Dubai: Making 5G services accessible to a widest possible user base from the beginning and fast-track regulation will be decisive in placing the UAE as a “centre of excellence for tech research and innovation”.
The latest in mobile network, 5G will enable new use cases, by helping better use of urban spaces through deploying augmented/virtual reality and having wearables improve workplace safety.
But the UAE will have challenges to overcome too – the market and its players pump in “significantly less” investments into R&D than major tech hubs. And even when compared to “stronger regional competition – for e.g., Saudi Arabia [by] increasing connectivity and introducing pro-business reforms”.
These were highlighted in a report brought out by a UAE-based tech think-tank, which was launched by Mashreq Bank in June.
“Alongside the enormous potential to transform the tech sector, there also exists several challenges which requires strategic change,” said Hind Eisa Salim, Executive Vice-President and Head of Services and Manufacturing at Mashreq Bank. “Going forward, our report finds that the close collaboration between government, industry and universities is key to enabling the future potential of the UAE tech sector - as well as building a thriving national technology ecosystem that will support expansion and help achieve its smart city goals.”
Recommendations to bring about change
To bring about the desired changes, the UAE should consider:
Strong regulation is required to promote fair competition, innovation and growth. The Mashreq Bank sponsored whitepaper recommends establishing a council that comprises local, regional and international regulatory bodies to streamline regulatory processes. It also strongly suggest launching more “sandbox free zones” and testing environments to positively impact the innovation and experimentation of regulations.
The technology industry should collaborate with academia to showcase local business uses. It also stresses a need to maximize the benefits of 5G by investing in computing capabilities for optimum usage.
Retaining and attracting talent
The government must re-examine visa and work permit regulations to encourage longer term residencies which will help retain talent. Additionally, more must be done to support the long-term survival of tech businesses in the region, as many startups often operate under volatile environments. It is also important to reform curriculums to foster a more creative educational approach in schools.
Adequate education and living allowances must be provide for key staff, so that they can realize their potential through self-education and cover their expenses.
Research and development
It is vital to provide incentives, such as tax relief, or matched funds for private investors to allocate a percentage of their budget to R&D. The UAE should also encourage collaboration between academics, industry and government to set up “sandboxes” that test demonstrate business uses.
The country should also cement its reputation as a safe place to innovate through rigorous policing of intellectual property protection. Finally, the government must also make early decisions that prioritize domains of expertise with relevance to the region.