Ooredoo Algérie: powering Algeria’s digital transformation

Timos Tsokanis, CTO at Ooredoo Algérie, discusses the company’s role in enabling a societal digital transformation — and its response to COVID-19

Ooredoo Algérie is a leader of digital transformation in Algeria, as its CTO Timos Tsokanis explains: “We contribute to the economic development of the country through an ambitious growth strategy. Customer satisfaction is at the heart of our interactions, and we’re a responsible, caring company both for our employees and society at large. Algeria is the largest country in Africa with a surface area of over 2.3 million square kilometres. It has a young population and a strong demand for internet access supported by very rapid penetration of smartphones. Therefore, national mobile coverage requires massive investment to be able to offer quality voice and data services to more customers across the country.”

Ooredoo is intimately involved with Algeria’s own national digital transformation, having made significant investments in the development and modernisation of its network in the country. “We have invested, in total, hundreds of billions of dinars, since we started in 2004,” says Tsokanis. “We continue to invest tens of billions of dinars in every investment cycle that we go through. We're expanding, we're modernising our network with the focus, of course, being on newer and more efficient technologies such as 4G. I believe that the sheer volume of investment proves beyond any doubt our solid commitment to this country.”

The opportunities for partnerships and digital ecosystems creation in Algeria are extensive. “Belonging to the most dynamic telecoms group in the EMEA region, Ooredoo Algérie taps into the know-how and ecosystem jointly developed by our Alliance,” Tsokanis explains. “We have strategic alliances with global digital players, global and local content creators, distributors, social media platforms, merchants, payment channels and banks. By nature, we are in the pole position for seeding such ecosystems.” The critical role it plays as a telecommunications provider allows Ooredoo to unite customers with services across Algeria. “We're already an aggregator for the two major payment channels of the country. We collect and distribute content, and in general we are at the heart of digital services, bringing together the service provider with the end customer.”

That level of integration is to the benefit of the Algerian economy at large. “One of our objectives is to contribute to the burgeoning Algerian digital ecosystem. This, in turn, will contribute to the diversification of the national economy. We're ready to work with our stakeholders to support Algeria in its digital transformation for several years.” Ooredoo has duly initiated a number of initiatives to support the country’s digital ecosystem. “We have adopted strategies such as I-start, T-start and Oobarmijoo. These programmes aim to help create a knowledge-based economy derived from local competence and talent, as well as content creation. Since 2013, Ooredoo has supported more than 20 startups in our own incubator — a large part of which are initiated by young students.”

The character of Ooredoo’s transformation incorporates both external and internal developments. The former has seen introductions such as a touchless customer acquisition and sales process, as well as a new generation of plans which allows customers to control spending using an app. Internally, Ooredoo has been just as busy. “We have digitised the interaction between employees and the company through a new HR application. We have also introduced new tools to improve network planning and make sure we optimise our every investment and measure our cost for every unit of revenue.”

Tsokanis is clear, however, that before automation, it’s important to first simplify. “Otherwise one can spend tons of money and achieve nothing,” he says. “You overcome obstacles and reluctance to change by communication. First decide where you want to end up and by when. Then you design how to get there with more steps and quick wins at every step of the process. Keep customers and employees informed and motivated, admit mistakes, do not be afraid to undo things that didn't work and experiment continuously. Every mistake is a great lesson learned for how to do better on the next step.”

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Quotables

There’s a saying I like that goes: ‘trends are our friends’.

Timos Tsokanis | CTO, Ooredoo Algérie

One of the technologies crucial to enabling the transformation was the proper use of data. “There’s a saying I like that goes: ‘trends are our friends’,” says Tsokanis. “There’s an incredible amount of trends and information in the huge quantities of data that are daily processed by a telecom operator. In accordance with Algerian law, we use that data to analyse the behaviours and needs of our customers, improve their experience, enhance our business offerings and direct our investments. No decisions are taken in the company without being supported by the proper analysis. It is the only way to make sure we make the most impactful changes as efficiently as possible.”

Analysing the quantity of data produced increasingly requires the deployment of emerging technologies such as AI. With the exponential increase in available data, AI solutions are overtaking more bespoke models. “It is with these new technologies that the vast amounts of data in our networks and systems can be assessed, combined and used to reveal trends and opportunities that are invisible to the naked eye. We're currently working on a number of initiatives in collecting, processing and understanding data to improve the customer experience and maximise every dinar we invest in Algeria.”

Like all other companies, Ooredoo has had to weather the storm caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, playing a crucial role in Algeria’s response. “We helped Algeria deal with COVID-19 through a wide network for teleworking and also facilitating remote education in cooperation with the authorities and the ministries,” says Tsokanis. “We were already working on digitising customer experience through contactless sales processes and digital offers, so we're very well positioned for the New Normal. Our ambition is not to just facilitate the new way of doing things, but also excite our customers in the process.” That ambition leads Tsokanis to tie Ooredoo Algérie’s future with that of the country itself. “It’s going to be bright and exciting, just like the future of this country and its people — some of the most young, energetic, resourceful and smart people I have ever met in my career.”

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