Media Coverage Archives — Carrington Malin

January 24, 2022
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GCC tech in 2022: another big year for innovation? Last year saw a long list of government initiatives in the GCC to accelerate digital transformation, encourage innovation in government and create policies to encourage Fourth Industrial Revolution industries. Recently, I was interviewed by ZDNet’s Damian Radcliffe for his article on ‘the biggest trends shaping the digital future of the Middle East‘.

I have no doubt that 2022 will prove to be an exciting year for artificial intelligence and emerging technologies in the Middle East. There have been so many government initiatives, policy moves, proof of concepts and trials across public and private sectors, not to mention investments in new ventures and R&D over the past year, it’s difficult to simply keep track of the developments already in motion! However, I believe we’ll have plenty of new ventures, projects and initiatives to look forward to in 2022 too.

However, beyond the addition of more impressive sounding new government initiatives, I believe that we’re going to see more real evidence of initiatives and programmes set in process during the past 2-3 years bearing fruit. For example, the UAE published its first AI strategy in 2017. Now, nearly five years on, the strategy (which has been updated a number of times) has informed the launch of new initiatives across UAE education, skills development in government, investment, new projects and new organisations, public services and regulation. In Saudi Arabia, the progress made on data and AI at a government level, has paved the way for a new wave of government and private sector initiatives, companies, partnerships and investments.

As Damian’s article helps to illuminate, there are rapid changes taking place across the Middle East’s tech and telecom ecosystems, making the region an exciting place to be at the moment.

You can read Damian’s full article on Tech in 2022 in the Middle East region here.


November 14, 2021
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Technology firms have a lot to gain from the net-zero commitments made by Saudi Arabia and the UAE last month. In fact, AI technologies, IoT and Big Data may have the biggest roles to play.

I was asked by MEED, a leading Middle East business intelligence service, whether this presents a real opportunity for local startups and tech firms, or whether opportunities will simply be gobbled up by global players.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE committed to net-zero carbon emissions in advance of Cop26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

  • The UAE committed to becoming carbon neutral by the year 2050 and to invest AED 600 billion ($163 billion) in clean energy.
  • Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia pledged to reach net-zero by 2060, investing SAR 700 billion ($187 billion) in climate action by 2030.

Big renewable energy projects and national legislation are obviously important for countries wanting to make fast progress, but there is also a huge opportunity to empower government entities, the private sector and consumers to better manage energy consumption and carbon footprints.

Experts agree that top-down strategies must be combined with bottom-up initiatives that allow businesses and consumers to participate in the drive to net-zero. This is why I say that the Saudi and Emirati net-zero pledges will create opportunity for local firms. Consumers and organisations are subject to local laws, avail of local services on the ground and are subject to other factors particular to their location, citizenship and juristictions.

An organisation’s ability to manage its energy consumption, energy efficiency and waste is often dependent on the applicable regulations and services available in their country, at their locations”

Both organisations and consumers will need better tools and digital services to manage their own net-zero efforts effectively. This provides an enormous opportunity for tech firms across a wide variety of technologies. I believe that AI and data analytics have a crucial role to play here in helping all stakeholders understand how their own efforts contribute to carbon neutral goals.

It also makes perfect sense that apps and digital services that support carbon neutral goals are developed in the region, for the region, taking into account language requirements, government regulations, energy suppliers and available local services.

If you are a MEED subscriber, you can read Jennifer Aguinaldo’s full article here.


April 11, 2021
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UAE innovation plans stand to gain from Israel significantly via collaborations following the historic Abraham Accords signed last year. I volunteered a few of my views on the matter to ZDNet’s Damian Radcliffe for his article on ‘how diplomacy is ushering in a new era for Middle East tech‘, which gathers opinion on the Accords impact on the technology sector from Bahrain, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the US.

I believe that the UAE’s new relationship with Israel, offers technology sectors in both countries enormous opportunities. As the UAE continues to put in policies and incentives to encourage home-grown innovation and attract global tech talent, it can now draw on some of the resources and expertise that have helped Israel to scale its startup ecosystem. Likewise, the growing number of UAE investors interested in early-stage venture capital deals, can learn a lot from their Israeli counterparts.

