Investment in ICT will open up Lebanon’s digital future

By: Paul Feng, CEO Levant Region, Huawei

Digital transformation is a goal of many nations throughout the Middle East, and rightly so – the deployment of cutting-edge solutions and technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing will contribute towards the development of a digital economy and economic empowerment. The information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Lebanon contributed around US$1.1 billion to the country’s GDP in 2018 – around 2.1% of the total GDP – making this a vital sector to focus on in order to accelerate growth, create job opportunities, increase productivity, and improve governance, in line with Lebanon’s Digital Transformation Strategy.

A digital future will redefine Lebanon’s society, business domains and public services, enabling growth and development to all sectors and industries, and building new capacity for accelerating the economy. Promising ICT ecosystem factors already exist in Lebanon, composed of incubators, accelerators, mentorship and training institutions, all of which are pushing the boundaries of technology in the country. Lebanese software engineers are in-demand throughout the region because of their abilities – with many of them speaking English, Arabic, and French – as well as their talent, adaptability, and creativity. With Lebanon ranking fourth globally for the quality of its maths and science education, the country’s ICT professionals are highly educated, well-skilled, and in clear demand.

At Huawei, we have witnessed the high level of Lebanon outstanding talent and promising skills in ICT represented in the Lebanese engineering student’s participated in our global ICT Competition experience in the past few years. The endowed student’s team from Lebanon were among the top 3 winning teams selected following a gruelling months of qualifying rounds that saw participation from 10 countries in the Middle East each year. The talent is also reflected through our local employees who has incessantly show a great deal of aptitude and professional knowledge in their daily work, handling the different aspects of advanced technologies we offer to our customers.        

With this in mind, it is easy to see why the ICT sector’s total direct or indirect impact on Lebanon’s GDP is forecasted to reach US$7 billion by 2025. With investment in building infrastructure and talent, the country can reap greater benefits from the deployment and implementation of the latest technologies, which will enable increased innovation, contribute towards industrial evolution, productivity and efficiency, and transforming digital accessibility throughout the country.

This aligns with the Digital Transformation Strategy. Lebanon’s governmental agencies have access to a strong pool of ICT knowledge, skills and experience. With further refinement, these resources can be leveraged to deliver efficient services to citizens. Not only does digitization improve efficiency and accessibility, it can also have a positive impact on public morale and happiness.

It also opens up the possibilities of deploying AI solutions in meaningful ways that benefit society, beyond contributing towards economic growth. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Huawei provided Rafik Hariri University Hospital with an AI-assisted CT scan solution to help speed up the diagnosis of patients with the novel coronavirus and contribute to their treatment.

To benefit from digital transformation and all that it offers, in addition to infrastructure, investing in building an entire ecosystem, including talent is critical. With an average age of just 31, Lebanon’s population is dominated by young people, which is a definite advantage when it comes to not only propelling digital transformation, but to training a new generation of ICT leaders.

Developing new skillsets for young people is something that should be considered a priority. It contributes to a stronger ICT ecosystem, which will in turn enable a robust, digitally-driven economy – therefore investing in developing young ICT talents is a win-win situation that can only bring more benefits in the future, for everyone in Lebanon.

There are various talent training initiatives and programs across Lebanon, including ICT academies launched in cooperation with renowned and prestigious universities. These academies operate in partnership with local educators and institutions, providing students with the opportunity to gain certification in some of the most relevant areas of ICT today. Courses at such institutions cover a wide range of technical fields, including routing and switching, storage, cloud, WLAN, cloud computing, big data, IoT, and artificial intelligence. To date, thousands of talented individuals have been trained and certified through these academies, providing them with the means to launch a career in the flourishing ICT industry. Even with the impact of COVID-19 and educational institutions closed as a result of the pandemic, students can access online training and certification programs to continue learning.

The annual ICT competitions, which have seen more than 3,000 talented college students in Lebanon participate in the past few years. A talented team from Lebanon won the 2019 Huawei ICT Competition. These competitions aim to increase ICT knowledge, stimulate youths’ interest in learning and innovation capabilities, and improve their self-learning and problem-solving abilities.

With such immense potential amongst a young population, Lebanon is a goldmine of ICT talent. Harnessing this potential by making training and skills development opportunities accessible will ensure that the country has the best possible chance to not only realize its digitization ambitions, but to carry them forward for a brighter connected future for all.

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