Why data is the foundation of an exciting digital future
Unvestment in tech enabling smart cities in Middle East, Africa expected to hit $2.3B mark by 2021
Data will soon prove to be invaluable to organisations across the UAE, especially as they look to invest in technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain, to become more efficient, while improving upon their sustainability.
Experts at the conclusion of Gitex Technology Week 2019, noted that data, collected and then properly analysed, will be the building block for organisations as they roll out their digitisation initiatives.
Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Director-General of the Sharjah e-Government Department, revealed that the adoption of new technologies such as AI and IoT has accelerated across the UAE, driven mainly by the government sector.
"There has been a dedicated focus on ensuring that technologies, which can tangibly help to improve the lives of residents across the UAE, are tested and then implemented across various sectors. The reputation of Sharjah as a leading pilot city places greater responsibility on the e-Government Department to support the emirate's digital renaissance that has boosted its development process and provide outstanding services to all segments of society."
New research by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry showed that the IT sector accounted for Dh21.4 billion or 1.4 per cent of the UAE's GDP in 2018. IT services sales in the country reached a record Dh11.4 billion in 2018 and recorded a year-over-year growth of 10.2 per cent. In addition, the data showed that IT spending in the UAE is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8 per cent to reach Dh23.1 billion by the end of 2019. The digitisation of the UAE economy, the growing adoption of IoT technologies, and the upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai were identified as the key factors supporting the robust outlook for the sector.
"We have seen a marked increase in AI adoption in the UAE, especially in connected industry verticals such as transportation, healthcare, safety, and government infrastructure projects," said Stephanie Williams, vice-president of sales at Belkin International in the Emea region.
"AI is a major focus for the UAE government, especially as the UAE is one of the world's first governments to develop a nationwide AI strategy. Meanwhile, IoT can allow people and organisations real-time insights on our own health and well-being that we previously did not have. While we're at the infancy regarding AI and IoT, we have a clear vision of how both technologies can combine to measure, monitor, and manage a connected home and enhance daily lives," she added.
Williams also offered insights on how the technologies are being used today to tackle key environmental challenges, as well as the role that they are playing in creating smart homes and smart cities.
"Water usage and sustainability are among the biggest challenges facing the world and a cornerstone of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals. In sustainability, water and plumbing are the bloodline for healthy societies. With sensors, connectivity, AI and IoT being embedded everywhere, we are raising awareness about water as a hidden but precious resource," she said. "It takes an enormous amount of energy to clean, pump and distribute water, especially in a region that's reliant on desalination. With AI and IoT solutions, people and organisations can maintain, monitor, and manage water supply, recognise patterns on a wider aggregate scale from homes to cities to countries, and optimise consumption," she stresses.
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), investment in technologies enabling smart cities in the Middle East and Africa region is expected to hit the $2.3 billion mark by 2021. Building cities integrated with next-generation technologies such as IoT and AI requires a huge investment, starting with creating a suitable infrastructure that supports current advancements.
Xavier Anglada, digital lead for the Middle East at Accenture, noted that the public sector in the UAE has shown its willingness to adopt technologies such as AI, while the private sector has a bit slower.
"Data readiness to deploy AI at scale is still lagging, but we know that the advent of the cloud will help the situation. As international players such as Microsoft launch data centres in the UAE, we are seeing a maturity and a faster adoption of technologies. There have been quite a few use cases that we are seeing in terms of technologies that will enable smart cities. Petrol stations are using sensors and analytics to improve the customer experience. We are also seeing IoT being used as security solutions for villas in many communities. However, there is a lot more that can be done as the technology matures."
Similarly, Ahmed Auda, managing director for the Middle East, Turkey and North Africa region at VMware, said that IoT and AI have both gained momentum and credibility in recent years. However, he cautioned that organisations need to be prepared when it came to cybersecurity, especially since these technologies don't exist in silos anymore.
"The advent of technology-driven innovation is disrupting every market and industry, which creates new opportunities but also brings new challenges," he said. "Our focus now is to help our customers to unlock the full potential of their digital foundation, capitalising on their operational improvements, while remaining secure in the face of new threats. Breaches are inevitable and organisations need to be prepared for when they happen."
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