Articles Archives — Page 2 of 7 — Carrington Malin

September 5, 2020
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The Saudi national artificial intelligence strategy is to be launched at the Global AI Summit, which will now take place virtually from 21-22 October*, according to a statement from the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) on Friday. It was disclosed in August that the national AI strategy presented by the authority (since named the National Strategy for Data & AI) had been approved by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. PWC has forecast that AI could contribute $135 billion (or 12.4%) to Saudi Arabia’s GDP by the year 2030.

Established by royal decree in August 2019, the SDAIA was given the mandate to drive the national data and AI agenda for transforming the country into a leading data-driven economy, and has developed Saudi Arabia’s national AI strategy over the past year. Although the details of the plan have been kept under wraps, the new strategy is expected to contribute to 66 of the country’s strategic goals, which are directly or indirectly related to data and AI.

The SDAIA has already reached a number of milestones since its inception, establishing three specialised centres of expertise: the National Information Center, the National Data Management Office and the National Center for AI. It has also begun building one of the largest data clouds in the region by merging 83 data centres owned by over 40 Saudi government bodies. More than 80 percent of government datasets have so far been consolidated under a national data bank.

Meanwhile, the authority has been using AI to identify opportunities for improving the Kingdom’s government processes, which may result in some $10 billion in government savings and additional revenues.

Originally slated for March 2020, the Global AI Summit will discuss AI, its applications, impact on social and economic development, plus global challenges and opportunities. The event aims to connect key decision makers from government and public sector, academia, industry and enterprise, tech firms, investors, entrepreneurs and startups.

October’s virtual summit will be organised into four tracks:

    • Shaping the new normal;
    • AI and governments;
    • Governing AI; and
    • The future of AI.

The Global AI Summit aims to tackle the challenges faced by countries around the world, from technical to ethical. Details of the agenda and speaker platform for the Global AI Summit have yet to be announced, although the presentation of the Saudi national artificial intelligence strategy is bound to be a highlight.

*Updated 17 September 2020

Also read: Saudi national AI strategy announced with investment target of $20 billion – 21 October 2020


August 16, 2020
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The Indonesia National AI Strategy, now known as Stranas K.A. (Strategi Nasional Kecerdasan Artifisial), has been published. The new strategy was announced by the Minister of Research and Technology and head of the BRIN (the National Research and Innovation Agency) Bambang PS Brodjonegoro in an television address made last Monday to mark the country’s 25th National Technology Awakening Day. The minister also launched an electronic innovation catalogue, helping Indonesian technology developers to market their offerings and sell to government procurement offices.

Transforming Indonesia into a Fourth Industrial Revolution economy has become focus for the government over the past few years and the necessity of creating a digital-savvy workforce has become a top priority. Stranas K.A. aims to tie together many of the country’s digital initiatives and maps closely to Visi Indonesia 2045, the country’s broad economic, social, governance and technology development strategy. The National Artificial Intelligence Strategy Framework provides an at-a-glance view of how these different goals are held in context.

Stranas K.A. aims to support five national priorities, where the government believes that artificial intelligence could have the biggest impact on national progress and outcomes.

Health services – With 268 million people living across 6,000 of Indonesia’s total 17,504 islands, delivering a consistent standard of healthcare is a national challenge. The archipelago also faces increased risks from global disease outbreaks such as SARS and, recently, Covid-19. The country’s response to the pandemic has already somewhat accelerated plans for smart hospitals and health security infrastructure.

Bureaucractic reform – With a civilian civil service of about 4 million, reforming the government’s highly centralised administration remains a significant challenge. Indonesia is lagged in implementation of digital services, according to the United Nations E-Government Development Index (EGDI), ranking below Borneo, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. President Joko Widodo has promised to create a citizen-centric digitised service government (Pemerintahan Digital Melayani) in the next five years.

Education and research – Education is integral to Visi Indonesia 2045 and the move towards online schooling during the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the country’s digital divide. The pressures of the digital economy are also recognised by development plans. According to the government, Indonesia needs a digital workforce of 113 million by 2030-2035.

