UAE among world's top digital elite
There's a winning formula for everything, and the country is doing so with its digital strategy
Just last month, the UAE leapt in the rankings of the Global Innovation Index, putting it at par with the best globally.
And the nation's drive towards a technological revolution just keeps going. This time, it's among the 'Stand Out' digital economies, according to a new study.
Digital Planet 2017, which measures how competitiveness and trust in digital economies vary across the world, reveals that the UAE is among the top nations when it comes to the digital economy.
The Fletcher School at Tufts University and Mastercard-backed survey shows that the UAE is 22nd globally in its Digital Evolution Index 2017 score. This makes it the highest-ranking Arab nation and tops in the Middle East and North Africa.
And it's no surprise that the country is enjoying this place: the UAE has been at the forefront of spurring innovation in every possible channel, with numerous programmes and initiatives being rolled out to stress the importance of keeping in pace - and even keeping ahead - with today's technology-driven world.
The top 10 countries on the list - Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Singapore, South Korea, the UK, Hong Kong and the US - clearly show a trend: economies that are larger could be in danger of losing the digital race to smaller countries.
Several nimble nations are ahead of the US and the UK on the list - and Japan is on the outside looking in at 15th, while Germany is at 17th and China is further down at 36th.
If you factor in countries' relative digital momentum, the 'real stars' - as termed by Bloomberg - are Singapore, New Zealand (14th) and the UAE.
"We all know technology can do more to improve economies and make our lives better, but growth is only achievable if everyone has confidence in the developing ecosystem," said Ajay Bhalla, president of global enterprise risk and security at Mastercard.
"In our pursuit of a truly connected world, trust and security are critical to successful digital development."
The report has six takeaways, the boxes of which the UAE all ticks, in one way or another:
. Using public policy as key to the success of the digital economy: It's no secret that the UAE is coming out with all sorts of initiatives to make life easier. A prime example in the country is the proliferation of smart services; need to pay a utility bill or don't have time to queue at the bank? There's an app for that. Too time-consuming to claim, say, your medical fitness test result? It's now sent via e-mail.
. Identifying and amplifying drivers of digital momentum: Digital momentum, the reports says, is powered by different drivers depending on a country's level of digital evolution and economic advancement, and priorities for institutions and innovation are key. In the UAE, there are several incubators and entities that support SMEs and startups to reach the next level of business.
. Organising digital entrepôts as linchpins of the digital planet: Smaller countries with strong institutions can create high value as early adopters and create a demonstration effect for the world by assembling the right ecosystem. Several entities in the UAE - both public and private - have proven their strengths when it comes to technology. Furthermore, in years past, the UAE has increasingly become a key market for brands, making the country a priority for launches or settling in it as its hub for the region.
. Reinventing the digital stalwarts through refocusing on innovation: The most digitally-advanced economies can put their maturity, scale and network effects to use to reinvent themselves and grow. The UAE does this in the sense that it is investing heavily in the infrastructure needed to push digitisation further and to reach more people.
. Playing digital catch-up by closing the mobile Internet gap: It's not actually a 'catching-up' case in the UAE, which has one of the best mobile Internet penetrations anywhere. In any case, having all digital bases covered will be a major boost to any country.
. Working harder to earn users' trust in more digitally-evolved countries: Hey, isn't it obvious? UAE residents are happy with all the smart and convenient services being provided - and they wouldn't mind having more of it.
German software firm SAP, meanwhile, in a separate study, says digital leaders hold four key traits:
. They see digital transformation as truly transformational: Ninety-six per cent of leaders say digital transformation is a core business goal, compared to 61 per cent of all others. The transformation extends through their company, to how they interact with customers, suppliers and partners.
. They focus on customer-facing functions first: Seventy per cent of leaders say digital transformation is already delivering increased customer satisfaction, versus 22 per cent of all others. The customer experience is the gateway to a successful digital transformation.
. They prioritise talent: Seventy-one per cent of leaders say that digital transformation efforts make it easier to attract and retain talent, against 54 per cent of all others. They also spend more on retraining the existing workforce than their peers.
. They invest in next-generation technologies: Fifty per cent of leaders are already working with AI and machine learning, compared to seven per cent of all others. They are also investing more heavily in Big Data and analytics (94 per cent versus 60 per cent) and the Internet of Things (76 per cent versus 52 per cent). Using a bimodal IT architecture lets them run legacy systems efficiently while rapidly integrating new technologies.
"Digital transformation is no longer a choice, it's an essential driver of revenue, profit and growth," said Vivek Bapat, senior vice-president and global head of marketing strategy and thought leadership at SAP.
"Executives need to move from simply understanding the high stakes to activating complete end-to-end execution across their business. This requires innovative breakthrough technologies, investing in digital skills, and retraining the existing workforce. The next two years will be a key inflection point, which will separate the digital winners from those left behind."
Clearly, the UAE is on a winning streak, and we can be sure it will do everything to sustain that momentum and give others a run for their digital money.
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