Countries in the GCC have come a long way in terms of economic diversification and they continue to work hard to reduce their reliance on oil. Following a swift and effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which inspired a shift towards a more tech-driven approach to work across the board, I anticipate the technology sector to grow and become a strong driving force in coming years.
Governments in the region have been proactive in digitising their systems and services, and produced global benchmarks in the area of smart cities, with more in the pipeline. Private sector firms are also continually working to fine tune their operations and offerings with the aid of cutting-edge technologies.
We cannot doubt that we are on a promising track. It is always useful, however, to brainstorm ways to broaden the scope of our region in any given field.
As I have written before in these pages, the youth is the region’s greatest asset and we have witnessed them adapt quickly to technological advancements. It is also commendable how Arab women represent a higher proportion of graduates in computer science programmes, in contrast with the rest of the world where the field is male-dominated.
We must ask ourselves how we can enable our youth to take our tech industry to the next level and facilitate their journeys to realising their potential and in turn contributing to long-term economic goals.
Following an extended period of uncertainty it is natural for professionals, especially those at the beginning of their careers or business pursuits, to feel reluctant about pursuing opportunities they had been working towards.
Both governments and private sector firms can work towards providing support to computer science graduates and aspiring tech entrepreneurs.
First, governments can facilitate tech licensing procedures to make the procedures simple and user-friendly in the future, and broadly work towards an accessible and supportive infrastructure designed with the needs of entrepreneurs and innovators in mind.
Special lending rates will encourage up and coming business leaders to start their businesses, and financial institutions can also help create networks that help young entrepreneurs connect and collaborate so they can benefit from synergistic outcomes.
The networks can provide platforms for young professionals and innovators to share their ideas with investors, brainstorm plans and ideas, connect with like-minded people, and access both employment and business opportunities.
Established tech firms in the region – both local and multinational – can be proactive in engaging with our youth and guiding them, while also reaping the benefits of their insights and gaining a more layered understanding of their younger client demographic.
Governments within the region can facilitate cross-border collaboration and also support entrepreneurs in finding global opportunities that help expand their businesses.
They can also incentivise the corporations to use locally-developed technologies over global products in order to support their own economies and drive innovation within the region.
With more and more companies hiring remote workers or opting for hybrid models, employers in the tech field have a wider talent pool to choose from, and can look regionally when filling roles. Flexible jobs that can be done remotely may be more suited to women in the industry who account for high percentages of computer science graduates, and can now find a better balance between their home and professional lives.
In the long term, governments and private equity firms in the region must invest in the technology sectors, and engage players in other economic sectors so they stay abreast of digitisation and aspire to create global benchmarks in the development and use of latest technologies.
While the GCC region has witnessed a series of efforts towards tech, it could benefit from hosting a series of of innovation hubs that incentivise participation and actively engage young professionals in workshops, mentorship programmes and networking opportunities. These centres could package resources and information and make them readily available for people who have aspirations to start or expand their careers or businesses in tech.
We also cannot forget that current generations are increasingly tech savvy at a younger age and must also encourage school-aged children to learn programming and about the digital world as a whole. School workshops, competitions and camps centred around computer science education are useful tools that could inspire future career paths in the field.
The future is digital and the world is moving fast. The GCC region must capitalise on its strengths and use them to pursue and create opportunities that spur growth within the tech sector. Not only will this help recharge the economies but it will also foster a culture of innovation and learning.