What are DIT's key projects for 2014?
Before you can provide any government-to-government (G2G), government-to-citizen (G2C), and government-to-business (G2B) services, you must build the crucial and critical infrastructure. The most important infrastructure components for government are data centers and inter-governmental access networks. So, the two main projects that we are focusing on right now are, first, the KRG's data center, which is currently being commissioned. The designs for the access networks are also ready, and the project is currently being commissioned. We calculate that by March 2015 we will have both the data center and access network ready. The access network will connect all of the governmental entities, including all ministries and departments, to each other and to the data center. The data center will host critical data, critical servers, and will deliver e-services, including G2G, G2C and G2B services and communication. At the same time, we are building an internationally recognized testing center, so that the people of the Kurdistan Region can become certified in different fields, partially focusing on IT. We are also rebuilding our IT academy to facilitate training courses for government employees.

What initiatives is the DIT pursuing regarding IT training and capacity building?
We have divided our initiatives regarding IT training this year into two areas. The first is to identify the perceived needs of the KRG ministries and departments. We have provided the governmental entities with questionnaires, and are in the process of conducting a survey. The second track is to apply what we think is important for the government, including issues that they might not come to on their own—things that they do not know they need until they experience it. In this regard, we provide IT education. We need highly trained IT personnel within ministries, so that the ministries are able to successfully execute their IT projects without coming back to the IT Department. The DIT cannot be responsible for all of the government's IT projects. The ministries, therefore, must build their own capacity. We should be playing the role of coordinator, and drafting the master plans for long-term IT development, policies and regulations in the Region. We will train them based on what they need, as well as what we think is important for them to master. Our training facility is already established, so based on their requirements, our trainers can develop and carry out training courses quickly.

Can you tell us about how you are building the KRG data center?
We are working with experts inside and outside of the country. We are benefiting from the previous experiences of other countries, specifically the UAE. Learning from their mistakes and adapting their successes. We are building the system to be a highly virtualized environment, in which each ministry can own the infrastructure as a service (IaaS), all of which will be hosted in the virtualized environment. This will, in turn, bring huge benefit to the government, because none of the governmental entities has to build their own data centers, which is a very expensive and complex undertaking requiring highly trained staff to run and maintain. In the way that ours is structured, everything is centralized, with one single point of contact and security implementation.

Our Department will identify and develop critical ICT infrastructure in the Region. We also envision ourselves playing a central role in developing an IT framework for the government and foreign companies that enter the Region's IT market.

Do you have any cooperation with other countries to enhance the project?
When we talk about IT, we are talking about a science, which is geographical location and vendor-independent. It is a question of where in the world we find successful implementations. We find a lot of successfully executed IT and ICT projects in Dubai, and that is inspirational. In addition, the cultural and social structure of the UAE is similar to that of Kurdistan in terms of business environment and society. Like UAE, in Kurdistan, we do not have sufficient expertise in the country to accomplish everything ourselves. Smart outsourcing, meaning to be aware of what can be outsourced and what is the core business has benefited the country as a whole. This is inspirational for us. We frequently visit the country for CIO summits, and maintain close relationships with important private sector CIOs and government leaders. Of course, we must take our own characteristics in terms of culture, landscape and geography into account as well.

How is the DIT involved in promoting private investment in the ICT sector?
We believe that private/public partnership in IT and ICT sector is inevitable. No government in the world can be successful in implementing all required IT projects on their own, this simply is a huge undertaking requiring huge resources. Except for some core projects, for the majority of other projects we should be setting policies, master plans, enterprise architecture and frameworks. But private inclusion in our development is an absolute necessity. We very much welcome and encourage private investment in our projects in a variety of forms. Should companies decide to come to Kurdistan, we will offer help and guidance.

Can you offer any success stories of private companies in the Region?
The new KRG employees ID card project, which is a joint venture between the KRG's DIT and AWRO Group is a successful example being carried out as we speak.

When it comes to the telecoms sector, companies such as Cisco, Huawei, Ericsson, and others have been very successful in enabling our local telecoms to be operational. The telecom sector is not a sector where you can rely on your own resources; it is a very international field, where your interaction with the big names is essential. In collaboration with these major companies, many local businesses in the Region have found significant success in the ICT sector. The Kurdistan Region was among the few leading countries in the world to introduce LTE, for instance. This was the result of wise decisions to benefit from the know-how available from experts outside of the Kurdistan Region.

What targets has the DIT set for the short term?
In 3-5 years, we envision that the Department will be one of the most important entities of the government, presiding over and governing the e-government. Our Department will identify and develop critical ICT infrastructure in the Region. We also envision ourselves playing a central role in developing an IT framework for the government and foreign companies that enter the Region's IT market. We will also implement government-wide enterprise architecture and contribute to overall capacity building.