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Top 10 enterprise IT in the Middle East stories of 2019

Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 enterprise IT in the Middle East stories of 2019

Countries in the Middle East have become pioneers of the latest digital technologies and some of the articles featured by Computer Weekly this year evidence that.

The combination of the region’s wealth, built up through the global sale of oil, and its acceptance that the black stuff won’t last for ever, has driven ambitions plans in digital technology.

In the UAE, for instance, there is a 30-year plan to reduce the country’s reliance on oil revenues. This plan involves diversifying the economy and has identified technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) as critical to new industries. To this end, the UAE has put the wheels in motion to ensure it has the right skills to develop AI and apply it to business challenges.

Also in Abu Dhabi is the company that has fuelled the UAE economy for the last 40 years through the sale of oil and gas. The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) is on its own digital journey. In this top 10, read an interview with the man behind the wheel, its head of digital, Abdul Nasser Al Mughairbi.

Another Middle East digital leader featured is the Central Bank of Bahrain’s head of fintech, Yasmeen Al Sharaf. The island state’s government realised that it could retain its leading position in the region’s financial services sector only if it kept pace with fintech development.

All this digital momentum in the Middle East has seen a rapid increase in demand for cloud services. In turn, this has attracted investment in infrastructure from the likes of Amazon Web Services. The cloud computing supplier has set its footprint in the region and has quickly build an impressive customer base.

Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 enterprise IT in the Middle East stories of 2019.

1. Abu Dhabi AI university is key to UAE’s future as the oil dries up

Abu Dhabi’s fledgling artificial intelligence-focused university is a core pillar of the United Arab Emirates’ 30-year plan to remove its economy’s heavy reliance on oil. The Gulf state is developing healthcare, financial services, renewable energy and materials technology sectors, which will make up the UAE economy when the oil runs out. But first, it needs to ensure its citizens have the skills to drive them.

2. Saudi banks trial blockchain-based identity technology at ATMs

US blockchain identity platform firm ShoCard is working with Alhamrani Universal, Saudi Arabia’s largest automated teller machine (ATM) provider, to develop the country’s first biometric bank access technologies. The ShoCard prototype is aimed at solving card fraud issues that continue to blight banks and consumers globally. A study by Gemini Advisory showed that in the US alone, 60 million credit cards were compromised last year and sold on the dark web.

3. Middle East businesses welcome Amazon Web Services region launch

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has connected the Middle East to its global network with the launch of its Bahrain AWS region. The cloud supplier already has infrastructure in the region, but the launch of the Bahrain AWS region, with three datacentres, will connect to its global network.

4. Inside Oman’s new tech startup drive

Oman is following in the steps of its Gulf Cooperation Council neighbours by turning its focus to building a nationwide tech startup ecosystem. The Gulf state has already laid strong foundations for the development of its tech credentials with its overarching policy vision, dubbed 2030 Digital Oman Strategy, or eOman.

5. Interview: Abdul Nasser Al Mughairbi, head of digital, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is transforming its business through digital projects that range from deciding where to drill for oil and gas, to helping the company decide where to sell its final products. The state-owned oil company has driven the United Arab Emirates’ economy since it was founded almost half a century ago, and its head of digital, Abdul Nasser Al Mughairbi, has been driving digital transformation since 2017.

6. Interview: Yasmeen Al Sharaf, head of fintech and innovation unit, Central Bank of Bahrain

Yasmeen Al Sharaf graduated from the University of Bahrain with a BSc in banking and finance, and now runs the department focused on developing financial technology (fintech) at Bahrain’s financial regulator, the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB).

During her 14 years at the CBB, Al Sharaf has held several roles, including one that that involved licensing research and development, where she came into contact with financial services firms trying to set up in Bahrain.

7. Middle East Interview: Dubai-based Fetch

Dubai-based delivery app founder Idriss Al Rifai is well on his way to building one of the largest tech companies in the Middle East. Al Rifai launched Fetchr, the region’s first “phone-to-phone” delivery service, with just three developers in 2012. The company has grown rapidly and now serves 500 cities across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan.

8. Revolutionising patient booking in the Gulf

When Dubai-based Fodhil Benturquia fell ill for a short while in 2017, he saw first-hand how difficult it was to book a doctor in the emirate – so he decided to create his own venture to solve the problem of booking an appointment. To this end, he set up and became CEO of Okadoc.com, the UAE’s first online doctor booking portal.

9. Middle East countries accelerate quantum computing research

Universities in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have launched quantum computing research groups to cultivate homegrown knowledge of the tech that is set to transform the world. Quantum computing, if practical, would mark a leap forward in computing capability far greater than that from the abacus to a modern day supercomputer.

10. Dubai’s Kentech kicks off digital transformation drive

Energy and industrial support company Kentech is one of many Dubai-headquartered organisations to migrate to the cloud and, with most of the project done, it plans to switch over to the cloud in the first month of 2020.

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