Energy-rich Gulf countries have moved fast to scale up digital technologies and services over the last decade. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members have worked together to advance digital transformation at all levels, aiming to build up their collective socio-economic resilience.
Each GCC country now offers advanced government services for its citizens and residents. Together, they have adopted the latest technologies to gain a competitive edge in the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Building on their growing digital transformation experience at home, the Gulf Arab states have also recognized long-term benefits in sharing e-government expertise and insights more widely.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, has formed partnerships with Egypt, Jordan, Uzbekistan and other emerging markets, aiming to foster innovation, improve government services, and make citizens happier.
Starting at home
The UAE government has consciously set out to ensure a more sustainable future, provide services that rival the best in the world, and upgrade government performance to enhance social welfare and economic well-being.
Over a decade ago, the UAE identified digital uptake as a high priority in national economic development and diversification. Since then, the country has consistently promoted innovation, invested in research and development (R&D), and embraced ground-breaking technological solutions.
Starting with the Smart Government initiative launched in Dubai in 2013, all seven emirates have embraced a new concept of governance, focused on increasing people’s happiness.
Domestic digital transformation policies are in line with the UAE’s regional and international commitments.
Among these are consistency with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) endorsed by the United Nations and key action lines agreed at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
The same commitments shape UAE priorities in regional cooperation and international development assistance.
“Through collective action at the regional and global levels, our country is determined to transfer its knowledge and experience in optimising government performance to other nations,” said Hamad Al Mansoori, Director General, UAE Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority.
Investing in partnerships
The UAE supports initiatives to reinforce affordable and reliable connectivity worldwide, including partnerships to expand access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), ensure accessibility and inclusion for persons with disabilities and the elderly, devise future digital strategies (beyond 5G), and install the necessary broadband infrastructure to support resilient, sustainable societies.
Similar policies and technologies promise long-term socio-economic benefits across the whole Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
While the GCC is currently ahead in terms of digital competitiveness, lower infrastructure costs in North Africa could provide a window of opportunity.
Many MENA countries envisage themselves as future pillars of the artificial intelligence (AI) industry.
AI represents a new frontier of value generation in the global economy. Machine learning and heuristic software – able to handle complex tasks and displaying human-like behaviour – could drive extensive automation in hospitals and schools as well as all kinds of industries.
Egypt, under an agreement signed in 2018, has embarked on close cooperation with the UAE to share knowledge and experience, foster innovation, boost institutional capacity, and improve government services.
Elsewhere in the MENA region, Jordan has taken steps to improve its government apparatus and services through exchanges of expertise, experiences and best practices with the UAE in government service development, smart services, and managing and evaluating institutional performance, innovation and excellence.
Further afield, a UAE government delegation recently signed partnership agreement to improve government services and performance in Uzbekistan.