LONDON: Experts have said data is the new oil, which should prompt Gulf states to do more to protect this vital resource, including improving the next generation’s skills in artificial intelligence and other technologies, and addressing problems trade protectionism.
These are some of the measures advocated by various data and artificial intelligence analysts at a trade and fintech forum hosted by the UK-based Arab-British Chamber of Commerce in London on Tuesday. This is part of a series of forums ahead of the 2022 Arab-British Economic Summit in September.
During this first forum, in partnership with the Arab Bankers Association, a panel of public and private industry experts discussed some of the technologies that have been implemented and considered future developments.
Among the issues highlighted were the effects of various factors, including geopolitical and socio-economic issues, supply chain constraints and changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the region’s inherent dependence on the oil.
Andrew Elia, managing director of IT consultancy Arishi, said GCC countries are excited about data, AI and the potential of the green economy, but there is still a long way to go. before being equal with the European Union.
“There needs to be an understanding of what needs to happen, which I think in many cases doesn’t exist. But education also needs to be part of that. So they’re sort of going to peer, then it’s implementation,” Elia said.
“There is still a very strong dependence on natural resources for income and all these countries are looking to move to another type of economy, and especially in the United Arab Emirates and others, they are looking much towards a financial services-based economy,” he said.
“They’re on a long road that’s going to take decades to deliver because it has to start with educating the next generation and perfecting them to get them to that kind of level.”
Although most GCC countries sought to localize all their content, they still depended on third parties, which led to significant financial implications.
Through Arishi, Elia said it provides the tools and expertise for companies and governments to adopt and integrate technology to achieve their business goals.
They have also collaborated with the Abu Dhabi Global Market Academy in the United Arab Emirates and the London Institute of Banking and Finance to improve locals’ skills in financial services training, and have developed all the software, infrastructure and tools to deliver the Classes.
One area they are looking to explore further, particularly with Saudi Arabia, is medical technology to develop artificial intelligence solutions, including gait analysis software in collaboration with academics in Switzerland that identifies biomechanical defects in the lower body. Another project they are working on is a non-contact device to measure electrolytes for diabetics which is now being used to prevent type 2 diabetes.
David Hansom, global procurement partner at international law firm Clyde and Co., said that apart from the pandemic, the increase in recent wars and sanctions, from Ukraine to Yemen, has affected global supply chains and now “we are seeing a potential long-term impact, not necessarily negative, but a shift in how supply chains work.
Hansom said a number of financial barriers, tariffs and customs controls have also been imposed and countries are looking to reinvigorate their own manufacturing bases and are trying to grow and produce more locally to create jobs and boost their savings.
“I think protectionism, if it continued, would also have a real impact on global trade routes,” he added.
He also said there had been a 400% increase in shipping costs, delays at ports and in the movement of people and goods, rising inflation and a shortage of raw materials, including including microchips for computers and lithium, which is crucial for electric vehicles, and these have had an impact on prices.
“From an Arab perspective, huge investments in new technologies, huge investments in FinTech, making sure that supply chains are there to be able to seize these opportunities are going to be really important,” he said. he declared.
Regarding data protection, he said that several Arab countries have recently introduced new data protection laws as they have started to realize its “enormous value” and that it needs to be protected.