The Middle East & Africa (MEA) region is currently on the verge of immense digital disruption. In recent past, the cross-border data flow connecting MEA to the rest of the world has increased drastically. The adoption rate of smartphones and usage of social media have been moving on an upward swing. Additionally, some of the Middle East governments have begun to implement core initiatives for digitalization and are making considerable progress. However, there are still some countries where digitalization is not widely explored and businesses and governments are struggling to grow. Although these countries are ready to lead digitally enhanced lives, businesses and governments have not fully incorporated the digital opportunity yet.
MEA governments to keep pace with digital transformation in developed markets
Favorable economic policies and legal frameworks are paving the way for IT transformation in MEA. Governments are now exploring various potential of technology to improve industry efficiency, in terms of equipment expense and production costs. Moreover, with visions of a digital future, these governments have adopted unique strategies in the past decade. For instance, Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 prioritizes digital transformation, in addition to strengthening private sector partnerships, creating jobs, and maximizing local content. The program identified 29 digital initiatives for key sectors, 5 digital platforms, and a number of national digital assets that will receive further investments to back the government’s IT transformation. Similarly, the African government’s initiative is set to go beyond e-government, Fintech, and increased investments in the IT sector. Ongoing revolution in other parts of the world further calls for governments in the region to prioritize pragmatism over complexity and rapid implementation of these strategies.
Dubai to become global innovation and technology hub
Dubai is considered the heart of the Middle East & Africa’s ICT vertical. It is emerging as the regional base for the world’s most renowned international tech brands such as Oracle, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn. ICT companies based in Dubai are well-positioned to capitalize on a large-scale operations, as government spending on ICT development in MEA is expected to grow exponentially in near future. Moreover, the EXPO 2020 Dubai and UAE Vision 2021 are driving the ICT demand with an intent to leverage emerging technologies for delivering better results. As a result, regional enterprises are investing in digital transformation to enhance customer experience and work efficiency.
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Penetration of ICT in Africa soars rapidly; Governments set to drive digital economy
Recent technical innovations in telecommunication in developed regions across the world have drastically reduced the cost of mobile phones and made it easier to connect to the internet from anywhere, Africa is no different to such innovations. Growing access to internet and technologies is contributing massively to the overall economic development of the region. Currently, on the eastern and western coasts of Africa, many international undersea network cables are in place, which are expected to strengthen the connection with other parts of the continent in the future. Furthermore, technological solutions are also devising to resolve agricultural challenges. Farmers are now adopting agriculture applications that use artificial intelligence and image recognition to identify and suggest solutions for all kinds of crop diseases on their farms.
5G to accelerate Industry 4.0 in MENA
Industry 4.0 is sparking a remarkable wave of innovation in MENA. The new revolution merges ICT with cyber-physical systems that are enabled by industrial IoT and advanced wireless communication. Emergence of 5G networks and other innovative technologies is also sent to accelerate this transformation. Recently, Ericsson has started commercial rollout of 5G network with operators in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, and is planning to generate significant traffic volume by 2021. Highly influenced by such strategic move, other operators are aggressively targeted towards launching 5G commercially. Most of the 5G subscriptions are expected to come from advanced ICT markets such as UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, whereas there is a considerable scope of development in South Africa.
ICT industry in MEA – The road ahead
The future of the ICT industry looks promising in Middle East & Africa. Consumers are primed to embrace the benefits of new technology offerings which will create strong potential for the growth of the players in the future. To improve the ICT supply and innovation performance, it will be critical for the region to enhance ICT infrastructure and increase patent applications. Huge participation from the government, stakeholders, and individual agencies will further remain a key to guide the future of ICT in MEA.