Wang Yi Wen (Left) during the interview

Last week, Uganda hosted the 7th edition of E-Gov Africa 2013 at the Commonwealth Speke Resort Munyonyo, under the theme for this conference is  ‘e-Gov Policies, Practices and Innovation: The Road Ahead for Africa’.

This eventwas organised by the Ministry of ICT and the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), under the auspices of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO).

Among the exhibitors was Chinese equipment manufacturer, ZTE, and PC Tech‘s Albert Mucunguzi caught up with the Corporations Vice CTO for Middle East & Africa Mr. Wang Yi Wen for a brief chat, and here are the excerpts.

ZTE staff present a mobile healthcare unit to Uganda's ICT Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda (2nd Left) and Prime Minister Hon. Amama Mbabazi (3rd Right)
ZTE staff present a mobile healthcare unit to Uganda’s ICT Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda (2nd Left) and Prime Minister Hon. Amama Mbabazi (3rd Right)

What is the situation of ZTE Government and Enterprise network, both on the domestic and international markets?

You know, we [ZTE] started business in 1985, and at in that time we’ve been focusing on the telecommunications industry.

But in 2006, we started to put investment and efforts in Government and Enterprise Business, and after 7 years, ZTE officially announced that the Enterprise Business is one of the three strategies of ZTE. It means we’re focusing on the operators’ business – telecommunications – and also the government’s enterprise business (ICT Convergence technologies) and also terminals. So last year was a very important year for ZTE to develop our strategies.

We have expanded the business into the global market, and we think we’ll maintain a rapid growth of the Government and Enterprise in the coming years.

Are you able to highlight some of your biggest achievements over the last few years?

From the network deployment point of view, we have already conducted widespread deployments in key potential markets – and we have achieved very good performance records from all over the world.

For the future, we’re focusing on six major sectors including government, energy, transportation, some large enterprises, and we have a wide range of applications in these sectors.

From the solutions point of view, we have 30 cross-sector integrated solutions which include 80 sub-solutions. One of our solutions called Public Safety in second to none. We’re ranked as the world’s #1.

In the transportation industry, we’ve built the largest network in China.

What is your strategy in participating in the process of informatization of Africa?

In the past few years, we can see the informatization is developing very fast. We have seen more and more people enjoying the telecoms services from the operators and some governments. But it’s still not enough, as we have also seen growth in the human information consumption rates. I think this market will be very huge for providers like ZTE. We foresee more investment from large Corporations and governments in the coming years.

The concept of ZTE is to make sure our company is the number One ICT provider. We want to assist the governments to build the ICT networks.

We can summarize it in three parts:

  1. Marketing strategy – we’ll commit resources in this African market, cause there’s big potential market both in the past, the present and the future.
  2. Products and Solutions – we will continue to provide both the ICT Technology for the telecom operators and then the government and enterprise customers.
  3. Sales Strategy – before we provided solutions for the director selling mode, but now we coorperate with operators to resell our solutions to our the public sectors. We believe this will enlarge our sales scope.

Qn: Does ZTE have a plan to come up with more solutions for Africa in future?

Definitely, definitely! Because innovation and providing more solutions for Africa is our obligation. And innovation is in our DNA. In ZTE, we devote almost 10% of the annual revenue on R&D. In the past three years, we have invested over USD 300million on Research and Development. Most of our R&D engineers are based at our headquarters in China, but also we have built several branches in US, Sweden, India and so on. In addition to that team, we have the local team almost in every African country.

Those guys are working with the local customers, so we do understand the current situation of the ICT Industry in Africa, and we also understand the requirements – the real needs – the governments and operators want. So our solutions are tailored based on the requirements.

In the coming years, informatization of African countries will have more requirements, and ZTE will use experiences from other countries to shorten the informatization period to shorten the period – to shorten the traditional working period.

Wang Yi Wen (Left) during the interview
Wang Yi Wen (Left) during the interview

Qn: Speaking of the e-Gov Africa Forum 2013, what motivated you to exhibit?

You see, this forum is a way to come together to share experiences discuss with customers and learn new ideas and needs of the customers.

We regard this forum as an opportunity to “make more friends” with our customers – the first time we participated, the forum was hosted in Botswana, so this is the second time.

We have other events that we participate in around Africa, including one that is happening next month in South Africa. It is very important for us to showcase our solutions and to discuss with guys from the industry, and from the various governments.

Qn: ZTE is exhibiting the e-Health and e-Education solutions at this forum. Based on the current state of the infrastructure in Africa, what, in your opinion, is the primary problem that needs to be solved developing the informatization for education and healthcare?

Lack of infrastructure is the biggest problem for e-Health and e-Education. Almost all of ZTEs solutions are based on Cloud Computing technology. This means, even the main processes of the services (run by the terminals) are processed at the data center. In Africa, some countries still lack the National Broadband networks. It is very difficult for such countries to enjoy some of these services.

The other challenge is power supply.

So we have introduced support for non-realtime services, which means some services can be used offline. The other solution we have introduced solar-powered solutions which are ideal for Africa, considering the climate.

Other solutions we have introduced for the developing economies include a medical vehicle, a mobile classroom, and a mobile data center. These are working in Africa already.

But we expect the situation to change greatly in 5 or 10 years.

Qn: What’s your message to the African leaders and some of your customers here ?

Perhaps to the government is to regulate the market – they need to ensure a fair-play environment, as well as making the market competitive.