Food security – According to President Widodo, food security remains Indonesia’s top priority and the Food Security Agency focuses on three main areas: food availability, food accessibility and food utilisation. Food, agriculture and fisheries government departments and agencies have already begun using satellite technology, machine learning and smart farming to better plan, forecast and manage agricultural production and natural resources.

Mobility and smart cities – The number of people living in Indonesia’s urban areas is now close to 60 percent and is expected to rise to 70 percent of the total population by the year 2050. The government currently plans to develop 98 smart cities and 416 smart districts, under Indonesia’s 100 Smart Cities Plan.

Indonesia National AI Strategy, August 2020

Meanwhile, the Indonesia national AI strategy identifies four key focus areas:

    1. Ethics and Policy
    2. Talent Development
    3. Infrastructure and Data
    4. Industrial Research and Innovation

Indonesia is already one of South East Asia’s biggest investors in artificial intelligence, with IDC’s 2018 Asia-Pacific Enterprise Cognitive/AI survey finding that 25 percent of large organisations in the country have adopted AI systems (compared with 17% in Thailand, 10% in Singapore and 8% in Malaysia).

Smart cities, one of Stranas K.A.’s five top priority areas, have been identified as a fundamental building block for Indonesia’s Industry 4.0 future. Last year President Widodo announced plans to create a new futuristic smart city capital on the island of Borneo, to replace Jakarta. The new capital will rely heavily on sustainable smart city systems, cleantech and infrastructure run by emerging technologies such as 5G, AI and IoT (Internet of Things). Originally slated for completion by 2024 (pre-pandemic) and estimated to cost $33 billion, the project reportedly received an offer by Japanese multinational investor SoftBank Group to invest up to $40 billion.

The Indonesia National AI Strategy details a programme roadmap for both its four key focus areas and the five national priorities, for which it considers plans as short-term (2020-2024) and longer-term (2025-2045). All in all, the strategy document identifies 186 programmes, including many that aim to develop the plans, pilot schemes, policies and regulations, plus checks and balances, necessary to drive the overall strategy.

Underpinning the acceleration of Indonesia’s artificial intelligence journey, Stranas K.A. includes plans for national standards, regulations and an ethics board to ensure that usage of AI is in accordance with the country’s Pancasila values system.

The development of the 194-page National Artificial Intelligence Strategy was coordinated by the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology or BPPT, a non-ministerial government agency under the coordination of the Ministry for Research and Technology, and was widely anticipated to be announced in July or August. A wide variety of public and private sector organisations contributed to the plan including government ministries, universities, industry associations and national telecom providers.

Although many of the programmes and initiatives detailed in the Indonesia National AI Strategy can be found in existing government strategies, plans and policy, Stranas K.A. is nevertheless highly ambitious. The success of the overall plan will likely rest heavily on how many of the foundation programmes it is able to get off the ground during the next 4-5 years.


August 12, 2020
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The Saudi national AI strategy has been approved, according to comments made by Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) president, Dr. Abdullah bin Sharaf Al-Ghamdi this week. As reported by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Sunday, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has approved the Saudi National Strategy for Data & Artificial Intelligence (NSDAI), which has been prepared over the past year by SDAIA.

According to Dr. Abdullah, the new strategy will enable government and private sector programmes to contribute towards the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. Overall, the authority expects the new strategy to contribute to 66 of the country’s strategic goals, which are directly or indirectly related to data and AI.

SDAIA was established by Royal Order no. 74167 in August last year, giving the authority the mandate to drive the national data and AI agenda for transforming the country into a leading data-driven economy. The decree also ordered the authority to establish three specialised centres of expertise: the National Information Center, the National Data Management Office and the National Center for AI.

Speaking at the launch of the SDAIA’s new brand identity in March, Dr. Abdullah talked of an ambitious and innovative Saudi national AI strategy that would optimise national resources, improving efficiencies and enabling the creation of diversified economic sectors. However, no details of the plan have yet been shared publicly.

The SDAIA has already been using AI applications to analyse government processes and procedures, with its initial assessment being that the opportunities identified could generate more than $10 billion in government savings and additional revenues.

