Posted on March 07, 2017

A series of packed audiences filled the conference theatre at Qitcom 2017 to learn about the latest innovations in digital technologies from over a dozen world-leading experts.

The conference was opened by HE Mr Jassim Al-Sulaiti, Minister for Transport and Communications, who spoke of the government’s investment in innovation and e-government, with over 1600 e-services currently available to citizens and residents. The Ministry of Transport and Communication is leading the government’s drive to increase efficiency and create private sector opportunity through the Smart Qatar Program. Also known as ‘Tasmu’, the program was officially announced on Monday by HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani.

The themes of mobility and connectedness emerged from four panel sessions, which featured high level Qatari speakers. Assistant Undersecretaries from the Ministry of Transport and Communication Mr. Rashid Al Nabit and Mr. Hassan Al Sayed were joined by senior executives from Lusail Real Estate Development Company, Qatar Ports Management Company, and Qatar Development Bank. The theme of connectedness was introduced by HE ElmirVelizadeh, Minister of Communications and High Technology for Azerbaijan, who presented his country’s strategic plan to become a leading media hub as part of an Asia connected by ‘one belt, one road. Mr. Velizadeh invited Qatari investors to take advantage of the opportunities in Azerbaijan.

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Dr Allan James, VP for Worldwide Business Development at Hyperloop One, gave the first keynote speech on the future of mobility. The audience was awed by the implications of Hyperloop travel, which is able to transport people 3km in the same time it takes Olympic champion Usain Bolt to cover 100m. He went on to explain that Hyperloop will create ‘transformation economics’, enabling the developing world to skip public transformation infrastructure as we know it today. This could result in the creation super regions like ‘Stocksinki’ and ‘Talksinki’, where cities are able to optimise and share services and social infrastructure.

Lived experiences and human wellbeing was also a key theme for speakers. Waleed Al Sayed, CEO of Ooredoo Qatar, talked about Human and Social Development enabled by technology, and was followed by Dr. Aisha bin Bashr, Director General of Smart Dubai, who spoke of the importance of prioritizing happiness and creating a ‘happiness’ agenda. Antoni Vives, former Mayor of the city of Barcelona, urged those involved in urban development to adopt a ‘first city, then technology’ approach.

The transport and logistics panel saw a lively discussion on challenges and opportunities for Qatar and other regional countries. Dr. Ulrich Koegler, Partner at PwC, pointed out that productivity is increasing, and this can be capitalised on by government through the introduction of standards, forward looking and adaptive regulation, and the incentivizing of experiments. Silvester Prakasm of the Land Transport Authority of Singapore reminded the audience that sometimes the biggest barrier to technology is human acceptance and hard work is required to win trust.

Speakers on the panel tackling digital clusters agreed on the importance of an existing community with a clear specialty and insights. Mr. Steve Fifita, Executive Director at City Digital UILabs USA stressed the need for government funding and frameworks. Cross sector collaboration and public-private-start up engagement to deliver on both Digital Clusters and Smart Cities was a point strongly made by both Ms. Maria Benjumea, Founder and CEO of Spain StartUp, and Mr. Bas Boorsma, Director of the Internet of Things & City Digization North Europe for Cisco.

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Panel sessions also covered the importance of cybersecurity, data privacy, regulation, and interoperability. Panel sessions were expertly moderated by Mark Spelman, Co-Head of the Initiative on Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and Society at the World Economic Forum, and Simon Giles, Accenture Managing Director, Global Cities Lead. The conference continues tomorrow with six sessions running between 09:30 and 17:00, covering Qatar Smart Nation, cybersecurity, strategies for healthier societies, emerging challenges of environmental sustainability and sports mega events.

The second keynote speech will be given by Carlo Ratti, Professor at MIT, at 10:00 on the subject of disruptive technologies transforming cities.