7 February 2021
ICT Minister Delivers Talk at Parliament Plenary Session


The Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amr Talaat has delivered a talk at the House of Representative’s plenary session, chaired by Speaker Hanafy El-Gebaly.

In his speech, Talaat highlighted MCIT most prominent achievements within the government plan during the period from July 2018 to December 2020. He also underlined MCIT plan in light of its strategy to build Digital Egypt, which is implemented according to three pillars: digital transformation, capacity building and nurturing innovation, and based on three planks: efficient infrastructure, international leadership and legislative and governance fence.

At the beginning of his talk, Talaat congratulated the Speaker, Deputy Speakers, Chairs of specialized committees and Representatives of the House, on earning the confidence of the great Egyptian people to represent them in this distinguished house. Talaat also congratulated El-Gebaly on his election as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, stressing that it has written, throughout a well-established parliamentary life, glorious pages of history in the march of democracy, being a platform where nation’s interest prevails and people’s will is reflected.

Talaat also expressed his aspiration for a fruitful cooperation and productive discussions to build on the achievements that have been made and to continue to work towards shaping a bright future for the desired prosperity and development.

Main Sector Highlights 

Main Economic Indicators 2018-2020

The ICT Minister underlined the success of the ICT sector in maintaining its position as the highest growing sector, achieving a growth rate of 16% in the current fiscal year. Talaat highlighted the ICT sector’s progress by presenting its most significant economic indicators through the last three fiscal years.

The ICT sector’s GDP has increased from 80.1 billion Egyptian pounds in 2017/2018 to 93.5 billion Egyptian pounds in 2018/2019, then to 107.7 billion Egyptian pounds in the past fiscal year. The ICT sector’s contribution to Egypt’s GDP has increased from 3.2% to 4.4%, and the digital exports have increased from 3.2 billion US dollars to 3.6 billion US dollars to reach 4.1 billion US dollars. The number of employees of ICT sector has increased from 233,000 to 265,000 employees, bringing the total number to 281,000 employees. Egypt’s global place has moved up from the 92nd to the 84th place on the Network Readiness Index in the current year.   

Talaat pointed out that 50 databases have been added to the information infrastructure in cooperation with the Administrative Control Authority, bringing the number of databases to 75. He also pointed out MCIT cooperation with all sectors of the state to achieve digital transformation through two axes: services provided to citizens and improvement of government performance. A project is being implemented at a cost of three billion Egyptian pounds to digitize government services and make them available through four channels: Digital Egypt Platform that has been piloted and has more than a million subscribed citizens, Post Offices, Government Service Centers and Call Center (15999).

Digital Transformation

- Digital Services

Talaat pointed out that 45 government services of the first phase have been launched on Digital Egypt Platform among the service packages of traffic, supply, notary, real estate, court, commercial registry and real estate tax in cooperation with the service-providing entities. The second phase is to include the launch of 21 services among the packages of court, social housing and civil status services as well as the addition of new supply, notary, driving and car license services. Talaat pointed out that different payment methods have been made available to electronically pay for the services, including e-payment companies, mobile wallets and credit cards.

- Digital Services with Ministry of Agriculture

Talaat reviewed the most prominent service projects implemented by MCIT in cooperation with the state’s authorities and institutions to achieve digital transformation, including the cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture to develop agricultural tenure system and to issue farmer’s smart card at a cost of 370 million Egyptian pounds. The project has achieved its goals in 12 governorates with a million tenure holders and is being completed in all governorates in the first half of the current year targeting five million tenure holders.

- Digital Services with Ministry of Health

Another project is being implemented to automate the comprehensive health insurance system in cooperation with the ministries of Health and Military Production at a total cost of a billion Egyptian pounds by launching the project in Port Said and Luxor and working currently on launching it in Ismailia, Suez, Aswan, South Sinai and the remainder of governorates. In addition, 150 remote diagnostic units within the digital transformation project on telemedicine have been established to link health units in villages with hospitals across Egypt in cooperation with the ministers of Higher Education and Health.

- Digital Services with Ministry of Higher Education

MCIT also cooperates with the Ministry of Higher Education to apply the e-exam system at a cost of a billion Egyptian pounds and to automate university hospitals at a cost of two billion Egyptian pounds. The project’s first phase is being implemented in 73 hospitals of 11 universities.