The authority has also established a national data bank consolidating more than 80 percent of government datasets (or 30 percent of total government digital assets) and has rolled-out a G-Cloud (or Government-Cloud) aimed at building one of the largest data clouds in the region through the merger of 83 data centres owned by over 40 Saudi government bodies.

According to a 2017 study by PWC on the global impact of artificial intelligence, AI could contribute $135 billion (12.4%) to Saudi Arabia’s GDP by the year 2030, being the second-highest predicted share for the contribution of AI to GDP in the Middle East region after the UAE.

The timing of the national AI strategy approval comes just a few weeks in advance of the planned Global AI Summit organised by the SDAIA, which is currently scheduled to take place in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, 14-15 September.

Updated 16.57 hrs 12 August 2020

Also read: Saudi national AI strategy announced with investment target of $20 billion – 21 October 2020


August 11, 2020
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Will AI replace human creativity? Or help them take creativity to the next level? It could simply depend on how we choose to use it.

Those that know me well will know that I have become obsessed with how artificial intelligence will impact brands, communications and consumers. Last week, I was inspired by an article by The Drum‘s Brands Editor Jen Faull, which explored the current state of AI in creative work and asks the question “Will artificial intelligence replace human creatives?”

It’s a great question to ask, because no one really knows the answer. Rephrase the question slightly and ask “could artificial intelligence replace human creatives?’ and I’d argue that the answer is, most definitely, yes (obviously, leaving aside the question of “when?”). Is AI destined to take over the creative brief entirely and replace human creatives and creative processes? I’d say that, at the end of the day, this is largely going to be up to us to decide.

The meteoric rise of so called artificial intelligence – which, these days, is used synonymously with the many applications, systems and devices powered by machine learning – is as impressive as it is scary. And, as with most up and coming technologies, it’s often very difficult to differentiate the reality from the hype.

Will AI replace creatives?

By all accounts, AI is by no means ready to fill our creative boots. We can train AI systems to learn things from data sets, analyse trends, make recommendations and actually create outputs of different kinds, including “creative work”. However, AI hasn’t yet been able to even convincingly mimic the complexities of human thought and creativity. Some would argue that it is only a matter of time before that data too is assimilated. Imagine an AI system trained on the experiences, thoughts and dreams of the planet’s top 100 advertising creative professionals? It could happen, just not quite yet.

Today, AI systems have been used to produce original creative advertising work with, at best, moderate success. However, AI is much better at targeting, deploying and optimising advertising assets. There are also an increasingly wide range of tools becoming available to inform, analyse, optimise and fast-track creative projects. As AI voice becomes ubiquitous, using those tools is going to become more intuitive and seamless – and so better to assist creative development.

Inspired by the article on The Drum, I posted some further questions on Linkedin last week – “Will AI fast-track the training and development of creative professionals? Or will AI’s efficiency strangle that essential pipeline of new creative talent that would have traditionally developed up through the ranks?”

‘You can’t box creativity’

A variety of advertising, marketing and technology professionals responded in comments and via messaging. You can read all the comments in full on my post from last week here. Meanwhile, it could be useful to summarise some key points here. Although there was consensus that AI is nowhere near ready to take over human creative work, I was interested to find that there were also some quite divergent opinions.

From some, there was certainty that AI could not and will not replace human creatives. Sherif El Ghamrawy at Photovision Plus believes that “there will always be certain things that remain uniquely human that no machine will ever be able to truly replicate”, citing emotion and imagination as key differentiators. Ramesh Naidu Garikamokkala at PAGO Analytics agrees that AI is not going to replace the role of our emotions.

Ibrahim Lahoud of Brand Lounge also seems to be in agreement with this, sharing that AI could fast-track training and development of creatives, but that’s where he draws the line. “AI can create a logo where human creatives will create a brand. AI can analyze shapes and colors where humans can read emotions.”

Jad Hindy at MRM/McCann noted (via messaging) that you can’t box creativity or confine it within a standard process. He says “ideation can’t be AI-ed, but the creation of assets can.”

Some of the futurists out there, do believe that AI could replace human creativity sometime in the future. Although, as Steven Gare of AI Blockchain Service puts it “defining AI in this context is pure speculation at this time”.

