Egypt is one of the regional, and indeed continental, leaders in this department. Since the 1990s it has been at the forefront in regard to governmental action on ICT-based development, creating several institutions and drawing up multiple ICT plans. It has been identified as an ICT ‘pioneer’ by the UN, and has seen strong growth both in terms of take-up by Egyptian consumers, and outsourcing and offshoring activity.
Since 2004, much of the Egyptian government’s ICT action has gone through its Information Technology Industry Development Agency, or ITIDA. As the executive IT wing of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the agency works toward propelling growth in the Egyptian IT industry, with the ultimate aim of making Egypt one of the top global hubs for technology and business services. Its activities include encouraging foreign direct investment in Egyptian IT, encouraging foreign outsourcing in the country, building local IT capacity, and servicing both public and private bodies in order to help the Egyptian IT industry grow.
Ahead of Egypt playing host to the eLearning Africa conference in 2016, and Dr Noha Adly, First Deputy to the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Egypt, featuring as a keynote speaker at this year’s upcoming conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we spoke to ITIDA in order to gain an insight into its achievements, challenges and hopes for the future.
How can ICT act as a catalyst for economic growth?
In Egypt, ICT plays a crucial role in development as it represents 3.9% of current GDP with a target of 8.43% by 2020. Growth performance has been impressive in 2012 (7.6%) and in 2013 (10%) despite challenging economic and political developments. The Egyptian ICT sector has reached a level of maturity and expertise that enables it to compete at a global level and to offer attractive opportunities for both international and domestic investors.
The ICT sector in Egypt has been key to this development. The flagship projects initiated by the government to build smart societies and technology parks resulted in the creation of more than 50,000 jobs. ICT has also contributed to enabling better government services, automating 3,000 government entities and 57 public service projects. Through ICT Egypt, Egypt has worked on empowering people with disabilities; for example, training of 862 people with disabilities in 2015, with a 70 % employment rate.
ICT is the cornerstone of development and growth in emerging economies. Egypt is set to become the region’s leading technology-based economy and a regional ICT hub for global enterprises looking to establish their operations and export value added services.
It is now just over 10 years since ITIDA was founded to spearhead the process of developing the Egyptian IT industry: What have been some of your stand-out successes?
ICT has changed the world map economically, socially and even politically. This impact on people’s lives has always created huge opportunities for development. This is exactly what ITIDA does; cooperating with multiple stakeholders, developing the ICT industry, enhancing exports, as well as increasing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow and thus creating more jobs and investment opportunities. Our work seeks to make impact in 5 key areas:
Impacting capacity: ITIDA believes that capacity building is the backbone of its overall strategy and the guarantor of sustainable development of the ICT sector in Egypt. ITIDA has a number of programmes that have been designed and devised with a focus on developing the skills of the ICT workforce for individuals and companies. These programmes focus on providing the needed skillsets, either technical or managerial, for undergraduates, entry level employees, middle managers and chief executives.
Impacting investments and exports: Attracting FDI and increasing export revenues are main activities of ITIDA. Most of the programmes, initiatives and incentives are directed towards achieving the optimum goals of these activities. Building the capacities of local companies, equipping the abundant talent pool with needed skillsets, availing infrastructure and competitive cost schemes to sustain the growth of businesses, and unequivocal government support are all bundled to enable the right and proper environment for attracting foreign direct investments and increasing IT exports.
Impacting market outreach: ‘Egypt On’ is the name of the campaign launched by ITIDA to highlight Egypt’s business outsourcing potential and increase awareness among key outsourcing decision-makers about its competitiveness. ‘Egypt On’ seeks to drive the growth of Egyptian outsourcing revenues by creating a favourable preference among decision-makers, as well as identifying Egypt as a preferred destination for offshore/near-shore outsourcing of IT/ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services). The campaign communicates Egypt’s competitiveness as an IT/ITES service provider and communicates ITIDA as one stop-shop entity for all international parties interested in IT/ITES investments and/or offshoring to Egypt.
Impacting infrastructure development: Egypt has invested in developing world-class infrastructure facilities, including dedicated BPO/ITO parks; the Smart Village and Cairo Technology Park in Maadi, which are already up and running with a capacity of 135,000 employees. With plans to build business technology zones nationwide, Egypt is gearing up to be a multicentre offshore location to make the most of the country BPO capabilities.
Impacting SMEs, entrepreneurship and innovation: Egypt has been an ICT innovation hub since the 1960s and is a regional powerhouse of ICT innovation. Today, ITIDA works through a number of programmes aiming at creating the appropriate innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem that is needed for sustained economic growth and job creation.
What are the main obstacles to Africa becoming a global destination for IT investment? How have you sought to bring this investment to Egypt?
Economic growth and foreign investment are increasing across the African continent. As one of the fastest growing global outsourcing and off-shoring markets, Africa has displayed growth of 5-6% on average, which reaches 8-10% in some cases. However, there are some risks and challenges for investment in Africa, such as political instability, investment protection and intellectual property law, corruption, availability of talent and quality of education.
Egyptian ICT companies also embrace a solution-oriented approach to their engagements, enabling them to cater directly to the particular needs of their clients. This has resulted in the development of industry-specific and software-centric capabilities in the country’s ICT industry. Improved ICT knowhow across Egypt, together with the wide availability of relevant skill sets in the country, presents tremendous opportunities for African ICT solution providers and decision-makers. It allows them to draw on the capabilities of Egyptian companies and bridge the skills and solutions gaps that exist in their own markets.
What does the next decade have in store for ITIDA?
ITIDA’s ambition is to build and champion a world-class IT industry that will play an increasingly important role in Egypt’s economic growth. Our work is characterised by long-term commitment and substantial ongoing investment to ensure fundamental sustainable improvements. Our strategy covers six strategic focus areas to help Egyptian IT industry achieve its aspirations:
- Local and international demand generation: using creative initiatives, programmes, business models, policy advocacy, promotion of ICT awareness and lobbying for ICT sector in order to increase public and private sector demand for ICT.
- Industry capacity building by increasing the competitiveness of local IT companies (including SME’s), through both direct and indirect (i.e. through NGO’s) programmes.
- Attracting foreign direct investment, expanding FDI presence and commitment in Egypt, as well as attacking new investors through competitive offerings, target marketing and aggressive branding.
- Supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, acting as a catalyst to promote an ecosystem conducive to the growth and proliferation of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Egyptian ICT industry.
- Promoting human capital development, maintaining a forward looking view of the global, regional and local market demands for ICT talent/skills and working with concerned stakeholders such as education, training bodies and recruiting organisations to design and deploy training programmes to supply the workforce needed by the market.
- Supporting the development of the market for esignature applications and the ecosystems around it; ensuring the necessary infrastructure is in place to support it.