UAE: How did data become the new oil of the 21st century?

Over 300 delegates brainstormed during the second Data-Driven Government Conference that was held in Dubai on February 15 and 16


Joydeep Sengupta

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram


Published: Mon 21 Feb 2022, 4:19 PM

The UAE is leading the Arab world in digital transformation and is ranked eighth globally in the United Nations’ Online (UN) Service Index (OSI) 2020, according to the UN E-Government Development Index (EDGI) report that covered 193 countries.

The EGDI presents the state of E-Government Development of all the UN member states.

Over 300 delegates gathered in Dubai to take stock on the progress made by the governments of the Middle East in their digital transformation movement at the 2nd Data-Driven Government Conference, which took place at the emirate’s Movenpick Grand Al Bustan Hotel on February 15 and 16.

“The global market for big data is estimated at $$70.5 (Dh258.95) billion in 2020. It is projected to exceed US$243.4 (Dh894.03) billion by 2027,” said Abdul Mobeen Khan, chairman of the second Data-Driven Government Conference, who is also a strategy execution, programme management, ITSM, cybersecurity and governance practitioner and trainer.

“Government and businesses should ensure strategic alignment based on data. Your strategy should be agile and flexible based on data,” he said.

He cited the example of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), which is aggressively embracing digital transformation.

“The Global Positioning System (GPS) industry’s worth is $128 (Dh470.16) billion,” Khan added.

Over 300 senior government officials, Chief Information Officers, Information Technology (IT) experts, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies, public policymakers, and suppliers brainstormed at the two-day conference to unlock a $3 (Dh11.02) trillion open-data opportunity — the figure has been cited by McKinsey & Company — after Dubai unveiled the world’s first paperless government.

The KSA is cruising ahead towards a digital government. In 2019, the Kingdom launched its ICT Sector Strategy 2023 followed by National Cybersecurity Strategy 2020 and National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence in 2020. In 2021, the KSA launched E-Government Regulatory Framework and the development of the Digital Government Authority (DGA).

Nabil Aloufi, Vice-Governor of Risks and Business Continuity, Digital Government Authority at KSA’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), said: “At present, we offer 6,000 e-Government services, record 3 billion transactions per year, and this is increasing. We have a proper roadmap for the digital government.”

The KSA ranked 43 in the UN EDGI Report in 2021. “We aim to improve our ranking to 38 this year and become one of the top ten countries in the world by 2030. Our roadmap includes three key communication channels – Government to Citizens, Government to Business and Government to Government agencies – to ensure the data-driven government offers the best experiences for all,” Aloufi said.

Efficiency boost for public administration

Data-Driven Government makes public administration more effective, transparent, strengthens safety and security, saves public money and weeds out corruption. It helps governments in undertaking the right decision, based on data analytics.

The conference took place at a time when governments of over 200 countries are shifting their focus on data-driven governance which will determine which government excels in leading their country in future.

Data-Driven Government changes the way the government functions. Decisions are backed up by real-time data analytics that help assess the situation more appropriately.

A latest report by Gartner, Inc. says worldwide public sector spending on IT and soft infrastructure is set to increase 6.5 per cent from $523.2 (Dh1,921.77) billion in 2021 to $557 (Dh2,045.92) billion next year, as governments worldwide are allocating massive resources to strengthen data-driven government that will help the public sector to ensure smooth service delivery and help smart decision making based on data analytics.

However, prior to the implementation of data-driven government, there has been to be a concerted bid globally to make smartphones accessible to all to bring the public services at the fingertips of each individual. The number of smartphone users in the world today has exceeded 6.37 billion, which translates to 80.69 per cent of the world's population owning a smartphone.

“Data is the new gold and governance becomes better, more transparent and more effective with data-driven government. The whole world is currently in various stages of digital transformation processes. While some are at the beginning of the process, others are at an advanced stage of data-driven digital government,” said Khan.


“The UAE is one of the most advanced countries to have digitised its public services, while the Dubai Government is the first to have become a 100 per cent paperless government in the world, which is a huge achievement,” he added.

The Data-Driven Government will also expand the big data and bring all individuals’ data in one server. The global market for big data is estimated at $130.7 (Dh480.07) billion in 2020 and projected to reach $234.6 (Dh861.71) billion by 2026, growing at 10.2 per cent year-on-year.

The 2nd Data-Driven Government Conference was supported by the KSA’s MCIT, Jordan Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP), Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Emirates Health Services, Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park, Saudi Digital Government Authority, Ajman Free Zone, International Association of Artificial Inteleligence, Oman National Energy Centre (NEC) and Oman Information Technology Society.

More news from