Cover Story

Dubai’s In­no­va­tive Com­mu­ni­ca­tions In­dus­try



Dubai, is well on its way to bring to­gether all e-gov­ern­ment fa­cil­i­ties un­der one ban­ner through smart con­nected de­vices backed by a new data law en­abling gov­ern­ment de­part­ments to trans­fer in­for­ma­tion to pri­vate en­ti­ties and the pub­lic sec­tor.

This will spur a wave of in­no­va­tions and give rise to a new breed of en­trepreneurs who al­ready are making full use of the avail­able ser­vices. Case in point are the sta­tis­tics is­sued by gov­ern­ment show­ing a 117 per­cent rise in mpay app use over the last nine months com­pared to last year val­ued at $62.8 mil­lion. That num­ber is dra­mat­i­cally com­pounded when con­sid­er­ing the to­tal e-commerce sales in the MENA re­gion ex­pected to reach $51.4 bil­lion by 2017 ac­cord­ing to a re­port cour­tesy of iq by In­tel, a com­pany that ex­plores the role tech­nol­ogy plays in our daily lives.

Rea­son be­hind the rise of mo­bile pay­ments is due to the evo­lu­tion of se­cure pay­ment gate­ways backed by

third party providers, paving the way for SMES and var­i­ous other busi­nesses to ex­pand be­yond their phys­i­cal con­fines. Yet de­spite the fact that e-commerce in the UAE still has some way to go, the Emi­rate is al­ready the MENA leader in B2C e-commerce growth. Backed by ex­ceed­ingly high mo­bile and smart­phone pen­e­tra­tion, In­ter­net ac­cess and elec­tronic card pay­ment sys­tems, e-re­tail sales are ex­pected to triple be­tween 2014 and 2019.

Tak­ing note are se­nior de­ci­sion­mak­ers in the coun­try’s pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors 62 per­cent of whom have seen the pace of tech­nol­ogy adop­tion in their or­gan­i­sa­tion in­crease over the past two years. Aware­ness of the ad­van­tages such a sys­tem of­fers has driven al­most half th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions to ac­tively in­vest in dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies with al­most 90 per­cent con­vinced that a per­son­alised cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence fits within their top three busi­ness pri­or­i­ties with half al­ready see­ing pos­i­tive re­turns on their in­vest­ments in tech­nolo­gies that en­able this per­son­al­i­sa­tion.

A re­port by Ac­cen­ture, a global dig­i­tal con­sul­tancy, ex­plains that new tech­nol­ogy trends will re-shape mar­kets by cre­at­ing new dig­i­tal ‘ecosys­tems’, for which lead­ing busi­nesses and gov­ern­ments in the Mid­dle East are de­vel­op­ing new strate­gies and projects to cap­i­talise on. The five trends iden­ti­fied in the re­port in­clude the per­son­al­i­sa­tion of what is called, In­ter­net of Me; a shift in fo­cus from sell­ing things to sell­ing re­sults in an Out­come Econ­omy based on dig­i­tal plat­forms that help build next-gen­er­a­tion prod­ucts and ser­vices in the Plat­form (R)evo­lu­tion. With smart soft­ware em­bed­ded across the en­ter­prises of the fu­ture, th­ese will cre­ate the In­tel­li­gent En­ter­prise pow­ered by clever ma­chines and de­vices work­ing along­side employees as the en­tire Work­force is Re-imag­ined.


Global CIOS are urg­ing Mid­dle East en­ter­prises to re­cruit higher level strate­gists to drive dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion for­ward. As the In­ter­net of Things era ad­vances in the Mid­dle East, Frost & Sul­li­van, a growth part­ner­ship com­pany predicts there will be 50 bil­lion glob­ally con­nected de­vices by 2020, spawn­ing new ser­vices, data streams, and con­trol over cus­tomer and sup­plier prod­ucts. “Over the next five years, busi­ness lead­ers in board­rooms across the re­gion will face a tough chal­lenge in the dig­i­tal econ­omy, re­quir­ing them to dis­rupt them­selves or lag be­hind. They need to sim­plify oper­a­tions through real-time anal­y­sis of data from dif­fer­ent di­vi­sions, such as HR, lo­gis­tics and mar­ket­ing,” said Jonathan Becher, chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer and head of SAP Dig­i­tal, a com­pany that tracks cus­tomers’ dig­i­tal in­ter­ac­tions. Most, (93 per­cent) of UAE re­spon­dents be­lieve they have reached a tip­ping point in the tal­ent short­age for IT skills that will re­quire com­pa­nies to look at emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions to aug­ment their work­forces. About two-thirds (60 per­cent) are con­sid­er­ing us­ing tech­nolo­gies that en­able busi­ness users to com­plete tasks that pre­vi­ously re­quired IT ex­perts. How­ever, about four in five (82 per­cent) be­lieve that suc­cess­ful or­gan­i­sa­tions will man­age employees along­side in­tel­li­gent ma­chines, en­sur­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the two and (45 per­cent) said they are im­ple­ment­ing train­ing to im­prove hu­man-robot col­lab­o­ra­tion.


The chang­ing face of shop­ping means that around one in three trans­ac­tions is now com­pleted from a mo­bile de­vice. The mar­ket for e-commerce across the Mid­dle East is still grow­ing and will one day ri­val the US on­line re­tail mar­ket. A re­port by Khaleej Times un­cov­ered clear in­sights for brands, on­line ser­vice providers and ad­ver­tis­ers to help them serve tar­get au­di­ences more ef­fec­tively, with­out break­ing their trust. The re­search re­vealed that the mod­ern con­sumer is putting pres­sure on brands to use per­sonal in­for­ma­tion col­lected on­line to tai­lour ser­vices and help them get more done. The re­port from Mi­crosoft Ad­ver­tis­ing’s bi-an­nual Dig­i­tal Trends found that al­most two-thirds (74 per­cent) in the UAE are look­ing for tech­nol­ogy to help fil­ter the mes­sages they see; while four in five (79 per­cent)

want dig­i­tal ser­vices to help man­age in­for­ma­tion shared on­line. Over three­quar­ters (83 per­cent) are aware that dig­i­tal data can be ex­changed for re­wards or bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ences. In ad­di­tion, half are in­ter­ested in th­ese ex­changes, show­ing that con­sumers are more open to shar­ing per­sonal data – as long as they’re clear on where it is go­ing and how it is used.

