UAE highest ranked Arab country on UN Frontier Technology Readiness index

The Emirates climbed five places on the annual index to rank 37th globally

The UAE is well positioned to double the contribution of its digital economy to GDP in the next 10 years, says Boston Consulting Group. Pawan Singh / The National
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The UAE has moved up five places to be ranked as the top Arab country and the 37th out of 166 countries in the latest UN technology index that evaluates countries on their readiness to adopt advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence with a focus on green innovation.

The UAE, the Arab world's second-largest economy, was ranked in the “high” score group, having previously been ranked in the “upper middle” group in 2021, the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology said on Tuesday.

The Frontier Technologies Readiness Index 2023, released by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, ranks countries based on the deployment of information and communications technology, skills, research and development activity, industry activity and access to finance.

“This report reflects the UAE’s position as a leader in developing and deploying new transformative technologies to boost efficiency, reduce emissions, and accelerate the energy transition,” said Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology.

“As a global hub for innovation and talent, we are pioneering cutting-edge technologies that not only support sustainable industrial development, but also contribute to decarbonising other economic sectors.”

Spending on digital technology — including IT, telecoms and emerging tech such as AI, Internet of Things, blockchain and robotics — in the UAE over the next three years is projected to reach $20 billion, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

The UAE is well positioned to double the contribution of its digital economy to gross domestic product to 19.4 per cent from 9.7 per cent within the next 10 years, the report said.

The UAE's digital economy is expected to grow to more than $140 billion in 2031, up from nearly $38 billion at present, according to a report by the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy.

The UN report is a “testament not only to the ministry’s national industrial strategy, but also to the country’s Net Zero strategic initiative and role as a hub for fostering climate technologies”, Ms Al Amiri said.

The 17 frontier technologies covered in the report such as AI, internet of things and green hydrogen currently represent a $1.5 trillion market, which could grow to over $9.5 trillion by 2030 — about three times the current size of the Indian economy, Unctad said.

“But so far, developed economies are seizing most of the opportunities, leaving developing economies further behind,” it said.

The US, Sweden, Singapore, Switzerland, and the Netherlands are the high-income economies that are most prepared.

China, the most-ready developing country, is ranked 35th, followed by Brazil at 40, India at 46, and South Africa at 56.

China's lower-than-expected position is mainly due to urban-rural disparities in internet coverage and broadband speed, the report said.

India, the world’s fifth largest economy, was the “greatest” over-performer, with the Philippines and Vietnam also among the biggest gainers.

India performs well in R&D and ICT due to the abundance of highly skilled and qualified human resources available at a lower cost, Unctad said.

The Philippines and Vietnam have a high industry ranking, thanks to significant foreign direct investment in high-tech manufacturing, particularly electronics, it added.

However, Latin American, Caribbean, and sub-Saharan African countries are at risk of missing out on current technological opportunities due to their low readiness to adopt and adapt frontier technologies, the report said.

“Green innovation opportunities are time-bound and can only be seized through changes in policy, without which the windows may close,” it said.

“Countries that have taken advantage of the opportunities, such as Brazil and China, have done so through strong responses that include government policies.”

Developed countries' green tech exports surged to $156 billion in 2021 from $60 billion in 2018, according to the report.

Meanwhile, developing countries’ exports rose to $75 billion from $57 billion during the same period.

Updated: May 03, 2023, 2:23 PM