Economic growth, the purpose of digital transformation

All the indicators show that we are heading in this direction at the fastest pace, and that is good.

By Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori

Published: Sun 7 Mar 2021, 9:50 PM

In one of the previous articles, we pointed out that 2020 was the year of digital lifestyle in the UAE. There is nothing that leads us to believe that the coming years will be less digital. The UAE has defined its options for the future and announced its priorities in this context.

From the level of penetration of smart phones, Internet, and social media networks, to the robust ICT infrastructure and government policies that support digital transformation; evidence of the trend towards digitization and the digital lifestyle is everywhere in the UAE.

All the indicators show that we are heading in this direction at the fastest pace, and that is good. However, in our journey towards our digital goals, there is a blind spot that we should consider, in order to rearrange our priorities from the perspective of the government and private sector.

A report issued by “AlphaBeta” in cooperation with Google highlights a fact that calls for contemplation. The 100-page report has an interesting title, ‘The Digital Sprinters: How to unlock a US$3.4 trillion opportunity’. It addresses the experience of 16 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, called the digital sprinters. The findings of the report explain the blind spot I referred to, and it can be summarised as follows.

Globally, the policies that drive digital transformation in economy, society and government are accelerating, based on the assumption that digital technologies lead to improved incomes, productivity and economic growth. However, we now have sufficient evidence that the mere availability of digital technologies and the Internet penetration among different sectors of society are not sufficient to achieve the desired benefit from digital transformation.

The report concludes that translating digital transformation into economic development will be the biggest challenge in the next phase for the ‘Digital sprinters’, which includes the UAE. If these countries succeed in this challenge, they will have made a historic gain from digital transformation represented in the combined additional economic growth of $3.4 trillion.

The next phase, according to the report, is not the stage of raising the level of digital transformation and working to achieve it as quickly as possible. Rather, it is adjusting and redirecting the compass. Achieving economic growth must be the main criterion and the key performance indicator for all plans for the transition towards a digital government, a digital society and a digital economy. This conclusion deserves a pause for reflection and discussion at all levels.

Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori is the Head of Digital Government and Director General, TRA

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