- Other Digital Services Projects

The projects also included the issuance of 1.5 million payment cards for non-regular employment and their delivery through post offices. Platforms for digital services have been launched, including the platform of NTRA to provide services to importers and the e-platform to report and search for missing persons in cooperation with the ministries of Interior and Social Solidarity.

Government Performance

In the framework of improving the government performance, Talaat pointed out that MCIT implements the government transfer project to the New Administrative City. This aims to achieve a quantum leap in government performance to become a digital, participatory and paperless government by digitizing work cycles and developing its methods using specialized and participatory applications that can be used in governmental processes and by digitizing a billion government documents.

Talaat also pointed out that the law enforcement system project has been implemented in 77 prosecution offices, in 200 police offices and points and in elementary courts in seven governorates. This project aims to automate the whole system, from the issuance of the ruling to its enforcement procedures to allow remote follow-up of cases and rapid law enforcement to achieve impartial justice.

Another project “Digital Egypt Justice” is being implemented at a total cost of five billion Egyptian pounds. Another digital transformation project is being implemented in prisons at a total cost of 400 million Egyptian pounds. This is in addition to the cooperation with the Ministry of Justice to provide automated registration services, by which 361 registration offices were automated and their services were provided through 91 post offices.

A mobile application was also developed to enable citizens to know the location of the nearest post office and reserve an appointment to avoid crowds. Talaat also pointed out that cooperation with all sectors of the state is being carried out to implement the digital transformation project in the state property management system to create a database for state properties at a cost of 30 million Egyptian pounds and the real estate national ID project. This is in addition to implementing the real estate license system to achieve good governance of real estate wealth by creating an accurate, integrated geodatabase together with state’s information infrastructure project.

Human Development

Talaat stressed that the number of trainees has been multiplied from 4,000 trainees in the fiscal year 2018/2019 at a cost of 50 million Egyptian pounds to 13,000 trainees in 2019/2020 in the training programs MCIT and its affiliates offer in the different technology fields. A training plan is being implemented to train more than 115,000 trainees in the current fiscal year at a cost of 400 million Egyptian pounds through a bottom-up approach. The training plan is implemented in cooperation with major technology companies and global universities to create technology calibers in all fields at various levels and integrate traditional and remote digital learning models.

This contributes to the qualification of young people to get eminent job opportunities and promote their competitiveness in regional and international markets.

- Human Development Initiatives

Talaat pointed out that the bottom-up approach starts with basic training programs in digital literacy and basic computer skills, which are provided through youth centers that were developed, connected to fiber-optic cables and equipped with computer halls to transform them into integrated community centers.

Subsequently, intermediate technology training programs are provided through WE Joint School for Applied ICT in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. This is the first smart school specialized in ICT that aims to prepare a generation of vocational employment capable of competing in the labor market. Currently, five additional schools are being developed across Egypt as well as 23 wireless communications training institutes in 12 governorates under the supervision of NTRA.

Talaat added that the capacity-building plan includes advanced technology training programs that target different groups as well as Future Work is Digital (FWD) initiative to train 100,000 young people in majors that are highly requested in the free labor market, including data science, digital marketing and platform development. This also includes the training in freelance job skills to maximize job opportunities. The plan also includes a specialized training program in cooperation with the Faculty of Computer Science and Advanced Technologies in France to train 1,000 specialists and trainers in artificial intelligence sciences to enable them to train thousands of trainees to get a diploma in this field. This is in addition to the training programs provided by the digital platform ‘Mahara-Tech’ in several technology majors in Arabic through 10 tracks.

Wazeefa-Tech initiative is also implemented, offering a combination of training and employment. The plan also includes technical training programs dedicated to recruits during the military recruitment period and professional training programs for the graduates of ITI and NTI. The different training programs are provided through specialized academies, sponsored by global companies and through training camps for junior programmers and university students.

The ICT Minister said that in an effort to make available specialized university education in modern technologies, Egypt University of Informatics (EUI) is being established at the Knowledge City in the New Administrative Capital, as the first specialized information university in Africa and the Middle East. EUI aims to provide world-class education in partnership with the world’s top ICT universities. In this regard, an agreement was signed with the University of Purdue, West Lafayette, which is one of the top 10 computer engineering universities in the U.S. The first phase of EUI is to be ready in September, established at a total cost of EGP 500 million.