Most professionals agree that AI does promise to both empower and change the creative process, including career development. Lahoud’s take is that “AI will not replace creatives, but will rather be an incredibly powerful assistive tool that will act as an extension to their boiling minds”. Kassem Nasser, American University of Beirut, agrees and says that AI “is a technology that will open new challenges and opportunities to our minds not replace them.”

Meanwhile, Robert McGovern at Horizontal Digital notes that new AI tools could help with brainstorming, idea generation and connecting different concepts together, plus fast-tracking research work.

‘Think of AI as an exoskeleton for brains!’

In my mind, how creative professions – and creative industries as a whole – adapt to the arrival of AI and other new technologies is going to play the deciding role in determining whether we are empowered to create greater things or get used to accepting what AI creates for us. A point well made by Gowri Selka from Volantsys Analytics Inc., “it is critical for humans from all backgrounds of career to gain new skills and leverage these technologies to their benefit.”

For sure, the clock is ticking. AI and related technologies are developing at a pace that we’ve never experienced before. Like it or not, change is absolutely the only constant that we can look forward to. As Jürn-Christian Hocke at Select World urges, “we have to think about the new dealt cards NOW.” And says, creatives must learn what creativity and creative careers will look like in the future.

“Think of AI as an exoskeleton for brains!” is Lahoud’s advice for creatives. And, I think, he’s hit the nail on the head here.

As the capabilities of AI continue to grow, the creative process may look less and less like the process of old. However, whether this process remains human centric, is going to depend on how we frame AI’s future role. If AI is to super-charge human creativity, it’s up to creative professionals to take firm hold of the controls and remain at the very centre of the creative process. Time to suit up!

This story was originally published on Linkedin

Read the Arabic language version here: نظرة على مستقبل الإبداع


July 22, 2020
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This month saw the issue of the new Dubai drone law, which aims to govern future drone services and pave the way for a commercial drone services ecosystem that allows both drone delivery and flying taxis.

Dubai has been at the forefront of the adoption of cutting edge drone technology like drone taxis – but until the new Dubai drone law was issued this month, commercial flight was strictly restricted.  Now, commercial drone operations in the UAE may be ready to take off.

Dubai, the commercial capital of the United Arab Emirates, this month issued a new law to govern future drone services and pave the way for a commercial drone services ecosystem that allows both drone delivery and flying taxis.

Dubai’s futuristic skyline, advanced digital services and affinity with technology are now well known and its government declared an interest in drone services early on. Government sponsored innovation labs have developed prototype delivery drones, while the public transport authority was among the first in the world to conduct test flights with autonomous aerial vehicle developers EHang and Volocopter.

Until now UAE federal aviation regulations have restricted drone usage to specific fly zones and controlled commercial scenarios, allowing photography, inspection and survey services, but prohibiting any beyond line of sight operations. The new Dubai-specific law provides a framework for Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to develop procedures, systems and regulations to allow a broader range of drone usage.

Importantly, Dubai’s new law will allow Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to roll-out its Dubai Sky Dome initiative, which is being developed to provide the physical and virtual infrastructure needed for a full spectrum of drone services. The authority has already invested in the development of an air traffic control system to manage drone traffic and will specify air corridors, height restrictions and radio frequencies.

Although no details about implementation have yet been released, the news has been welcomed by the technology and innovation sector. On the whole, progress on future drone regulation worldwide has been slow and all drone operations that involve beyond line of sight flights have been permitted by governments by exemptions to existing laws. If Dubai moves quickly to address the detail required to implement the law fully, then it could well position itself as a centre of investment and innovation in the sector.

This story originally appeard on DroneLife.


July 14, 2020
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As policymakers across the globe struggle with how to define and implement regulations for future commercial drone services, the new Dubai drone law could help turn the emirate into an R&D hotspot.

Policymakers have long been struggling with how to introduce laws to govern future commercial drone services. Whilst high profile drone delivery trials and flying taxi test flights take place around the world with increasing frequency, all such activities are authorised via exemptions to prevailing aviation and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) laws. Manufacturers and drone services startups have been able to test their concepts, but not finish their business plans. Even where laws have been drafted, like the EU, implementation has dragged.

