As governments in the GCC look to more and more digitisation of services, so they are increasingly working hand-in-hand with telecoms operators, both to meet growing demand for service connectivity, and to tap into wider ICT services and expertise. For the largest telecoms market in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, the country’s first and leading telecom operator, STC, is playing a major role in helping to develop the Kingdom’s knowledge economy, according to Dr Khaled Biyari, group CEO of STC.
Previously operating as part of the Ministry of PTT, STC evolved into a public company structure in 1998, placing the company in a unique position to work with the government on national projects, Biyari said. The company has the largest network reach in the Kingdom, with 4G and 3G geographic coverage standing near the 90% mark and it continues to invest in network infrastructure to push connectivity to all parts of the country. The company also has close, historical relationships with many government entities.
“STC is not just a national operator, STC is a national turn-key solution provider. This means that we not only have the capability to provide top of the line infrastructure to build services on, but also expertise to build on top of that infrastructure for provision of state-of-the art services and solutions. Add to this our relationship and comfort level with all kinds of government organisations, and you have got the ingredients for a successful e-government drive,” Biyari explained.
Alongside network infrastructure, STC has also increased its investment in solutions and services that run on top of the network. With the convergence of telecoms and IT, it has been a natural path to create comprehensive solution offerings for its customers in both the commercial and government sectors.
“From the connectivity aspect, we are almost everywhere; if you look at it from the solutions aspect, we are building a lot of capabilities in that space. The idea there is that we want to be the partner for the government in pushing smartness into their operations,” added Biyari.
STC has worked with most of the government entities in the Kingdom, including many major initiatives with ministries, Biyari said, and this process has intensified over the past twelve months as more government entities look to smart projects and programs. While STC’s role differs from one project to another, Biyari is keen to stress that in every project, the operator works alongside the government entities to help them achieve their strategic objectives.
“Our approach is much more getting into a serious dialogue with the different organisations on what they expect, their objectives, their vision, and we take that and match it with the capabilities that we have, identify synergies, and then work side-by-side with the government organisation. As you would expect, different organisations have different levels of maturity as it relates to their smart initiatives or e-initiatives, and therefore our account manager first understands and contributes to the initiative plan and then works with our internal organisation to produce a solution which will help bridge the gaps.”
The increased focus on providing solutions has led STC to both increase its own capabilities, and also to develop partnerships with other companies to be able to deliver complete solutions in areas such as cloud computing and M2M. The operator is keen not to try and reinvent the wheel by developing technologies itself, Biyari said, but to develop partnerships in areas where it makes sense, while retaining ownership of core areas of operation.