Changing GCC economies through next-gen tech

Nidal Abou Zaki

DUBAI 16 January 2021: The digital transformation journey of the GCC region is a defining success factor in its bid to carve a niche in a world that is fast transitioning to a technologically driven era. Among GCC economies, digital-driven growth is critical to their long-term, sustainable development that is no longer fully dependent on oil revenues.

Recognizing the significance of taking the lead in the digital transformation efforts across the Middle East, many of the GCC member states have enacted key policies over the years to steer their economies towards this digital age while steadily adapting to the new, evolving trends.

Nidal Abou Zaki

This positioning is especially evident in their national visions, which contain grand and impressive modernization strategies to elevate their economic diversification and sustainability initiatives, as well as enhance the quality of life and standard of living of their citizens. A Deloitte report describes their visions as ‘far bolder’ and ‘more ambitious,’ with digital transformation being the most crucial part of fast-tracking their goals and objectives.

Amid the ongoing efforts, it is not a surprise then that the results of the United Nations E-Government Survey 2020, which examines the implementation of digital government services across the world, show that the GCC countries are at the forefront of deploying e-government initiatives throughout the MENA region . In this global survey, the UAE took the 21st slot; Bahrain, 38; Saudi Arabia, 43; Kuwait. 46; and Oman 50.

Among all next-generation technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, the Internet of Things, drones, 3D printing, blockchain, robotics and 5G are gaining the highest attention. The implementation of 5G services to drive automation within the oil and gas industry, healthcare, smart city, and automotive sectors, among others, has gained momentum in 2019.

AI adoption

AI adoption is also going full speed ahead, especially in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Kingdom, in particular, launched its Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence in 2019 to help accelerate the region’s digital transformation, in addition to its almost USD 135.2 billion investments in the technology made over the previous years.

The Emirates, for its part, unveiled its UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence in 2017, in line with the objectives of UAE Centennial 2071, to accelerate the development of its priority sectors, including healthcare, education and the environment . Apart from AI, the UAE Government is seeking to attract around 100 tech companies within a three-year time horizon to help its rapid shift to the digital world, while the Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021 is seen to promote the fast deployment of blockchain across public and private sector entities.

Opportunities within the financial technology (fintech) realm is also growing as the regional financial sector seeks to become more advanced and updated with the global developments and trends. As per the figures released by the International Data Corporation, the technological spending of the GCC’s banking and finance industry is expected to hit the USD 12.23-billion mark this 2020 . The accelerated digital transition within the sector is predicted, especially in light of the pandemic that has significantly restricted people’s mobility.

Global health crisis’ repercussions

Moreover, due to the global health crisis’ repercussions, the region’s e-commerce and smart learning sectors are forecasted to see tremendous growth as communities gradually adapt to the new reality.

While the roll-out of advanced tools has opened new opportunities, challenges in the areas of cybersecurity, data privacy and protection, expertise, and capabilities, among others, have also emerged. The GCC leadership, however, is leaving no stone unturned to bridge gaps and implement policies addressing present challenges.

Because of its steady digital transformation journey, the GCC is taking to new heights people’s lifestyles through advanced services. It is affecting change on all fronts in a bid to build a sustainable future for its people and the world.

Note: The author Nidal Abou Zaki is Managing Director of Orient Planet Group

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