ICT sector set to provide a fillip to Qatar GDP [Gulf Times (Qatar)]
(Gulf Times (Qatar) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Qatar's overall development will fuel the growth of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, which is set to contribute $3bn to the country's GDP by 2015, Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz) has said in a report. The ICT sector contributed about $1.5bn to GDP in 2010. The report pointed out that Qatar leads the Arab world in the Network Readiness Index, which ranks 144 countries on broad criteria to determine the present status of their ICT sector. Qatar advanced five places to 23rd in the rankings as government's effort to expand its offerings of online services and increase the online participation of citizens paid rich dividends. The overall level of penetration and use of ICT in Qatar is high with the country ranked 16th in the world in this category. Mobile broadband subscriptions have jumped from 9.6% in 2010 to 70.3% in 2011. More than 85% of the population falls within the 15 to 64 years age range, which indicates a good percentage of working population with high disposable incomes. Increasing government expenditure in infrastructure and youthful demographics, had led to Qatar emerging a world leader in ICT penetration and usage. Driven by government investment and a thriving hydrocarbon sector, Qatar has kept pace with an increasingly digital world by making rapid strides in ICT. Since the late '40s, when Qatar introduced its first telephone exchange, and up until 2006, when the monopoly in the sector was lifted, Ooredoo (formerly Qatar telecom) was the dominant telecommunication company in the country. Vodafone Qatar became the recipient of the second Public Mobile and Fixed Telecommunications Networks and Services Licence in Qatar and began operations in early 2009. The establishment of an independent regulator, the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology, ictQATAR, in 2004 was a good move in creating a knowledge-based industry that would directly benefit all the stakeholders. Public and private investments in the sector rapidly increased, and Qatar's telecommunication infrastructure expanded and evolved with communication networks, widespread service, a rising network of submarine cables to increase speed and bandwidth, and the launch of a high-capacity communications satellite in 2013. ictQATAR initiated "ConnectQatar" to deploy a core broadband network for facilitating e-Health, e-Education, and e-Enterprise projects, which needed considerable investment in ICT infrastructure, and "Hukoomi", a centralised government portal that aims to pull all government transactions, information, and services onto a single platform. It is expected that in the coming years, the ICT spending in private sector will increase, as the various sectors implement technology to make services easily accessible to consumers and to compete, both at a local and global level. Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are expected to invest in IT to boost sales and improve their market competitiveness. A survey by Ooredoo in 2012 found that 77% of SMEs had plans to increase their ICT spending, with an average increase of 20%, and this investment by SMEs is expected to drive the fast growth of the Qatar ICT sector for the next four years. To meet the increasing demand for faster and more secure networks and with the aim to boost overall ICT access, ictQATAR is working with telecommunication operators to build an advanced FTTH (Fibre-To-The-Home) network that will enable universal access to high-speed broadband. They have also planned to manufacture and launch Qatar's first high-capacity communications satellite and install two international submarine cables that will improve international connectivity, and extend free Wi-Fi access across the country. With the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the horizon and the government's attempt to diversify the economy and increase GDP contribution of non-hydrocarbon sectors, growth in construction, transport and tourism are expected, which in turn will fuel the growth in the ICT sector, the report has added.
(c) 2013 Gulf Times Newspaper Provided by Syndigate.info, an Albawaba.com company
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