Covid-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of technologies
The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in an acceleration in the adoption of various technologies, as businesses went online and consumers changed their behaviours, experts said at the Gulf Blockchain Summit.
Taking place in Dubai, experts at the event on Monday noted that, in the context of the new digital era and the emergence of disruptive technologies, obviously boosted by economic development of the region and the Covid-19 pandemic, the Gulf states have managed to develop an advanced technological infrastructure via extensive research and piloting real life use cases.
“Since the start of the pandemic, the Gulf has really shown a leadership position in bringing together a central point as a blockchain hub,” said Juwan Lee, chairman of NexChange Group. “The reality is that the ecosystem has really been the strategic foresight over many years.”
Experts also highlighted how the UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia have been on the forefront of blockchain research and implementation across banking and financial services in supply chain management and in the education sector. This was most evident when the UAE Government launched the Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021 in April 2018. The strategy aims to capitalise on blockchain technology to transform 50 per cent of government transactions into the blockchain platform by 2021. The technology will help save time, effort and resources and facilitate people to process their transactions at the time and place that suit their lifestyle and work. By adopting this technology, the UAE government expects to save over Dh11 billion in transactions and documents processed routinely, as well as 77 million work hours annually.
Katie Lau, director of European and American Regions, Key Account, Huobi Global, said that the pandemic accelerated the development of technology and resulted in a wave of businesses taking their operations online. The pandemic also had a major impact on people’s spending habits online and the demand for e-payments, in particular surged during the lockdowns.
“Among Gen Z, Gen X, and millennials, 61 per cent are most likely to switch to a fully digital bank in the future for services such as 24/7 accessibility to banking, remote banking experience in place of crowded branch visits and ease of banking, all of which are provided by a digital bank,” she said.
She also noted that convenient and quick digital interactions are fast becoming critical factors for young consumers, which is why they are willing to switch from traditional banks to new age neo-banks for a digital-only banking experience. “Neobanks, including Chime, are raising the bar for customer expectations and are increasingly making inroads into various markets around the world such as India.”
She highlighted the success of Bank ABC launching ila Bank in 2019 with a customer driven, digital-first strategy which has revolutionised the retail banking landscape in Bahrain and the region. The digital mobile-only bank scooped up two top honours, ‘Best Consumer Digital Bank’ and ‘Best Mobile Banking App’ in Bahrain, at the World’s Best Consumer Digital Bank Awards in the Middle East in 2021 by Global Finance.
Another key trend that has been growing in popularity are NFTs. Estelle Ohayon, CEO at NFT BAZL, described the NFT revolution as a ‘social revolution’ which has opened the doors for everyone to have access to the art market. “Everything that we have been doing with technology has been about adding dimension to life. If you look at NFTs, it is all about adding layers and enhancing reality. We are making it deeper; we are giving people a deeper version of the physical. I think that there are no limits to what we can do.”
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