From the outset, the engagement of Israeli tech firms with the UAE has been enthusiastic, to say the least. Many in the UAE’s technology industry were contacted by dozens of Israeli technology companies in the weeks following the signing of the Abraham Accords. I was personally contacted by more than a hundred members of the Israeli technology sector in the 3-4 weeks following the Accords and conducted dozens of market briefings for startups, investors and technology exporters. We’ve since seen thousands of Israelis fly to the UAE, many of them also from its tech sector and startup ecosystem, not to mention a few high profile deals.

Beyond the initial ‘gold rush’, it remains to be seen how Israeli and UAE technology sectors will invest in each other, compete against one another and collaborate together. However, overall, it seems likely that UAE innovation plans will benefit from the additional technology focus, knowledge and investment inspired by the country’s new relations with Israel.

You can read Damian’s full article on the Abraham Accords impact on the Middle East tech sector here.


March 31, 2021
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The impact of AI in the Middle East special report is out from Middle East Economic Digest (MEED), which includes features covering innovation, digital transformation in the construction industry, and update on Qatar’s national artificial intelligence strategy and MEED’s own Digital Transformation Index.

I was name-checked in the ‘Creating an artificial intelligence ecosystem‘ feature by Jennifer Aguinaldo, which explores the region’s quest to drive home-grown innovation and create an AI ecosystem that does more than simply buy technology from overseas. All the national AI strategies developed by countries around the region include plans to encourage innovation, incentivise startups and nurture local research and development. However, it is Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that have fast-tracked more initiatives, policy and supporting government programmes over the past few years.

As is normally the case with Middle East Economic Digest, the impact of AI in the Middle East report is behind the paywall. If you are a MEED subscriber, you can read Jennifer’s full article here.


January 25, 2021
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Despite the economic pressures of the past few years and the disruption of the pandemic, there is so much going on in tech in the Middle East at the moment. So, there was no shortage of material for Damian Radcliffe’s annual Middle East technology predictions story in ZDnet, which quoted me and others from the region’s tech ecosystem on a wide variety of trends including 5G, emerging technologies, government investment, startups, smart cities, open data and cybersecurity.

Prior to the pandemic IDC forecast that investments in digital transformation and innovation will account for 30 percent of all IT spending in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) by 2024, up from 18 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, it has predicted that government enterprise IT spending in META will top $8 billion in 2021.

During the past 12-18 months we have seen significant activity in several key areas of government spending, including digital transformation, creating Government Clouds, introducing open data policies and platforms, digital services and robotics. Then there was the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) announcement of the Kingdom’s National Strategy for Data & AI (NSDAI) in October, revealing plans to raise $20 billion in investment for data and AI initiatives.

My expectation is that some of the government digital platforms and initiatives that have been created over the past 18 months will support the launch of a variety of new initiatives, local and foreign investment, public-private sector partnerships and opportunities for startups during 2021.

You can read Damian’s full article on what 2021 means for tech in the Middle East here.


January 14, 2021
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It’s been a bumpy ride for GCC technology ecosystems, with plenty of budget cuts, job losses and, due to the onset of Covid-19, slowing venture capital activity. However, some of the region’s most ambitious government initiatives to-date have been put in place to accelerate innovation, talent and growth in the tech sector. Uptake of some technologies also seems to have spiked since the pandemic.

So, is the region’s tech sector growing or cooling off? It’s an interesting question and, as with many questions like this about industries, there’s no simple answer. WIRED Middle East asked me whether I was optimistic about the future of tech in the region. The short answer is that I am very optimistic, although the tech sector is not without its challenges.

It is true that much of the technology sector has been hit hard by the knock-on effect of lower oil prices on GCC IT spending, increase price competition and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on decision making, new projects and project spending. Multinationals and regional technology firms have cut budgets, including staffing and other expenses as a result. However, one really has to drill down to specific technologies, solutions and the current technology needs of customers in the region to fully understand what’s going on. All types of technology business are not contracting. In fact, far from it, some tech firms are growing fast and many of those are working with new emerging technologies for automation, data analytics, AI-powered digital services and other disruptive services and solutions.

There are also contradictory trends when looking at the impact of 2020’s turmoil on jobs and the region’s need to compete for the right tech talent. There are three key driving forces here shaping the region’s tech talent pool: 1) global trends creating new tech jobs and decreasing demand for tech jobs that are being obsoleted and/or impacted by automation, 2) the GCC’s belt-tightening of the past few years due to lower oil prices, forcing public and private sectors to be more cost-effective and 3) the unexpected consequences of Covid-19, which include the accelerated demand for some emerging technologies.

