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Hind Eisa Salim

Think Tank identifies 18 actions to propel UAE

DUBAI, October 20, 2020

A think tank of UAE’s senior executives and academics has called for 5G to be made accessible to as many people as possible to help the country become a centre of excellence for technology research and innovation.
 
The think tank also recommended increased incentives for investors and entrepreneurs accompanied by regulatory reforms in order to create an enabling environment that will support innovation and product development and accelerate the development of the UAE’s tech sector.
 
The actions are among 18 recommendations contained in ‘Enabling Future Generations,’, the first white paper from the UAE Technology Think Tank.
 
Established in June by Mashreq Bank and business intelligence service Meed, the UAE Technology Think Tank brought together senior executives, academics and other representatives from the UAE technology and telecoms sector to examine what steps could be taken to support the UAE’s ambition to become a centre of excellence for technology research and innovation.
 
The think tank looked at the opportunity for the UAE from the roll out of ultra-fast 5G telecoms networks and the development of the tech sector in the emirates. It also assessed the potential barriers to the UAE achieving its tech ambitions and what steps could be taken to overcome those challenges.
 
The report provides 18 recommendations, which if implemented, will create an environment to support a strong tech sector in the UAE that enables success for future generations.
 
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
The report says that the advent of 5G will present numerous opportunities, enabling several new use cases for the technology. These include the potential roll-out of autonomous vehicles, virtualising urban space through augmented/virtual reality, as well as the use of wearables to improve workplace safety, amongst others.
 
However, there are numerous challenges to be overcome as well. These include significantly less investment into R&D when compared to major tech hubs globally, as well as stronger regional competition – for e.g. Saudi Arabia increasing connectivity and introducing pro-business reforms.
 
Another major challenge is attracting and retaining core talent, due to a high cost of living and doing business within the country.
 
Hind Eisa Salim, Executive Vice-President and Head of Services and Manufacturing at Mashreq Bank, said: “The UAE has significantly invested in world-class infrastructure that has laid much of the groundwork to realise its ambition of becoming one of the most technologically advanced countries by 2030. However, alongside the enormous potential to transform the tech
sector, there also exists several challenges which requires strategic change. Going forward, our report finds that the close collaboration between government, industry and universities is key to enabling the future potential of the UAE tech sector - as well as building a thriving national technology ecosystem that will support expansion and help achieve its smart city goals.”
 
Richard Thompson, Meed’s Editorial Director, stated: “The UAE has wisely implemented several initiatives to ensure technology adoption preparedness within the country, including early investments in network infrastructure, the appointment of a Minister of Artificial Intelligence and the launch a National AI programme. The recommendations proposed by UAE Technology Think Tank provides a strong pathway to build on and ensure that the sector can establish a flourishing ecosystem for future generations.”
 
The recommendations identified by the Think Tank centre around four key themes; including agile regulation, harnessing the power of 5G, retaining and attracting the best talent as well as research and development.
 
Among the opportunities for improvement in the report are:
*Agile Regulation: Strong regulation is required to ensure the welfare of society and the economy to promote fair competition, innovation and growth. In particular, the white paper recommends establishing a council which comprises local, regional and international regulatory bodies to streamline regulatory processes. The Think Tank also strongly suggest launching more sandbox free zones and testing environments to positively impact the innovation and experimentation of regulations. Regulatory bodies should also be encouraged to use a risk-based assessment to prioritise developments that pose large potential threats to society.
*Harnessing 5G: The white paper finds that the technology industry should collaborate with academia to showcase local business uses and help gain a competitive advantage. It also stresses a need to maximise the benefits of 5G by investing in computing
capabilities for optimum 5G usage. Additionally, subsidies and discounts for low income workers should be provided to enable greater access to 5G technology.
*Retaining and Attracting Talent: The Think Tank also note that the government must re-examine visa and work permit regulations to encourage longer term residencies which will help retain talent. Additionally, more must be done to support the long-term survival of tech businesses in the region, as many startups often operate under volatile environments. It is also important to reform curriculums to foster a more creative educational approach in schools. Finally, adequate education and living allowances must be provide for key staff, so that they can realise their potential through self-education and cover their expenses; and
*Research and Development: The white paper finds that it is vital to provide incentives, such as tax relief, or matched funds for private investors to allocate a percentage of their budget to R&D. The UAE should also encourage collaboration between academics, industry and government to set up sandboxes that test demonstrate business uses. The country should also cement its reputation as a safe place to innovate through rigorous policing of intellectual property protection laws – which will undoubtedly attract more startups. Finally, the government must also make early decisions that prioritise domains of expertise with relevance to the region. 
 
The recommendations emphasise the need for more collaborative relationships between the government, private sector and educational sector – which if tapped into, can support the diversification of the economy, promote competition, develop regional domains of expertise and attract and nurture the best industry talent within the technology sector.-- Tradearabia News Service
 



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