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UAE's defence ambitions are driven by technology

Faisal Al Bannai (Home Front)
Filed on January 25, 2020 | Last updated on January 25, 2020 at 11.14 pm

In the defence industry, where hackers can do more damage than joint strike fighter jets, we must take a relook at our talent strategy. The military has consistently developed and adopted the latest technology innovations.

The talent we hire for the defence industry has never been more defining nor pertinent to the success of our national security measures. The technological era we live in is forcing us to rethink the workforce we need to employ and deploy to best respond to the unpredictable opportunities and challenges presenting itself in this new epoch of hybrid warfare.

While we have long been recruiting and upskilling people across infantry, aviation, and naval domains, the fast pace of digital transformation requires us to rely on those who have deep cyber knowledge and technical know-how. Having some of the latest and most advanced technologies is no longer an advantage in itself for the defence industry. Instead, it is the competences and capabilities of people that need to be leveraged to operate new equipment and technologies that matter the most.

New technology means new skill sets, and it is because of this that we must reshape a more relevant talent strategy for the defence industry. To enable a more secure future, successful workforce planning will need to revolve around training current personnel, hiring the best and the brightest across different types of skills, and understanding the new ways of work. This is true for most defence industries, but particularly so for a young nation like the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Within the UAE, where the Emirati population is the minority, we must be smart about embedding these advanced technology-related skills at home, to ensure a pipeline of talent for our future. To bridge the local technology talent gap, we must inspire the next generation of 'technologists' to think about our critical industries and the invaluable role they could play to protect our residents and citizens, and safeguard our national interests. With approximately 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations in the world today requiring people with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills, it is up to us to educate and engage young people to think of careers that are shaped by these disciplines.

As a nation, we have invested significantly in the technologies of the future with our key strategies focused on technological innovation and advancement. A few of these include: the UAE's National Innovation Strategy; the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence; the UAE Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, National Cybersecurity Strategy 2019, and the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. Our infrastructure is being adapted for decades to come, and so the talent we attract must follow suit.

As EDGE continues to support the UAE in creating a global hub for ground-breaking innovations and advanced technology development, we are in effect establishing a new ecosystem layer. One where diversity of ideas, experimentation, and creation using the most advanced technology is attracting highly experienced and new talent alike to the industry. In short, the future favours those specialising in modern technology.

In this dynamic landscape, our jobs are changing, and fast. In the defence industry, where hackers can do more damage than joint strike fighter jets, we must take a relook at our talent strategy. The military has consistently developed and adopted the latest technology innovations. However, with the commercial markets setting a new pace of change through discovery, reinvention, reduced cost and speed, defence forces are under pressure to act now. The industry is being challenged to build resistance and resilience to the newest types of threats and embrace emerging technologies. This digital era requires a new type of thinking, and a new approach to problem-solving.

The need of the hour today is an agile defence workforce talent strategy to ensure that we don't end up planning redundantly for a form of combat that no longer exists. We need to move away from linear thinking and be prepared for what are called complex adaptive systems - interactions that cannot entirely be controlled or predicted.

Technology has been creating waves of change, and talent has always been a fundamental driver to achieving successful transformation. Talent must be placed at the core of everything we do in this brave new world, because the future belongs to the technologist.

Faisal Al Bannai is the CEO and Managing Director, EDGE



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