As governments in the Middle East are preparing to regulate emerging technologies, tech organizations are also strategizing opportunities to expand their power over the digital economy. Artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and other technologies are upending our perceptions of what the future will look like.
The technology landscape in the Middle East region is constantly changing. Organisations in the Middle East are deploying emerging technologies and creating new ways of operating business as they already see the benefits.
As 2022 draws, below are some of the top technology trends that will shape the year.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
As we move forward to 2022, we see the use of artificial intelligence everywhere, from recommending items and understanding and controlling gadgets to constructing better environment models to automating industries. PWC estimates that the Middle East is expected to accrue 2 per cent of the total global benefits of AI in 2030. This is equivalent to $320 billion.
In absolute terms, the most significant gains are expected to accrue to Saudi Arabia, where AI is expected to contribute over $135.2 billion in 2030 to the economy, equivalent to 12.4 per cent of GDP.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in particular, have demonstrated strong commitment towards the development and implementation of AI technologies. According to PWC, businesses in these parts of the region have been investing heavily in new technology, supported by governments as early consumers.
Last year, Saudi Arabia signed a series of partnership agreements with international tech companies to advance AI in the kingdom.
The agreements were signed in Riyadh at the virtual Global AI Summit, which was backed by Saudi Arabia’s National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence (NSDAI).
At the same time, Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Artificial Intelligence (NCAI) announced a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Huawei to enable strategic cooperation on the kingdom’s National AI Capability Development Programme.
The Saudi Data and AI Authority also inked a Memorandum of Understanding with Alibaba Cloud to collaborate on digital and AI solutions in areas such as safety and security, mobility, urban planning, energy, education, and health.
In the United Arab Emirates, shopping mall operator Majid Al Futtaim opened Carrefour City+, the region’s first checkout-free store, at Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates earlier this year.
The store, which employs AI technology, allows customers to enter merely using an app on their phones, pick up items, and leave without having to pay at a counter.
The implementation of 5G is a fundamental component of digital transformation. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Bahrain have all made significant investments in 5G rollouts. According to an Opensignal research, the Saudi Arabia 5G network was the fastest gloablly in terms of average download speed. By 2025, the MENA area is expected to have more than 80 million 5G customers.
The development of 5G networks reflects both government-led initiatives such as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Oragnisations gain various benefits with the implementation of 5G network that include fast data transfer rates and increased network stability.
The technology also promises hundred times faster download rates, increased capacity, and lower latency, allowing innovations like telesurgery and the continuous growth of the Internet of Things.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Saudi Arabia recorded the highest adoption of 5G technology compared to its Gulf neighbours.
Ookla, an Internet intelligence firm, revealed that the kingdom had the most devices connected to 5G since its commercial release in 2019.
It was measured by looking at the ratio of samples from devices connected to 5G to the number of samples from all 5G-capable devices, which the firm said is an indicator of the maturity of a country’s 5G market.
Qatar came second, followed by the UAE. Finally, Oman, which only launched 5G early this year, was at the bottom of the list.
Business expansion by regional market leaders, the Covid-19 outbreak, growing investments in cloud-based technologies for smart city projects, and governmental initiatives have expedited cloud computing growth and cloud-based solutions. According to predictions from Gartner, global spending on cloud services is expected to reach over $482 billion in 2022, up from $314 billion in 2020.
Last year, Google Cloud partnered with Saudi Aramco Development Company, an Aramco subsidiary, to develop and manage cloud data centers in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, NEOM Tech & Digital Holding Company – the first holding company to be established as a subsidiary of NEOM announced Oracle as the first tenant of its hyper scale data centre.
Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) will be hosted at the data centre, providing a high-performing, resilient foundation for cloud services.
Furthermore, BIOS Middle East announced a new cloud footprint in Muscat in Oman, which complements the existing cloud footprints already available in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Jeddah.
With the progress in the above technologies, there is a prime opportunity for startups, corporations, and investors to capitalise on these trends to become more successful.