remote education practices, alongside the implementation of digital health initiatives.

According to the report, plans implemented in Saudi Arabia by the telecom sector in 2019, has meant a vast improvement in the country’s mobile internet speeds – ranked the 10th fastest worldwide – and allowed stc to accommodate the surge in demand driven by Saudis shifting online during lockdown.

In addition, Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority’s decisions to raise the maximum allowed recharge limit for electronic wallets to SAR 20,000 per month, maintained the increasing digital commerce activity/remote payment activities that increased during lockdown.

Saudi Arabia’s multi-faceted approach to tackle the virus helped mitigate the spread of community transmission while also mitigating its impact on both businesses and households, and setting the scene for a speedy economic recovery, according to Andrew Jeffreys, OBG’s CEO.

Journalist for 7 years in print media, with a bachelor degree in Political Science and International Affairs. Masters in Media communications.

Feature Articles

Operator network sharing in emerging markets

Karim Hussami

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network sharing

The telecom industry is always looking for ways to improve the quality of services offered to customers and support present and future connectivity needs by expanding network broadband, adopting new technologies and exploring new telco partnerships.

As such, network sharing is also gaining popularity in emerging markets as part of a sustainable strategy to boost overall connectivity services.

Latest trial with MTN Nigeria and 9Mobile

More specifically, this concept has been implemented in Nigeria where local operators have been encouraged, by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to conduct network sharing. The NCC granted MTN Nigeria and 9Mobile the approval for the trial of a national roaming service.

What are the benefits?

Services such as calls, text and data or access of other services will be made possible when traveling outside a particular coverage area by making use of the network of another operator.

“The successful implementation of the trial will enable EMTS subscribers to access MTN network service within the National Roaming trial geographical area without the need for an MTN Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card,” said NCC Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Umar Garba Danbatta.

Moreover, the benefits of increased operator network sharing in Nigeria, will lead to operational expenditure optimization and capital expenditure efficiencies. It will also aim at freeing up resources to expand mobile network coverage to unserved and underserved communities and improved quality of service delivery to subscribers, as well as connecting remote parts of Nigeria.

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Feature Articles

SK Telecom to rollout blockchain-powered wallet with ministry approval

Yehia El Amine

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Blockchain

South Korean telecom giant, SK Telecom, has announced the rollout of its first e-wallet aimed at digitally storing and managing government-issued documents, gaining approval from the country’s Ministry of Public Administration.

According to SKT, the wallet will be powered by blockchain technology, and will be compatible with Government24’s digital initiative program, which promotes and encourages certificate issuance and distributions electronically as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic hits worldwide.

“Blockchain is a vital technology in today’s rapidly changing environment. There is a dire need for virtual interactions and innovative processes for streamlining certificates and other government-issued documents,” SK Telecom’s head of Blockchain & Certification Division, Oh Se-Hyun, was quoted as saying.

Citizens will be able to receive and send documents such as immigration certificates, resident registration card copies, health insurance qualifications, among others through a blockchain-powered mobile app.

The SK e-wallet will work cohesively with Government24 app seamlessly sharing documents from one to another, while also allowing documents to be shared with financial institutions, public entities, and private organizations in electronic form.

According to SKT, the wallet will support 13 different types of documents and certifications but will later increase to 100 types as the year ends.

According to numbers from Statista, almost one million South Koreans have discarded of their physical drivers’ licenses in favor of blockchain-powered digital alternatives used in conjunction with the PASS smartphone app.

“One million represents more than 3 percent of the entire driving population in South Korea, which sat at 32.6 million licensed drivers in 2019 alone,” the report from Statista highlighted.

In the past few years, South Korea has been spearheading countrywide digitization efforts especially with blockchain technology. Seongnam, the country’s second largest city, has already rolled out several digital payment programs, with plans to adopt more.

In parallel, beachgoers in Busan will be able to pay for services with Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH); while one of South Korea’s biggest banks KEB Hana Bank has partnered with the Korea Expressway Corporation to implement a blockchain-based toll system for the country’s highways.

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5G

Can 5G improve remote learning for all?

Karim Hussami

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remote learning

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of life including education; from the subsequent closure of educational institutions around the world to the rapid adoption of online learning.

However, the concept of students studying and learning online started before the spread of the virus with an annual study from the Learning House, a U.S.-based Edtech company, noting that, “the proportion of students studying and learning fully online has risen from under half to fully two-thirds.”

A fast internet connection is one of the main criteria for a successful remote learning experience, therefore, 5G will likely facilitate a more seamless learning experience for students across the world.

Benefits of 5G

Remote learning based on new technologies has convinced 80 percent of teachers that this new way empowers their teaching process, according to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s fourth annual Educator Confidence Report.

So how can 5G rollout help Edtech?

Facilitating learning through new techniques

Allowing students to tap into their imaginative and explorative qualities is an essential step for better learning experiences.

Thus, 5G will broaden the scope of technologies used while teaching students new curricula and learning material; for example, it will allow institutions to open availability for virtual and augmented reality with its low latency and peak download speeds, estimated to be as high as 20 gigabits-per-second.

“Virtual and augmented reality headsets will allow students to place themselves anywhere in the world and even within a story. These digital experiences will enliven current curricula and allow students to energize their imaginative and explorative qualities, which should be central to educational experiences,” Nicol Turner-Lee, Ph.D. and a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation said.

Closing distances with easy accessibility

While 5G offers faster data speeds and enhanced connectivity for many, it may not be accessible to students living in remote or secluded areas. Such a limitation may deepen the digital divide.

However, wireless devices are easier to put in place than traditional wired or fiber-based internet, making it a more practical solution.

Remote learning with 5G is an opportunity to help schools close the homework gap by boosting mobile learning.

“The advent of 5G on mobile devices can help close that gap as students can begin to use faster, more reliable mobile-based connections to complete an assignment, rather than a terrestrial connection,” says Erin Mote, Co-Founder of the Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools and Education Technology expert.

Tech will help special needs students:

Our new educational normal will help students and children with special needs. 5G can help by enabling robots to be responsive with students, offering them good learning experiences, as well as being full-time assistants and supporting teachers by responding instantly to the needs of the student with learning exercises.

However, a big dilemma is presented here: children from high-income families are spending 30 percent more time on distance learning platforms than those from low-income families.

In parallel, 64 percent of secondary pupils in state schools from the wealthiest households are being offered online teaching from schools, compared with 47 percent from poorer families, according to a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

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