UAE Archives — Carrington Malin

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.


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.


January 17, 2020
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The fluid state of the global AI talent pool and fierce international competition among nations for leadership positions in the Fourth Industrial Revolution mean that winning new talent wars will require more than simply outbidding competitors.

Today’s policymakers must recognise that they need to attract both home-grown and international AI talent, leverage human resources that are located around the world and create ways of building long-term relationships that will continue to support the availability of talent. It’s all about building talent ecosystems, rather than simply planning to acquire more people with the right skills.

Continue reading this story on The National


December 21, 2019
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The UAE’s all abuzz about AI! We’re exposed to more and more news about artificial intelligence, or AI, these days – from stories about talking robots to deepfake videos of celebrities and self-driving cars. AI has become a buzzword and popular interest has been steadily growing over the past few years. However, it would be a mistake to assume that everyone shares the same level of interest, learning about new technologies and increasing their understanding of AI at the same rate. After all, more than 40 percent of the world’s population isn’t even connected to the Internet yet.

Here in the UAE, the media seems to provide residents with a daily diet of news about artificial intelligence. This is no accident. Although it’s never a perfect replica, the media is a reflection of society and interest in AI-related topics has grown as business, government and education investment in AI has scaled-up.

Continue reading this story on The National


October 12, 2017
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This week the mobile operators association GSMA confirmed the United Arab Emirate’s position as one of the most advanced mobile markets in the world, with 80 percent of the country’s population using their mobile devices to access the Internet. The country’s high rate of mobile adoption is already well known, with the UAE leading in smartphone penetration from 2013. According to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), mobile phone usage in the UAE increased to 228.3 phones per 100 people this year.

As mobile has become the preferred media channel for consumers, so it has become the main driver for digital advertising. According to emarketer, some 63% of global digital media spending this year will be mobile and this is expected to grow to 77% by the year 2021.

Continue reading this story on the Spot On blog.