Shatara: Coronavirus Pandemic Establishes New Foundations for Corporate Social Responsibility by Expanding the Use of Technology and Leading Digital Transformation

Umniah Successfully Adapted its Operations in Response to the New Conditions Imposed by the Pandemic The challenges facing Jordan since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic over two months ago that resulted in a series of preventative measures and arrangements by the government to preserve the health of its citizens and protect the country, spurred Umniah to adapt its operations in view of the exceptional conditions. The leading telecommunications solutions provider continued to provide its high value-added services to its customers while maintaining the safety of its staff as per the directives of the Jordanian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization guidelines. Throughout the mandatory closure period, Umniah adopted a distance working system for all its staff, an arrangement that was maintained after the closures eased for all its female staff, particularly pregnant women, those with unique situations as well as those residing outside of the capital city Amman, while paying all workers their full salaries with no deductions, despite of the pandemic’s economic impact on the sector as a whole and on the company in particular. Distance working proved to be a highly successful experiment for Umniah, with levels of productivity continuing without jeopardizing the safety of the company’s staff. During the pandemic, Umniah heeded the national call to action, and in line with its corporate social responsibility strategy, worked to uphold the pillars of civic duty through its belief in the effectiveness of a true and successful partnership between the private and public sectors. As part of its Umniah Al-Khair umbrella, the company launched a number of initiatives that set new benchmarks for corporate social responsibility in a manner that expanded the use of technology. This CSR digital transformation contributed to facilitating the lives of Jordanians during the government-mandated closures in fields of health, education, and social communication, as well as supporting groups hit hard, such as daily wage workers. Umniah, in cooperation with its strategic partner Naua, which is part of the Crown Prince Foundation, sponsored the “Their Daily Payment is on Us” campaign through its Mahfazti app, which reached 2500 daily workers registered on the Ministry of Social Development’s National Register, allowing them to access money donated by Umniah during Ramadan. Umniah also offered cash contributions amounting to JD160,000, including $50,000 specifically to purchase respirators for the Ministry of Health. The company also ran a successful campaign urging its customers to donate through its app using their Uminicoins. Furthermore, the company distributed 3,000 SIM cards with 20 gigabytes of free internet and 200 local free minutes to students in mandatory quarantine at the Dead Sea in order to help them continue their studies and communicate with their families. In an interview with Jordan News Agency Petra, CEO Ziad Shatara affirmed that Umniah quickly extended its assistance to a number of different sectors and institutions in the spirit of solidarity that is an integral part of the holy month of Ramadan. The company actively sought opportunities in which it could be part of the solution, effectively contributing to making a difference in the lives of Jordanians. Umniah, according to Shatara, adapted both its social and digital platforms in response to the exceptional circumstances that came about as a result of the pandemic. The company fully expanded its network, the capacity of its infrastructure as well as international communication hubs, in addition to increasing the number of towers and expanding coverage to underserved areas in order to accommodate the surge of usage on its network as a result of the mandatory lockdown, which precipitated an increase in the use of social media, distance learning applications, distance working as well as general recreational use. Also during the interview, Shatara explained that Umniah, along with Jordan’s other telecommunications companies, provided free Internet browsing services through their networks to the Ministry of Education’s Darsak free of charge platform. The company doubled the internet capacities of its prepaid and postpaid mobile subscribers free of charge in order to facilitate their work from home. According to Shatara, Tawjihi students were paid extra special attention, with the company working to make internet browsing services available so that students could access practice tests without incurring any additional fees through the Darsak or the Jordanian Universities Network (JUNet) platforms. Shatara went on to say, “These measures are a reflection of our continued commitment towards our country and all its citizens, and particularly our customers, and our pledge to continue to offer them with the best services in view of these exceptional times. One must also recognize the efforts of Jordan’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, as well as those of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), both which provided telecommunications companies with additional frequencies that allowed them to increase the capacity of their networks in order to ensure the continuity of services.” When responding to a question about the Kingdom’s readiness for digital transformation, Shatara stressed that Jordan has made huge steps in this field by virtue of five elements, the first of which is smart systems, with the ratio of citizens obtaining devices connected to Internet reaching 95% of the country’s total population. The second element is Jordan’s communications infrastructure, which is considered excellent by 85% of Jordanians using the internet. The third element in the digital transformation process, according to Shatara, is the creation of an integrated digital educational system, the availability of suitable digital content and the country’s sustainable approach to distance learning, which are essential in order to complete the digital transformation process. The fourth element has to do with applications; during the pandemic, both the public and private sectors worked in perfect harmony to design and launch applications that help citizens complete their transactions from a distance. The fifth element, according to Shatara, is the strengthening of electronic payment instruments, adding that over the years, the Central Bank of Jordan has imparted the ideals of financial inclusion by approving and implementing a number of systems and legislations. He went on to explain that the importance of financial inclusion was clearly apparent during the coronavirus pandemic, with hundreds of thousands of people utilizing electronic wallets, a leading and sustainable payment solution that allows citizens with no bank accounts to transfer money, pay bills and receive payments easily, safely and reliably. He added that during the first four months of 2020, electronic wallet operators witnessed a twofold increase in subscriptions compared to the previous year, and that registrations since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic represent half the registrations on record since electronic wallets were legislated by the Central Bank (JoMoPay) in 2015. By the end of April, there were 760,000 registered users of electronic wallets in Jordan. Shatara believes that the coronavirus pandemic has altered many elements of Jordanian society and its economy, saying, “Jordan after the coronavirus pandemic is very different from before. In order to adapt, it is important to remain dynamic, adjusting to the new set of circumstances in order to remain relevant. Companies have a prominent role to play, but it is not one that relies solely on offering contributions but through their commitment to achieving sustainable development by fighting starvation and poverty, providing health and environmental protection, championing equality, as well as promoting social responsibility initiatives with principles that are compatible with the objectives of national development.”