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UAE successfully accelerates pace of digital transformation

From a macro perspective, all factors point towards impending mass fintech adoption in the Mena region, experts say
From a macro perspective, all factors point towards impending mass fintech adoption in the Mena region, experts say

The UAE ranked eighth globally in the Online Services Index within the UN eGovernment Development Index in 2020


Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Thu 17 Feb 2022, 5:29 PM

The UAE is making great strides in its digital transformation journey, aided by various entities and government authorities that are accelerating the pace of digitalisation across various industries.

One such entity is the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), which has long been empowering government entities and society throughout the process of digital transformation. According to the UAE Digital Transformation Enablers Report 2021, the UAE has been ranked among the world’s best countries in government digital transformation.

It is also the only Arab country in this category in the government digital maturity report issued by the World Bank. The UAE also ranked 21 globally in the United Nations eGovernment Survey 2020, advancing by eight places over the results of 2016. Moreover, the UAE ranked eighth globally in the Online Services Index within the UN eGovernment Development Index in 2020.

The report also highlighted various initiatives that have helped the emirates in achieving this distinction such as the launch of the Smart Pass in 2016, and the UAEPass which was launched in 2018.

Mohammad Al Zarooni, TDRA deputy director general for the Digital Government Sector, said: “Throughout the Union’s journey, and since the establishment of the UAE in 1971, modernization and development have always taken into account the latest developments, especially electronic and digital technologies, which have come to be seen at the turn of the millennium as a revolutionary way to facilitate people's lives and provide them with services around the clock.”

“The UAE, based on the futuristic vision of the wise leadership, was one of the first countries to launch the e-government project at the beginning of the millennium, and then continued its leadership in the next various stages to reach the digital government we live in today, which is consistent with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the era of data and advanced technologies supported with artificial intelligence,” he explained.

Experts have also highlighted how digital transformation has played a key role across various sectors in the UAE such as manufacturing and finance.

"Digital transformation has been a strong driving force for positive change in a multitude of industries and use cases across the nation. The UAE has been a pioneer in 5G, which is expected to accelerate the implementation of Internet of Things solutions, making it a potent catalyst for innovation in construction, where a range of M2M use cases can be found," said Tariq Halawani, executive director, Enterprise Solutions at Microsoft UAE.

Operation 300bn, announced in March 2021, is another example of the UAE’s ambition, he said. The initiative calls for the doubling of the industrial sector’s contribution to GDP by 2031. In launching the national strategy, the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology made clear that the target would be reached by embracing digitisation.

“As with many such programmes, Operation 300bn is aligned with the UAE’s other national goals and its global commitments, specifically calling for sustainable economic growth and the use of clean energy sources,” Halawani said. “We may be embarking on a decade of action, but we must ensure that our efforts in digital transformation do not have environmental side-effects. Manufacturers across the world are now dedicating themselves to reducing their carbon footprints and operating within circular value chains. 4IR technologies such as cloud, AI, and machine learning have the capacity to accelerate delivery of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Faisal Toukan, CEO and co-founder of Ziina, also noted the strides that have been made in digital payments across the UAE and the region. Citing McKinsey’s report on ‘The Future of Payments in the Middle East’, he noted that 60 per cent of experts said that digital wallets will be the most preferred mode of payments over the next five-years. In the same report, 58 per cent of Middle East consumers expressed a strong preference for digital payment methods, while only 10 per cent strongly preferred cash.

“This positive sentiment towards digital wallets has changed significantly given the existence of the pandemic,” he said. “From a macro perspective, all factors point towards impending mass fintech adoption in the Mena region. Regulation has opened up, mobile penetration is approaching 100 per cent across all geographies, open banking platforms are being built out, and technology talent is gravitating towards the fintech ecosystem. The most impactful application of fintech will be wallets and the dissociation from cash.”

“Over the next five years, widespread wallet adoption in Mena will take hold,” he said, adding that many vendors have been reporting black Friday levels of daily usage since the Covid-19 pandemic started. “This was the case initially for two reasons: firstly, people have fewer opportunities to meet in person, so they will resort to sending remote payments; and secondly, people are hesitant to handle physical cash which can be a carrier of germs. However, many of these behaviors have had a lasting impact. Consumers will now think twice before grabbing a POS machine, pressing an ATM’s buttons, or signing a receipt. As a result, money will start to work in favor of the consumer rather than as an obstacle to them.”


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