Catapulting UAE to the growth orbit

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Even decades ago, the UAE had begun the process of transforming itself into one of the most technologically advanced and diversified economies in the world
Even decades ago, the UAE had begun the process of transforming itself into one of the most technologically advanced and diversified economies in the world

The innovative strategies and initiatives driving the nation's digital-first transformational programme in the post-Covid era include National Innovation Strategy and the Strategy for Artificial Intelligence

By Issac John, Director-Editorial

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Published: Mon 20 Jul 2020, 11:14 AM

Last updated: Mon 20 Jul 2020, 1:24 PM

The breathtaking lift-off of Hope Probe, the Arab world's first spacecraft, into the orbit of the Red Planet marks the beginning of an innovation-led future for the UAE as the nation decks up to celebrate half-a-century of phenomenal growth, and contemplates the blueprint for the next 50 years of advancement and prosperity.

The game-changing space debut, while catapulting the UAE into the exclusive club of world's most technologically advanced nations, also epitomises the profound wisdom and vision of the UAE's founders as well as the pragmatism and perspicacity of its current leadership.

As His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, and the driving force behind the Mars Mission, has said, the epic Hope Probe mission is a glowing testament to UAE's spirit of overcoming the impossible.

"It will be a defining moment for the UAE and a turning point between the past 50 years of human development and the 50 years to come. Today, we see the reward and we rejoice. We should be proud of our people and celebrate their success with the world."
With the blast-off of the spacecraft from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre, the die has been cast. For the future-ready UAE, there will be no return from this new orbit as the nation charts the path for the next 50 years with a spate of innovative strategies even as the Hope Probe reaches the orbit of the Red Planet in February 2021, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the nation in 1971.

The innovative strategies and initiatives driving the nation's digital-first transformational programme in the post-Covid era include National Innovation Strategy and the Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. Future-ready businesses and organisations in the UAE have started leveraged the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) more than ever before in an effort to restore their business activities and overcome unprecedented challenges. Market shifts are placing companies at the forefront of exciting innovations, including smart homes, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and 'circular' manufacturing, experts say.

Even decades before the launch of the Mars Mission, the UAE has begun the process of transforming itself from a regional trading hub to one of the most technologically advanced and diversified economies in the world with superb infrastructure facilities, irresistible tourist attractions and an appealingly liberal investment and business ecosystem.  

Also central to the nation's meteoric growth as the second-largest Arab economy and the most sought-after regional destination for global tourists and investors is the dynamism of the non-oil business sector underpinned by a vibrant SME sector that accounts for more than 98 per cent of the country's business entities.

The priority given to the SME sector is evident in the formation of the new Cabinet recently unveiled by the Vice-President as part of a game-changing strategy to turbo-charge the country's growth to a higher trajectory with an added focus on its digital-first future.

A world-class infrastructure, robust economy, and resilience in the face of challenges give the UAE an ability to rapidly achieve its strategic goals and aspirations for progress and prosperity. The Central Bank of UAE expects the recovery to begin in the second half of 2020 following the sharp downturn experienced in the months of March, April and May.

The CBUAE also expects the Targeted Economic Support Scheme (TESS) totalling Dh256 billion and billions of dirhams in economic stimulus packages announced by both local and federal governments are likely to weigh in positively on all sectors of the economy.

The International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook said the UAE would rebound strongly next year as the Covid-19 coronavirus situation is expected to normalise. The UAE economy will see a 3.3 per cent growth in 2021, the IMF said, while predicting a 3.5 per cent contraction this year.

The recent UAE government revamp, aimed at making it more agile and efficient, has resulted in the merger of several portfolios, including energy and infrastructure. It also saw the appointment of a new economy and industry minister along with two dedicated ministers of state for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and foreign trade. It underscores the strategic vision of the UAE leadership in taking the nation to a new era of growth and prosperity over the next half-century.

In the new Cabinet setup, the Ministry of Economy has three ministers - Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri is the Minister of Economy; Ahmed Belhoul is the Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises; while Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi is the Minister of State for Foreign Trade.

The naming of Omar Al Olama as Minister of State for Digital Economy and Artificial Intelligence is one of the notable changes, signifying the growing focus of the government on the SME sector, trade, and on the digital future of the nation.

Stressing the digital-first future of the UAE, Rashid Al Awadhi, CEO of "New Media Academy", said that Covid-19 has accelerated the transition to a digital-first future.  
"People need to understand the criticality of a digital-first mindset. Every strategy we have right now, it is necessary to have digital mindset for that. If you keep it as an option, if you don't reskill and up-skill your teams to be digital-first, you're going to struggle in whatever industry you are. We feel it's important to train people who are at the onset, who are directly working in the field," Al Awadhi said in an interview with Khaleej Times.

While it is certain that the ongoing technological advancement and digital drive will redefine the UAE's destiny by giving its economic growth a critical impetus, the business world has to rise to the occasion by adapting to the new normal as the world steps into the post-Covid future. It is imperative for the public and private sector to gear up for "the reset mode" to find a balance between what worked before and what is needed to succeed in the new normal.

Just as panelists at the recent Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit Digital Series said, the acceleration of digital transformation is necessary to prepare for future disruptions. Companies that embarked on digital transformation programmes years ago are now reaping the rewards and successfully navigating the disruption caused by the pandemic, while those that didn't, will fall further behind unless they invest in technology.

Dr John O'Shea, Dell Technologies, and Pier Paolo Tamma, Pirelli, are of the view that collaboration between public and private sectors essential to prevent widening the digital divide. Businesses have learned valuable lessons from the crisis that should encourage them to future-proof their organisations by investing in advanced technologies, particularly those driven by AI.

Technology experts are of the view that through thoughtful, targeted development of the highest-impact applications of new capabilities and technologies, an organisation can create a virtuous cycle in which resilience and re-imagination drive improvements in productivity. They believe that an operating model for the next normal is one that continues to generate value through business cycles, despite the competitive disruption and profound economic and social shifts.

For the UAE economy, the post-Covid new normal also warrants the reconfiguration of business operations. Across the globe, leading organisations are applying lessons from the crisis to reimagine operational performance.

"They have recognised that new digital tools and analytic approaches are freeing enterprises from having to choose between accelerated productivity improvement and a flexible value chain. Instead, businesses can - and must -attain both at the same time," say experts.

Like the rest of the world, what is required for businesses in the UAE to ensure a strong comeback from the severe setback inflicted by the pandemic is the thoughtful application of new technologies and capabilities to achieve resilience and redefine the operational model. With the added momentum, the UAE has given to its technological leap and its digital-first future drive, the inevitable resilience of the economy is expected to be swift and resounding.


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