UAE to improve digital transformation in the face of COVID-19

By H.E Hamad Al Mansoori, Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates

The last few months have been difficult for everyone across the globe. Never had anyone imagined that such a calamity would fall upon them. No one was prepared to face the challenge and its impact, especially in the financial area.

We often wonder what the future holds for us.

H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai has said: “Anyone who thinks that the world after COVID-19 will be the same as the one before it, is mistaken.”

As they say, change is the only constant. The world has changed post-COVID-19, and it will keep changing. I wonder how the vital service sectors will evolve technologically, though.

How will hospitals and clinics use digital technologies efficiently to offer remote diagnoses and treatments? Will distance learning be successful, even for those with special needs? Will technology prove effective in evaluating the performance of employees working remotely?

There are many other aspects such as the role of media, the legal framework, future skills, etc. to be considered when adapting to changes in our daily lives. Each sector and the respective governing authority have a role to play in leading the post-COVID-19 transformation.

The UAE’s digital transformation

Let’s look at how the UAE is leading the way in making a digitally transformed country.

The UAE had long before recognized the importance of digitization and the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in achieving it. The UAE’s efforts towards this can be traced back to 2000 when the UAE set up Dubai Internet City (DIC), a complex of purpose-built office buildings where global ICT companies set up regional offices and budding entrepreneurs established themselves.

With technology advancing every day, there are no bounds to how it could be used to make our lives easier and happier.

There are about 1,600 technology companies operating out of DIC. In September 2019, a DIC-based ad-tech company called Media.net was sold for over AED 3.3 billion.

After the launch of DIC, the UAE launched the eGovernment and Durham. Durham replaced the traditional way of paying and collecting fees for government services.

The government gradually made more services available online. As a result, the UAE was ranked 6th globally in the online services index and 17th globally in the eParticipation index according to the UN’s E-Government Development Index 2018 covering 193 countries.

AI in the UAE

Further, the UAE Government launched the ‘UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (AI)’.

AI played a vital role in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the UAE.

Police used smart helmets equipped with a thermal camera to detect those infected with COVID-19 from a safe distance. The helmets were also equipped with sensors that could recognize faces and vehicle plate numbers. Recognition of vehicle plate numbers was useful in identifying people who stepped out during the disinfection hours without the necessary permit.

Until the technology pioneers prepare to digitize our lives fully, the only responsibility we have is to be ready for a change like never before.

Robots and drones were used to sterilize streets. Devices that spray mist as paramedics walked through them were used to sanitize them. The device detects movements and sprays the disinfectant only when a person passes through it; thus, saving energy. The device also dispenses hand sanitizers.

Artificial Intelligence would not work efficiently without the use of big data and blockchain. To support the ethical use of big data, the UAE:

1. Launched the open data guidelines
2. Adopted open data policy
3. Launched Dubai Data strategy whose aim is to optimize the use of data for data providers
4. Passed the Dubai Data law with an aim to protect the data and privacy of an individual
5. Launched DubaiPulse, that will serve as the central platform for providing computing and storage services, core analytic services and big data services

Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021

To promote the use of blockchain, the UAE Government launched the Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021.

By adopting this technology, the UAE government expects to transfer 50 per cent of government transactions into the blockchain platform by 2021 and save:

• AED 11 billion in transactions and documents processed routinely
• 398 million printed documents annually
• 77 million work hours annually.

This is just the beginning. With technology advancing every day, there are no bounds to how it could be used to make our lives easier and happier.

Until the technology pioneers prepare to digitize our lives fully, the only responsibility we have is to be ready for a change like never before.

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