Therefore, the announcement that Dubai has issued a comprehensive new law to govern the development of the drone industry and commercial drone services is welcome news for drone firms. As the CEO of one international drone delivery services company commented last week, ‘the devil is in the detail’, but the passing of the new law has been bolstered by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) announcement that much of the expertise, process and systems required to implement regulations have already been developed.

DCAA has already invested in technology to underpin a Dubai Sky Dome initiative, which will create a virtual airspace infrastructure and ecosystem for commercial drone use. Meanwhile, Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP) will set specifications, standards and conditions for new drone infrastructure, in order that private operators can take the initiative and build their own drone airports.

Dubai’s drone law makes it clear that the all parts of the ecosystem are to be supported and regulated, to include manufacturing, imports, distribution, drone services and skills. With safety concerns at the fore, the UAE has already regulated the import, sale and manufacture of drones and so provides a safe market for manufacturers, largely free from fakes and grey market imports. The combination of these factors means that we can expect high standards to be set for the future development of the sector and skills to be at a premium.

Now Dubai has the law to govern the development of a drone services sector and a strategy to develop and manage the drone ecosystem, the emirate is better positioned to attract investment and drive innovation. So, where are the opportunities?

Rapid development in drone technology over the past few years has already given rise to a number of Dubai-based startups providing devices, specialised services and software systems. A limiting factor has been that regulation has not allowed drones to fly in public city spaces or ‘beyond line of sight’. When these factors change, this will pave the way for a wide variety of drone services.

Obvious opportunities for a new drone delivery services market include the manufacture of drones and drone parts, development of drone control and operation systems, security of drone aircraft and systems, training and certification, construction of drone airports, repair and maintenance, plus the operation of the delivery services themselves.

There are also a variety of industry sectors that could provide opportunities for drone delivery services. It is well known that Dubai has a highly advanced logistics industry, including a number of global logistics firms that are already testing drone delivery in Europe and the U.S. Dubai’s thriving ecommerce and home delivery market is another obvious candidate for drone delivery, given Amazon’s investment in developing delivery drones and services.

However, just as some of Dubai’s existing specialised drone services have built businesses on serving the needs of verticals such as oil and gas, construction and surveying, new drone delivery services could serve different niche markets too. Medical deliveries have been in the spotlight during the past few months, as drones have been used in some part of the work to make contactless deliveries of urgent medical items. In addition to the healthcare sector, there are potential requirements for drone delivery across range of industries such as automotive, construction, engineering, government, real estate and Dubai’s diverse services sector.

Besides the drone delivery market, the RTA’s plans to introduce flying taxis may clear the way for more investment in passenger drones. The RTA has already been in talks with a number of different potential partners and conducted a high profile flight test with German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter in 2017.

Some of the most exciting opportunities may well have yet to be identified. Without regulation and air space control, there can be no development of a strong, fully functioning drone services sector and, without that, both R&D and market development cannot really move forwards. If Dubai can move quickly to kick-start this sector, then real world trials, service launches and new customer requirements will, no doubt, help fuel innovation.

This story first appeared on SME10x.com.


July 9, 2020
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The roll-out of Dubai’s new drone regulations and Dubai Sky Dome initiative will be watched closely by policy makers, aviation regulators and smart city planners worldwide.

Last Saturday, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, in his capacity as Ruler of Dubai, announced the issue of a Law No. 04 of 2020, outlining new regulations governing drone activity in the emirate. The new law promises to make Dubai a commercially-friendly environment for drone services, manufacturing and innovation.

It is well publicised that ecommerce, logistics firms and drone delivery startups have been trialling drone delivery services for years in Asia, Europe and in the U.S., but governments have moved slowly to solve regulatory issues.

There is also a need for airspace to be managed safely, securely and effectively for drone usage, both controlling the flight paths of drones in city areas and ensuring that they don’t interfere with civil and military aviation. The complexities of managing drone traffic, public and private liabilities, and the number of different stakeholders that must be involved and coordinated with, has led some regulatory processes to simply grind to a halt.