In line and al­ways on the prowl for be­spoke ser­vices, Emi­rates 247, a lo­cal news por­tal found in its Dig­i­tal Trends 2015 re­port that 62 per­cent of UAE res­i­dents ex­pect brands to know them by hav­ing th­ese on­line busi­nesses cus­tomise their of­fer­ings on an ‘about me’ ba­sis in­stead of treat­ing them as an­other face in the crowd. Other key find­ings in­di­cate that con­sumers in­creas­ingly want an eas­ier way to find in­for­ma­tion that’s valu­able to them, with 74 per­cent in­ter­ested in fu­ture tech­nol­ogy and ser­vices that au­to­mat­i­cally fil­ter con­tent strictly based on what they really need to see or hear at any one time be it on or off line


With ad­ver­tis­ing driv­ing rev­enue, Prnewswire, based on in­for­ma­tion from Re­search and Mar­kets, states that the dig­i­tal sig­nage mar­ket in the UAE is pro­jected to grow at a CAGR of over 22 per­cent this year. New tech­nol­ogy ad­vance­ments like 3D dig­i­tal sig­nage, cloud based dig­i­tal sig­nage and an­tic­i­pated in­crease in prices of 40-inch and above dis­play screens is forecast to drive this mar­ket over the next five years. Rid­ing that same wave, re­tail, hos­pi­tal­ity, pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture, trans­porta­tion, and the en­ter­tain­ment sec­tors are the key ap­pli­ca­tion ar­eas of dig­i­tal sig­nage in the coun­try. Rapidly grow­ing ur­ban­i­sa­tion and com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion cou­pled with a grow­ing need for in­ter­ac­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Out of Home (OOH) ad­ver­tis­ing is pro­pel­ling adop­tion of dig­i­tal sig­nage over static sig­nage in the UAE. More­over, rise in dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing me­dia, grow­ing data cen­tric in­for­ma­tion and an­a­lyt­ics, cou­pled with in­creas­ing ex­pen­di­ture for mar­ket­ing are the other key fac­tors driv­ing the coun­try’s OOH mar­ket.


The re­port by Net Im­per­a­tive, a dig­i­tal in­tel­li­gence web­site for busi­ness, found that peo­ple around the world are likely to spend more than eight hours a day con­sum­ing me­dia with the In­ter­net driv­ing growth. The study, from Zenithop­ti­me­dia, in­di­cates that con­sum­ing me­dia in 2015 is up 1.4 per cent from 2014 and is pro­jected to grow, in the UAE, an ad­di­tional 16 per­cent by 2017. Tele­vi­sion view­ing still takes up the most time for any me­dia, at­tract­ing 183.9 min­utes of consumption a day in 2014 with Web-based us­age in sec­ond.

Th­ese find­ings were com­pounded by an­other piece of re­search from In­ter­mondo Cul­tural Con­sult­ing, which places the UAE as the world’s twen­tyninth largest econ­omy and a re­gional tech­nol­ogy leader by offering fast, if rel­a­tively ex­pen­sive (ranked 55th glob­ally for af­ford­abil­ity) In­ter­net. This growth has been spurred by good in­fra­struc­ture and fac­tors like users’ early adop­tion of cloud com­put­ing.

With a pop­u­lace that ea­gerly em­braces ‘new­ness’, in­clud­ing the lat­est in dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, on­line ac­tiv­ity in the Emi­rate is al­ready one of the high­est in the world ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Con­nected Life study by global mar­ket re­searcher TNS. In fact, the UAE now ranks ahead of many ‘ma­ture’ dig­i­tal mar­kets, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to de­vice-driven ser­vices. Among UAE mo­bile users, the most com­mon us­age is so­cial me­dia ac­tiv­ity, at 52 per­cent. This is fol­lowed by watch­ing videos (45 per­cent), play­ing games (33 per­cent), seek­ing lo­ca­tions (31 per­cent) and mo­bile bank­ing (31 per­cent).

In the UAE, users are also quickly adopt­ing ever more ad­vanced de­vices and in­creas­ingly cre­at­ing ‘screen stack­ing’, a multi-screen ef­fect, which com­bines tra­di­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices (news­pa­pers, ra­dio and tele­vi­sion) with mo­bile de­vices. This phe­nom­e­non is cre­at­ing new chal­lenges to come up with in­te­grated mar­ket­ing that at­tracts con­sumers and keeps up with their shift­ing habits.

Sur­pris­ingly, Hanan Ab­dul­lah at the Univer­sity of Wol­lon­gong in Dubai, re­search­ing so­cial me­dia trends among young Emi­rati women be­tween 17 and 24 years of age, found that young women are spear­head­ing the screen-stack­ing trend. An av­er­age of 92 per­cent of those sur­veyed are ac­tive across at least three ac­counts on so­cial me­dia web­sites.

With phe­nom­e­nal in­no­va­tions tak­ing place on many fun­da­men­tal fronts, it would be safe to as­sume that the UAE is in for a tech­no­log­i­cal revo­lu­tion that in all prob­a­bil­ity will lead the rest of the re­gion to pause, take note and fol­low the ex­am­ples set.

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