99% of UAE execs say the speed of innovation has accelerated

The UAE has outpaced global averages in many technology-driven areas like adaptation to 5G, AI and blockchain

A woman touches a robot at the 2018 World Robot Conference in Beijing on August 15, 2018. (Photo by WANG Zhao / AFP)

Ninety-nine per cent of UAE executives believe that the pace of innovation in their organisations has accelerated over the past three years, against the global average of 94 per cent, according to a new report.

UAE has outpaced global averages in many technology-driven areas, as per the report released by Dublin-headquartered professional services firm Accenture.

"Compared to other parts of the world, this region - especially the UAE - is embarking fast on new technologies that will shape the future and society," Xavier Anglada, managing director and digital lead at Accenture in the Middle East and Turkey, told The National.

“The UAE has made massive investments on setting up data centres, attracting global cloud players and setting up its own cloud infrastructure … giving it an edge over other Mena countries.”

There has been big appetite for digital transformation in the UAE, backed most recently by the government's UAE Artificial Intelligence 2031 strategy and a slew of other initiatives.

In 2018, the UAE Central Bank announced its cooperation with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority to work on a digital currency that will facilitate financial transactions between the two countries. Last month, the Roads and Transport Authority announced a proof of concept driverless vehicle had been successfully tested, bringing Dubai one step closer to its goal of a fleet of driverless taxis.

Nine in ten UAE respondents say that digital innovations have become part of the core foundations for their organisations, whereas globally 79 per cent agreed that is the case.

Accenture conducted a survey of 6,672 business and IT executives in 27 countries to capture insights into the adoption of emerging technologies worldwide.

The survey also found that nearly 84 per cent of the UAE executives agree that 5G will revolutionise their industry by offering new ways to provide services, for example through drone delivery, driverless vehicles and faster video transmission. Globally 79 per cent respondents think that 5G will transform their business activities.

The UAE is moving fast towards achieving 5G ambitions. The country’s biggest telecom operator Etisalat has joined hands with Chinese tech giant Huawei to roll out 5G services across the nation as the telco will be building nearly 1000 5G towers this year.

Blockchain, artificial intelligence, extended reality and quantum computing were identified as four other types of technology poised to spark major change in the UAE.

Nearly 95 per cent of UAE professionals surveyed said they are already experimenting with one or more such technologies.

In particular, the UAE is rapidly adopting blockchain, or distributed ledgers technology. It unveiled the Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021 in April last year and aims to transition around half of government transactions onto a blockchain platform in three years.

When asked to rank which of the technologies will have the greatest impact on their organisation over the next three years, 39 per cent of respondents ranked AI number one - more than twice the number of any other technology.

Accenture said that it will take at least a decade for AI to fully develop in the region, to a stage where algorithms could be trained without human input to perform different tasks.

“Today what we are seeing is a narrow use of AI, where technology is focussed only on specific problems or tasks. It will evolve in the coming years,” said Mr Anglada.