Talaat added that the top of the training pyramid is represented in granting a professional master’s degree for 1,000 students each year through DEBI, which is implemented at a total cost of EGP 500 million. Students of the initiative will receive a master’s degree from a top international university in one of the following technology specializations: data science and Artificial Intelligence (AI); robotics and automation; cyber security; and digital arts. This is in addition to a training certificate from leading technology companies, a certificate in leadership and management skills, and one in the English language, from major specialized companies.

Moreover, the ICT Minister said that in an effort towards governing the training system and integrating its elements, MCIT is creating a skill bank that will serve as a database of all the skills and experiences acquired by young people through specialized training in one of MCIT programs. The skill bank will help employers reach and hire the perfect candidates.

Digital Innovation

- AI and Egypt Ranking

Talat also presented MCIT most remarkable efforts for fostering digital innovation, including introducing AI to the digital system. In 2020, Egypt moved to the 56th place, after the 111th, in 2019, in the Government AI Readiness Index.

The ICT Minister showcased Egypt’s most prominent achievements in the AI field. This included developing the National AI Strategy, in collaboration between MCIT and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research; and forming the National Council for AI, which adopted the Strategy.

- Applied Innovation Center

MCIT also established the Applied Innovation Center (AIC), which collaborates with research and academic institutions and international companies to develop AI solutions to support all sectors. AIC is currently implementing projects in health, agriculture, urban planning, macroeconomics, language processing, and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) accuracy improvement.

- Creativa Innovation Hubs

Talat presented the plan of establishing Creativa Innovation Hubs in different governorates to provide technical training in ICT for young people and implement programs to foster technological innovation to encourage university students and entrepreneurs to start their entrepreneurial projects in ICT.

The first phase of Creativa Innovation Hubs project included running five pilot Hubs in Mansoura, Menoufia, Minya, Sohag and Qena Universities, at a total cost of EGP 300 million. The second phase included establishing five Hubs in Ismailia, Aswan, Cairo, Giza and the New Administrative Capital. Work is also under way to plan the third phase of the project to include more governorates, such as Qalyubia, as part of the protocol of cooperation with Benha University, aiming to carry out programs at the Hubs for 25,000 young people, this year.

Enabling PWDs

Furthermore, MCIT established the National Relay Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the first of its kind in Africa and the Middle East, said the ICT Minister. The Center aims to help people with hearing and speech impairments contact emergency services, through Wasel mobile application. The service of answering the inquiries of the deaf and hard of hearing on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) was made available also through Wasel.

Startups

Talat stated that Our Digital Opportunity initiative was launched to support the development of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and freelancers. The initiative assigns 10% of Digital Egypt projects implementation to such companies through its platform. The number of 16 projects, with a total value of EGP 44 million, was assigned to SMEs, with the second batch of projects to be available soon.

Ranking on the Startups Front

The ICT Minister added that Egypt’s position in the startup scene saw a significant progress, as Egypt was named the country with the largest number of startup investment deals and the second largest investment volume, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. In addition, the revenues of Technology Parks in 2020 were 500% higher than 2017, and the number of direct jobs in Parks was 350% higher than 2018.

Knowledge City

The first phase of the Knowledge City, in the New Administrative Capital, is to be opened this year, with a total cost of over EGP two billion. The phase will include four buildings: Egypt University of Informatics (EUI), Creative Innovation Hub, AIC, and the Egyptian Center of Assistive Technology (ECAT).

Information Infrastructure

- Egypt Post

In an effort to provide an efficient infrastructure, Talat said that post offices were transformed to provide a range of basic services to citizens, including government, financial inclusion and postal services. In 2019 and 2020, the number of 1,600 post offices was developed at a total cost of EGP six billion, with 1,500 more to be developed in 2021.

Another project was carried out, where 350 post ATMs were installed in 2019, and 350 more in 2020. In 2021, 1,000 ATMs are to be installed at a total cost of up to EGP one billion. Talaat added that post offices now serve as an outlet of financial inclusion services, connecting clients with service providers. Post offices offer a range of services, including consumer microfinance, microfinance, and microinsurance services, where citizens submit applications, register their data, receive funding and pay premiums.

Egypt post is also currently looking into launching a digital mobile wallet that will help customers get microloans, pay bills, pay for purchases, and transfer money.

Moreover, that ICT Minister said that new postal services centers were developed, where 30 post kiosks were installed in 2020, and 70 more to be installed in 2021, at a total cost of EGP 120 million. This in addition to equipping 50 mobile post offices with employees and ATMs, in 2021, bringing the total number of mobile post offices to 85, with a total cost of EGP 140 million.

