Kuwait’s homegrown tech transformation Zain _Hamad-Al-Marzouq

We think the upstream sector is where the most opportunities lie due to increased drilling operations and the drive to achieve higher production.

Hamad AL MARZOUQ Chief Enterprise Business Officer ZAIN KUWAIT

Digitising the oil and gas sector

May 17, 2023

Hamad Al Marzouq, chief enterprise business officer of Zain Kuwait, talks to The Energy Year about opportunities for the company related to Kuwait’s digital transformation and the receptiveness of oil and gas companies to this transformation in terms of their operations. Zain is a Kuwaiti digital service provider, serving the nation’s most vital sectors to enable them to undergo digital transformation.

How is Zain grasping opportunities related to Kuwait’s digital transformation?
Second to consumers, B2B has always been Zain’s main revenue stream. For several years now, we’ve been seeing the fruitful results of our long-term investment in transforming into a comprehensive digital service provider. We’ve always been ahead of the curve when it comes to bringing the latest and most advanced technologies to the Kuwaiti market. For ICT [information communications technology] to survive as an industry, telecom companies and other key players within the sector must drive digital transformation within themselves first, then empower other organisations within the market. Zain spearheaded the local and regional markets by relying on its capabilities and experiences to become a main digital partner for all industries in the region’s economy and create economies of scale.
This is especially true in the case of the oil and gas industry. If we want to be relevant, we must double down on technology. That means we need to invest heavily in tech solutions such as 5G, drones, digital applications, managed cloud services and more.
It is important that institutions and companies believe in digitalisation and set up a digitalisation strategy and office within their operations. This is vital for the oil and gas sector as well. All energy sector players need to believe in the necessity of digitally transforming their organisations. It’s not just about buying a product; transformation also means transforming people.
One of our biggest digitalisation projects so far is with the Ministry of Electricity & Water & Renewable Energy, where we executed their Smart Meters project, installing 800,000 smart meters and the entire digital system across Kuwait. We have also worked with the Ministry of Health to develop the Shlonik app during the Covid-19 lockdown period, which was used by 2 million people across the whole nation. These are just a few examples of our numerous collaborations with the public sector.


What are the key digital tools that oil and gas companies can benefit from?
Digital transformation is basically migrating your infrastructure to a more agile one within the cloud, and 5G technology plays a big role in this. There are numerous use cases, and we’ve already tested 5G network-slicing with KNPC, through which we can offer a guaranteed bandwidth using a public network.
When mentioning cloud solutions, we mainly mean connectivity, which we offer along with the cloud tools themselves. For the latter, we have built solid, strategic partnerships with hyper-scalers like Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Oracle. After you move to the cloud, inevitably you need to think about cybersecurity risks. Making sure you can get insights about your data is also very important. Finally, getting use cases is also critical for companies to be able to continuously improve their operations.

How receptive are oil and gas industries to the digital transformation of their operations?
We’re proud of the fact that Zain is the number one digital service provider to the market’s biggest organisations, especially when it comes to connectivity solutions, which also include rig connectivity. However, the oil and gas sector as a whole still sees telecom companies as outsiders. In many ways, they identify oilfield service providers like SLB or Halliburton as their references in terms of companies within the IT systems realm. It is very important for us to be able to contribute to this process in this ecosystem by showing our successful use cases and proving the enormous value we can add to their operations, ultimately gaining their trust and becoming a part of their digital success story.
One way to do that is through our UAV division, Zain Drones. We are the only company in Kuwait invested in this technology and the solutions it can offer to the energy sector. Oil and gas companies themselves will usually not invest in this area, and they need expert service providers who can do this at scale. In 2019, we signed an MoU with Baker Hughes to use drones for pipelines inspection, which is one of our notable success stories in recent years. Another way is through our collaboration with satellite providers to provide Mobility 5G/4G services or backhauling to offshore operations using our licensed frequency spectrums.

What are the main growth opportunities for Zain in the years to come?
We think the oil and gas upstream sector is where the most opportunities lie because of the increased drilling operations and the drive by KPC to achieve higher production. We are also seeing opportunities in the digitalisation processes of manufacturing industries who want to be able to make more relevant decisions faster.
Our priority is to sell a use case of 5G. The Kuwaiti oil and gas sector is a key, lucrative market for us to work in, and we seek to be the main business enabler within Kuwait. We are in a very unique space, and we want to further strengthen our strong position as a regional digital service provider and leader.
Our main goal is to contribute to Kuwait’s Vision 2035. We want to be a part of this vision’s success, and we’re willing to invest to build robust capacity to help achieve its goals.

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