Dubai now seems to be ahead of the game. The new Dubai drone law paves the way for Dubai Department of Civil Aviation (DCAA) to implement its ‘Dubai Sky Dome’ initiative, which aims to create a virtual airspace infrastructure and ecosystem for commercial drone use. It appears that an awful lot of work has gone into finding solutions for the practicalities of drone airspace management and supporting a drone ecosystem.

The new law could allow Dubai to leapfrog the global competition and kick-start a whole new industry that is right at the forefront of innovation. The Dubai Sky Dome looks set to underpin the flying taxi services planned by the RTA, allow commercial drone delivery services and establish Dubai as an ideal location for global drone ventures to test, trial and launch their products and services.

In addition to encouraging local and global drone startup ventures to establish themselves in Dubai, we can also expect the Dubai Sky Dome to become somewhat of a Petri dish for global policy makers in aviation, smart cities and R&D. Let’s see how fast it grows!

This story first appeared on Linkedin


March 16, 2020
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The coronavirus pandemic seems to have cancelled ‘business as usual’, however this could present an opportunity to refocus your marketing effort.

These days, it doesn’t matter where you work or what you do for a living, business has changed as a result of Covid-19 and the response of governments, companies and the public to the new viral threat. In fact, some may feel that their business has been turned upside down!

While you naturally put the health and safety of your customers, employees and other stakeholders first, you’ll also be mindful that every business needs to take measures to ensure productivity, revenue and profit. However, the reality is that your customers are probably grappling with changes to their own lives at the moment. So, simply calling them up to find out if they would like to buy more of your new product or service could prove to be highly counterproductive.

In the meantime, recognise that your regular day-to-day business has changed. This doesn’t mean that people won’t be buying at all, just that they may not be buying what they normally buy in the same way as they normally buy it. This also means that the demands placed on your marketing team will change. So, could this be the perfect time to review and refocus your marketing effort?

If you believe that your marketing team could have time on their hands during the next couple of weeks, here are five ideas to take advantage of the current disruption to ‘business as usual’ and refocus your efforts.

1. Review goals and refocus your team

The media and marketing environment has changed dramatically during the past few weeks. This means that what your marketing and communications teams are doing has changed too. Some tasks simply won’t get done, while others will take more work. This is the time to double down on those tasks or campaigns that you know can be productive, perhaps take another look at those projects that you previously weren’t able to spare resources for or experiment by trying some new ways of doing things.

2. Learn more about your customers

Although this may or may not be a good time to sell to all your customers, that doesn’t stop you updating your company’s knowledge of their needs, challenges, preferences and behaviours. In fact, their circumstances may have changed during the past few weeks, making it timely to check your marketing assumptions. You may even find that some customers have more time to answer your questions than they did a few weeks ago.

3. Find new ways to engage your stakeholders

In general, people are spending more time at home, which impacts their day-to-day routines, consumer behaviour and media consumption. As a result, there may be opportunities to engage with customers differently (and I don’t mean just doubling your online advertising spend). The same goes for employees, business partners and other stakeholders.

4. Create new customer offers

There’s no reason not to use the changes in business environment to help inspire some marketing innovation. Are there ways that you can create value-added offers, reward customer loyalty or otherwise differentiate your offerings now, or in the future? In addition, are their any ways, taking into account the current health emergency, that you could make it easier for customers to do business with you?

5. Audit your website content

When was the last time that you reviewed your website content from a customer engagement point of view? Does your website engage effectively with customers throughout the buying cycle, from discovery to post-sales? A review could be especially timely in the current environment where customers may defer some purchases and so spend more time in the learning and consideration phases of the marketing funnel. If you can keep them returning to your website in those phases, then you are more likely to increase your chances of selling to them.

As anyone reading the news will know, the business environment is constantly changing and adapting as the world adjusts to the new pandemic. For sure, this throws up lots of new obstacles for business and will affect some companies more than others. It will also present opportunities for some businesses to do things differently. Taking the time to review and refocus now, could put your marketing team in a position to identify and take advantage of those new opportunities.

This story was first published on SME10x.com.


March 13, 2020
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A pandemic could be a tipping point for a technology we’ve been promised for nearly a decade.