Within the aim to preserve the state's assets and heritage buildings, Talaat said that the Postal Museum, in Attaba, was developed capitalizing on state-of-the-art technologies, such as AI and Augmented Reality (AR). In addition, the Museum area was expanded from 530 to 7,000 m2, and the number of halls increased from two to 15. The Museum’s collection also grew to include 3,000 items, after only 1,250.

- Internet Speed

Talat highlighted that in 2019, a plan for boosting Internet speed was implemented at a total cost of EGP 30 billion. This year’s total budget of the plan amounts to about EGP 5.5 billion. This helped improve Egypt's ranking in terms of Internet speed in Africa from the 40th, with an average speed of 6.5 Mbps, in January 2019, to the 4th, with an average speed of 34.9 Mbps, in December 2020. Moreover, Telecom Egypt was named provider of the fastest fixed broadband in North Africa, he added.

Talaat added that 11,000 government buildings were successfully connected within the fiber optic network, in an EGP six billion plan for connecting all 32,500 government buildings, nationwide, within such network in 24 months. The Egyptian building code was also updated in cooperation with the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities, to include fiber optic cables among construction requirements. The code is to come into force as of April to meet the citizens’ needs of high-speed Internet and transformation into a digital society.

In addition, 2,563 secondary schools nationwide were connected with the fiber optic network, at a total cost of EGP one billion, providing high-speed Internet to schools and ensuring sustainability of the service, enabling tablet-based exams to General Secondary Education Certificate students.

- Communication Services

The ICT Minister referred to the projects carried out to cover main roads and some areas in governorates with mobile networks, at a total cost of EGP one billion. He also presented the efforts exerted to improve the quality of mobile services. Efforts included forming committees responsible for speeding up the process of issuing cell tower license for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), and obtaining approvals from the New Urban Communities Authority on 224 cell towers. Coordination with local authorities is under way to install 250 more towers.

Furthermore, MNOs were granted new frequencies through allocating 80 MHz frequency spectra in the 2600 MHz band, at a total cost of USD 1.170 billion. This is in addition to establishing the National Center for ICT Services Quality Control and Monitoring, at a total cost of EGP 50 million. The Center monitors service quality to help improve it and increase service efficiency, and issues quality reports, helping citizens choose the strongest mobile network in the areas where they live or work.

In an effort to achieve governance and ensure that citizens receive the best service, the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service that enables mobile phone subscribers to retain their phone numbers when changing from one mobile network to another, was launched, as well. The service facilitates the transfer process and reduces the time needed to switch between mobile networks, to 24 hours, tops. The number of successful transfers increased from 5,000, in 2019, to 110,000, in 2020.

In addition, spam text messages that citizens used to receive, such as pesticide companies advertisements, were eliminated, and the #155* service was launched, enabling citizens to inquire about or cancel subscription to the entertainment services provided by MNOs for daily or monthly subscription, such as promotional contests and news SMS alerts.

Talat showcased MCIT plan for boosting the information infrastructure in the villages of Decent Life (Hayah Karima) initiative. The first phase of the plan will be implemented this year in 51 areas, through connecting the villages with fiber optic cables to boost Internet for one million homes, at a cost of about EGP 5.6 billion. The plan also includes developing and equipping 878 post offices with ATMs, at a cost of about EGP 2.1 billion, and improving the quality of telecommunication services through providing the villages with 1,000 cell towers, at a cost of about EGP five billion.

International Leadership

With the aim to strengthen Egypt's international leadership, as one of the pillars of MCIT strategy, Egypt hosted the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), which is one of the major international events organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Egypt also chaired the African Union’s (AU) Specialized Technical Committee on Communication and ICT (STC-CICT) and the Arab Telecommunications and Information Council of Ministers (ATICM), and was elected chair of ATICM Executive Bureau for 2021-2022.

Moreover, the New Administrative Capital was named the 2021 Arab Digital Capital. A branch of the UN Technology Innovation Lab (UNTIL) was established in Egypt, as well, becoming the first of its kind in Africa, and one of the only four UNTILs in the world.

Legislative Framework

On the legislative framework front, the Personal Data Protection Law and the executive regulations of the Anti-Cybercrime Law were passed last year, said the ICT Minister. He added that he looks forward for cooperation with the Parliament to discuss passing an electronic transactions law and the executive regulations of the Personal Data Protection Law.

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