Along side the economic ups and downs, and the surprises brought about by the pandemic, there are the heavily funded innovation and technology initiatives that have been put in place by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. For example, the massive open data projects in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the recently announced $20 billion Saudi National Strategy for Data & AI (NSDAI), Abu Dhabi’s increasing investment in R&D, and numerous smart city and smart city services projects. We’ve also seen an upswing in the numbers of tech startups outside of the popular ecommerce, delivery, travel and transport segments.

However, the one change that I’ve noticed over the past few years, may be the crucial one for the GCC technology ecosystems. I believe that there has been a clear attitudinal change among GCC citizens themselves, that has helped to make technology a more attractive sector for jobs, entrepreneurship and investment. In years past, a traditional career in technology has been a safe government IT job, whereas today locals are joining the tech sector in larger numbers, there is a new generation of tech startups founded by GCC citizens and we’re starting to see more interest in startup venture capital investments from Gulf investors.

Huge, well thought through government tech initiatives, the recent acceleration of demand for emerging technologies and the increasing engagement of GCC nationals in the tech sector are the three top reasons why I believe there has never been a more exciting time for the region’s tech industry.

Read Ashleigh Stewart’s full article on WIRED Middle East.


August 21, 2020
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A great roundup about artificial intelligence in the Middle East by Damian Radcliffe, Carolyn S Chambers Professor in Journalism at the University of Oregon, which quotes me commenting on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. With IT spending in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) forecast by IDC to reach $83 billion this year, AI is going to become an increasing focus.

IDC also predicts that investment in AI systems across MEA will hit $374.2 million this year, up from $261.8 million in 2018 and a projected expenditure of $310.3 million in 2019. However, with many AI technologies in high demand since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, one has to wonder how this will affect IDC’s forecasts – not just in the MEA region, but globally too.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE had both begun investing in new AI technologies for government use, planning how to encourage AI-powered innovations and looking at regulatory requirements for their Fourth Industrial Revolution future. However, the advent of coronavirus has certainly fueled both interest and investment in artificial intelligence, with public and private sectors investing in automation, data analysis, robotics, health and safety systems, plus technologies to enhance contactless delivery of consumer services.

Despite forcing the cancellation of many high tech events around the region, the pandemic has also, arguably, fast tracked government plans and policies to harness AI and create a business environment conducive to driving successful digital economies. The UAE is reported to have improved plans for leveraging AI consistent with its national AI strategy, while Dubai announced a new comprehensive drone law in July. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia approved its own national artificial intelligence strategy in August – and muted that it would soon introduce a comprehensive law to govern commercial and recreational drone use in the Kingdom.

For more on artificial intelligence in the Middle East read Damian’s full article here.


July 13, 2020
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I’m name-checked in this opinion piece in The National today about the new Dubai drone law. The move certainly opens up new possibilities for the drone industry. I can’t wait to see how this is implemented and when we will see the first new urban air mobility trials under the new law.

Read the full article in The National here.


May 31, 2020
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Abu Dhabi is moving its R&D strategy up a gear with the formation of a new Advanced Technology Research Council or ATRC, to be headed up by Dark Matter founder Faisal Albannai.

With a growing variety of R&D initiatives driven by the likes of ADNOC, DarkMatter, Group 42, Inception Institute of Artificial Intelligence and others, Abu Dhabi is starting to create a significant R&D ecosystem. Last year Abu Dhabi Investment Office and SenseTime announced that the AI unicorn would open an EMEA R&D centre in Abu Dhabi employing 600 engineers. More recently ADQ launched a $300 million startup fund aiming to bring promising Asian startups to set-up in Abu Dhabi. The mix of big tech, new startups and government-backed R&D initiatives could turn out to be a magic combination.

Read the full article in The National here.


April 6, 2020
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CIO Middle East asked me how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is using technology to cope with impact of the novel coronavirus. The pandemic has, of course, put enormous pressure on business and government to change the way services are delivered and introduce alternatives that meet the health, safety and practical requirements of the emergency, However, Saudi’s previous technology investments have stood the country in good stead. Saudi has been able to move quickly to monitor public places, digitise healthcare processes and ramp up online education as a result of technology initiatives already put in place.

Read the full article here.