China’s use of drones and robots in its fight to contain Covid-19 is now well publicised, with medical authorities and security forces employing autonomous agents to limit human contact and so the spread of the virus.

However, e-commerce companies and other technology firms have been talking about the promise of commercial drone services for some years now, where drones can deliver prepared food, groceries, medicine and other online purchases directly to the consumer in a matter of minutes.

In reality, while the technology is largely ready, commercial drone delivery – a new market that, according to Markets and Markets, could be worth more than $27 billion (Dh99bn) by 2030 — has long been held up by lack of government policy and regulation. Could the demands of fighting Covid-19 actually fast-track the introduction of drones to the masses?

The benefits of drone delivery have already been clearly demonstrated by China’s response to the coronavirus emergency. In an effort to both increase the speed of medical deliveries and remove unnecessary human contact, drones have been used widely in the country’s virus-stricken provinces.

Chinese firms, such as e-commerce giant JD.com, drone delivery start-up Antwork, drone maker MicroMultiCopter and China’s largest private courier company SF Express, have all deployed drones to help deliver medical supplies and transport medical samples for analysis. By using drones, healthcare authorities are assured of faster and “contactless delivery”.

China has also used drones fitted with thermal cameras to scan crowds and identify those that may be in need of medical treatment; drones have been carrying sanitisers to spray densely populated communities; and police security drones have reminded city pedestrians to wear protective face masks. Chinese drone manufacturer DJI mounted loudspeakers on its drones to help police disperse crowds in public places.

Predictably, China’s use of drones has also sparked new concerns about electronic surveillance and infringements on human rights from private tech companies.

However, for those watching the development of drone delivery services, it appears the vast majority of drone usage during China’s health emergency has been state-sponsored and limited in scope. Although drones have been used for emergency food delivery by government authorities, commercial services haven’t moved beyond pilot projects.

Food and shopping delivery trials have been conducted by AntWork, Alibaba, JD.com and others, but, despite the new public demand for contactless delivery, no fully commercial services have yet been rolled out. Delivery app Meituan Dianping began delivering grocery orders in China using autonomous vehicles last month, as part of a contactless delivery initiative, but has not yet been able to launch its planned drone delivery service.

Elsewhere in the world, drone delivery trials have been taking place for years. Amazon began talking about plans for e-commerce deliveries using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in 2013 and launched its Prime Air aerial delivery system brand in 2016, making its first drone delivery to a customer in the city of Cambridge, England. However, despite announcements over the past year that Prime Air would be ready to begin commercial services in the UK within a matter of months, no service has been rolled out yet.

Irish drone delivery firm Manna plans to launch a new food delivery pilot this month, servicing a suburb of about 30,000 South Dublin residents. American ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, UK food delivery firm Just Eat, and Irish restaurant chain Camile Thai have all signed up to take part in the pilot project.

Meanwhile, Alphabet-owned Wing, which last year became the first Federal Aviation Administration certified air carrier, has been testing drone delivery more extensively in Australia, Finland and the US, completing over 80,000 flights. Since then, logistics giant UPS has also received US government approval to operate a drone carrier in preparation for making commercial, medical and industrial deliveries.

As governments across the globe look for ways to prevent the spread of a new highly contagious virus, fast-tracking contactless delivery options seems to make enormous sense. Contactless deliveries of all kinds could prove to be a vital tool to limit exposure to infected individuals, deliver essential medicine and food to high-risk locations and allow people to self-isolate, while still being able to get their groceries.

No doubt, logistics and e-commerce industries are hoping the coronavirus crisis brings more government focus to solving these regulatory obstacles.

This story was first published in The National.


March 6, 2020
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Here are six ways to make sure that your communications don’t say all the wrong things to the people that your business cares the most about.

The novel coronavirus now dominates global media coverage, prompts political debate, inspires endless memes on social media and has become a daily topic of office chatter. Over the past couple of weeks, the virus crisis has gained increasing attention, in line with the rise in virus cases reported outside of China and the sharp drop felt by Western stock markets. In many countries, public perceptions of the crisis seem to have shifted from the view that it is ‘something that’s happening over there’ to ‘something that could happen here’!

