UAE as hotbed of innovation brims with ideas

At a meeting in Fujairah’s old fort on Sunday, the federal Cabinet declared 2015 the year of innovation in the UAE. On National Day, Zaid Belbagi looks at how that policy should be put into practice.

At a meeting in Fujairah’s old fort on Sunday, the federal Cabinet declared 2015 the year of innovation in the UAE. On National Day, Zaid Belbagi looks at how that policy should be put into practice.

The latest quantum shift gripping the region, and increasingly embodied in the UAE, is innovation.

New and wide-ranging innovative initiatives are gaining attention at the government level. The main soundbite from the recent Global Summit Agenda was the call from the chairman of the World Economic Forum for the UAE’s innovation agenda to be replicated globally.

Renewed socioeconomic and political changes have triggered an increased interest in government systems and practices as well as in the best ways to make them work better. Increased demands of citizens and challenging requirements for integrating and succeeding in the new global economic and political environment have put mounting pressure on governments to rethink policies and streamline operations. The recent launch of the UAE National Innovation Strategy represents the importance the leadership of the UAE has placed on this issue.

The zeitgeist of innovation is clear. Government entities are now adapting to a new role – providing a more citizen-oriented, efficient and accountable administration, while creating solid infrastructure.

Indeed, governmental bodies region-wide are facing major challenges as they reassess and balance their changing responsibilities as providers of services, regulators, and facilitators of economic and social activity.

In the hurry to develop and to meet the needs of a growing and young population, successful innovation requires a firm academic foundation.

Smart and innovative government requires data, lots of it. Securing the correct institutional framework is not enough. Studies must be conducted to locate not only where the need for updated services is most acute but also to ensure that the solutions are lasting and malleable. To this end, the new Prince Salman Center for Innovative Government in Riyadh lays emphasis on hosting regular forums to debate key policy issues.

The region is brimming with bright thinking and cutting- edge solutions. “It is emerging as a development hub,” as Queen Rania of Jordan said when she opened the Abu Dhabi Media Summit last month.

While the world’s leading thinkers and captains of industry are passing through the Arabian Gulf states, the region is developing its own thinking.

Being a hub for new ideas should be viewed as a reclamation of a long tradition of Arab thinking and research.

It is now up to the region’s governments to embrace innovation. Just as Arab courts of old used to attract the best thinkers and academics, today’s organisations should innovate using the best from their exposure abroad and the experience of development at home.

Innovation is there to make our own.

Zaid Belbagi is the head of strategic communications at the Prince Salman Center for Innovative Government

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Published: December 2, 2014 04:00 AM

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