While it may still be a niche market in the UAE, other developed countries have an established market for public opinion data analytics. Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The UAE’s leadership has been vociferous in their belief in the youth. Their message has consistently been one of empowerment, predicated on the younger generation taking the country to new heights through an innovative spirit.

The UAE has also remained steadfast in the pursuit to be a major player on the world stage, and this is manifested across all aspects, be it architecture, technology (with the heavy emphasis on Artificial Intelligence), or by way of hosting global conventions. It might seem that these are difficult objectives - but there are ways to go about doing so that are yet to be explored.

Hear them out

The first step is identifying and highlighting deficiencies. One simple way is through polling and census surveys. After all, businesses often take a data-driven approach when looking to maximise profits and improve efficiency.

If it is good enough for them, why not apply that to the broader populace as well?

There has been some effort made towards this end. The Arab Youth Survey is an annual report based on interviews with nationals across 17 Arab states. The aim is to provide empirical information reflecting the social, political and economic climate in a range of Arab countries.

A paucity of details

But the findings are more of an overview than an in-depth delve into all facets of public opinion. Furthermore, beyond the Arab Youth Survey and YouGovMENA, there seems to be a lack of polling firms regularly taking surveys and publishing results.

While it may still be a niche market in the UAE, other developed countries have an established market for public opinion data analytics. Take the US - the news cycle is flooded with polling data and statistics, with the firms carrying out the surveys having ascended to a status on par with that of traditional news outlets.

Their research is used everywhere, to the extend where it is difficult to find an analytical report or presentation where Gallup, FiveThirtyEight or Pew Research Center is not referenced.

This is an approach that needs to be far more prevalent in the UAE. Current surveys (the few that there are) on youth opinion are almost exclusively focused on Arab youth.

Widen the scope

While this is no doubt important, the scope of examination needs to be expanded to include the expatriate population as well. A more holistic approach can yield more trends and points of analysis, and when the information becomes publicly available, it can be used to drive innovation where needed.

The concerns and the opinions of the youth can provide a valuable insight into markets and areas of business that have thus far remained relatively unexplored. For example, I know anecdotally that many of my peers wanted to improve their health and fitness, but were unsure of how to go about doing so or where to start, and were intimidated by the prospect of joining a sports club or a gym.

If this was a trend that cropped up in a survey of the youth across the country, an enterprising individual or group could capitalise and start a personal health consultancy service for teens at a low cost.

Innovation and the spark of a business idea can emerge from anywhere…

- Umer Lakhani is a Dubai-based undergrad.