In the business world, we’ve already seen some big global events cancelled, commercial launches postponed and business travel cut back. The mobile industry’s annual gathering MWC Barcelona was cancelled last month and, a few days ago, the world’s biggest travel trade show ITB Berlin was called off (not to mention Google I/O and Facebook’s F8). We’ve also seen event cancellations in the UAE. Data intelligence company PredictHQ estimates that cancellations have already cost the events industry some $500 million.

So, if there isn’t now an element of uncertainty in your business, then you are either the exception to the rule, or you’re simply in denial. Against the backdrop of economic instability, daily coronavirus news coverage and public fears over safety, many businesses are trying to figure out how the global crisis affects them and what, if anything, they can do about it.

As with the response to any big disruption outside of your company’s control, a rather obvious thing that you can do is to focus on your key stakeholders: your employees, your customers and your business partners.

Another rather obvious thing is that communications is key. So, instead of putting off all communications decisions until ‘tomorrow’ when the situation may be clearer, here are six ways that you can take action to make sure your communications doesn’t say all the wrong things to the people that your business cares most about.

1. Avoid creating a vacuum

As Aristotle once said, nature abhors a vacuum. And so does communications. Don’t assume that by not communicating, your last communications are still kept in mind by your stakeholders. A more likely result is that, if you stop communicating, rumour and speculation will step in to fill the gap. For example, in the absence of good communications, customers may assume that your event will be cancelled, or employees may assume that you’re not paying attention to health risks. You should manage the frequency of your communications carefully so as to avoid big gaps.

2. Take health concerns seriously

Regardless of the actual risks to your employees, customers or business partners, everyone is going to feel slightly different about those risks. Dismissing stakeholder concerns about health, safety or business issues as not valid, risks losing their support. Make writing and updating appropriate policies a priority, even if there are very few new measures that you believe need to be taken. By having a policy and communicating appropriately you will, at least, show your stakeholders that you have their best interests at heart.

3. Be alert to rumours and fake news

Unfortunately, we now live in a world of fake news and, these days, rumours can start when one person tells another about a headline that they misread on Facebook. Keep abreast of coronavirus developments via credible news sources and health authorities and be prepared to dispel rumours. You should also be ready to use internal communications to clarify the impact of announcements in the media on your employees (i.e. don’t let them assume that what they read in the media about another company automatically affects your company, if it clearly doesn’t).

4. Review PR plans and have contingencies

Take some time out to review your forward-looking PR plan and upcoming announcements. What is immovable? What announcements are at risk? And can you fill any big gaps with useful communications, so as to avoid ‘radio-silence’? This is also the time to plan for contingencies (eg. what if we have to cancel our annual event?), issues management (eg. how do we avoid appearing absent from a market that we may not visit as often?) and crisis management (eg. how will we manage communications in case of an unexpected event?). Lastly, review key messages with your stakeholders potential concerns in mind, in case you need to change or adjust them in light of those concerns.

5. Look for new opportunities

We can expect the current global crisis to have an effect on consumer perceptions, behaviour and buying. However, those changes may mean that there are opportunities to communicate and engage with your customers differently. In addition, we can expect some businesses to communicate less, leaving more space for yours! It could be well worth taking a fresh look at your customers’ needs and how you communicate with them, in case there are obvious ways that you can communicate, engage and perhaps even provide more value to them in light of ongoing changes.

6. Be open and honest

You may think that it goes without saying that organisations should avoid lying in order to try to protect their businesses. However, in an environment where public sentiment, business rules and government policy are apt to change, what is an honest company statement one week, could sound disingenuous the next and perhaps even look like a bare-faced lie later on, as circumstances change. Don’t let inaction and lack of attention to your communications put your business in that position. Aim for open, honest communication in the context of the environment at the time and review your messages frequently.

In times like these, when the media and marketing environment is changing faster than the norm, reviewing your company communications more often is a wise thing to do, even if such reviews don’t seem to require much change to existing plans. Keeping your communications consistent and making incremental changes to adapt to the new circumstance is likely to serve you much better than making big changes changes later on, when you may be forced to do so in a hurry.

This story first appeared on SME10x.com