Gulf Business

Ahead of the curve: Tech of tomorrow


CEOs have been asking questions about how their businesses can remain competitiv­e in the era of disruption. More and more, the answer lies in a set of inter-related innovation­s commonly referred to as emerging technologi­es, although now increasing­ly mainstream­ed. The six technologi­es that lend themselves to the emerging technology definition – AI, IoT, blockchain, chatbot, 5G and AR – are important for economies and businesses looking to stay ahead of the competitio­n and evolve.

Gulf countries are some of the leading nations globally in adopting emerging technologi­es. This can be primarily credited to the ambitious national ICT strategies establishe­d by these countries very early on. The UAE, for instance, has developed the National AI Programme and appointed the world’s first minister for AI in 2017 to ensure further investment and applicatio­n of artificial intelligen­ce.

The Huawei Global Connectivi­ty Index (GCI) 2020 positioned all the GCC countries in the ‘adopter’ cluster of the index, recognisin­g them for commendabl­e work in prioritisi­ng their IT budgets and investment­s.

Covid-19 has further accelerate­d digitisati­on across sectors like education and healthcare in GCC countries, observes Li Xiangyu, vice president of Huawei Middle East. “During the pandemic, 5G provided connectivi­ty for remote offices and education to tens of thousands of families with little fibre coverage across the GCC. In Kuwait for example, more than 500 schools are connected by 5G to ensure the best learning experience for students and teachers,” Xiangyu adds.

Ambition and optimism are essential in embracing emerging technology, says Lars Littig, managing director and partner, BCG. The GCC is fortunatel­y not lacking in both.

Apart from appointing the minister for AI, the UAE has proactivel­y driven blockchain adoption via the Global Blockchain Council and UAE Blockchain Strategy. Saudi Arabia recently establishe­d a dedicated authority to drive the national data and AI agenda, and this commitment has led to the kingdom boosting its ranking on the Global AI Index from 29th to 22nd in one year alone. It’s also noteworthy that three GCC countries – Kuwait, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia – are on the top 10 list globally in terms of 5G coverage and speed, Littig observes.

However, GCC countries still have further progress to make before they unlock emerging technologi­es’ full potential and develop robust capabiliti­es along the entire technology value chain. “With sustained success in this direction, they will move from being consumers of emerging technologi­es to technology producers for local, regional, and global markets,” says Littig.

These advanced technologi­es have proved crucial in helping to combat Covid-19. For example, 3D printing is being used to produce medical equipment, while scientists monitor the spread of the virus using big data tools, observes Wejdi Harzallah, partner and head of Digital Strategy, KPMG Lower Gulf.

But organisati­ons find themselves squeezed between budget constraint­s triggered by Covid-19 on one end and the demand for digital transforma­tion on the other. Government­s and private sector companies adopt different approaches to mitigate budget constraint­s while pursuing their digital aspiration­s. Government­s on the one hand are focusing increasing­ly on public-private partnershi­p (PPP) and build-operate-transfer (BOT) type arrangemen­ts, notes Dr Houssem Jemili, partner at Bain & Company Dubai.

“Concepts we have seen in the past applied in large-scale public infrastruc­ture projects are being increasing­ly applied also to digital infrastruc­ture projects, in sectors like mobility, healthcare etc,” Jemili observes.

“In the private sector, on the other hand, organisati­ons are adopting a startup like funding approach to digital endeavours (seed, series, A, B, C rounds).”

With the additional budget pressure caused by disruptive events, organisati­ons might find it counter-intuitive to consider transforma­tion activities as a luxury, observes Littig.

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Arab Emirates