In the past, UAE would have evoked imagery of an economy driven largely by oil and tourism (thanks to Dubai). Petroleum and natural gas continue to play a central role in the economy, especially in Abu Dhabi. The diversification of the economy began 20 years ago, with setting up of several hubs like Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City. While technology was at the centre of these initiatives too, a key pivot happened in a few years ago, led by visionary leadership, to direct the end benefit to the common citizen.
The commendable aspect of these initiatives is that they are meant to make the everyday life of the common citizen easier, better. In 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, said, “We want to relocate citizen service centers into every citizen device, enabling them to obtain their desired service through their mobile phones anywhere at any time. A successful government reaches out to the citizens rather than waits for them to come to it.” So adoption of technology and a customer-centric approach have been the hallmark of digital initiatives in the UAE.
According to a McKinsey report in 2016, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain are among the top countries in the world, with more than 100 percent smartphone penetration and more than 70 percent social media adoption—even higher than the United States. But true technology adoption is beyond numbers pertaining to smartphone penetration – it is about making lives of people and businesses easy. For example, ENOC developed an RFID-enabled fuelling system that allows cashless and card-less automated payments. In 2016, Bank Audi Lebanon launched Novot, a robot powered by Artificial Intelligence which helped a branch welcome and guide customers, as well as promote the Bank’s products and services. A leading medical &health sciences university wanted to automate their university operational workflows and centralized database to generate required reports and get information with ease. Robosoft crafted a solution which automated functions such as application registration, fee collection, time-table management, online exams, faculty-student communication and more through web app. Recently, the UAE Federal Public Prosecution launched an app through which public can report acts that are punishable by law.
The UAE is also considered to be a leader when it comes to digital banking in the Middle East. According to a report, Emirates NBD (ENBD), one of the leading banks in the region has committed Dh1 billion for digital transformation. The aim of banks like Mashreq and Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD) is also to make service delivery channels more useful and customer friendly. In fact, UAE is also home to digital only banks like Liv.Me which boldly proclaim ‘No Call Center’ as their USP.
The region is also home for several global airlines – an industry where digital ‘design’ plays a key role in defining customer experiences.
The digital ambitions of the region can be gauged by the goal set in 2013: make available all government services accessible through mobile devices within two years. The official portal of the UAE Government lists several eServices of the government – Hotel, Apartment Engineering Drawings, Remote Interpretation Service, Renewal of Business Services and View Insured Employee Details…to name a few.
The vision for Dubai, while being futuristic places the interests of the common citizen at the centre. The Smart Dubai 2021 vision: to be the happiest city on earth.
“We are making Dubai the happiest city on earth by embracing technology innovation making Dubai a more seamless, safe, efficient and personalised city experience for all residents and visitors.”
Smart buildings, smart roads, smart energy, smart justice…and more are part of this ambitious program. The region is rapidly adapting new technologies to make an impact on the day to day lives of citizens.
In October 2017, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum announced the appointment of the country’s first minister of state for Artificial Intelligence. There is even an ‘UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence’, outlining the country’s aims to enhance performance and productivity by investing in AI. Saudi Arabia has announced the $500bn, Neom, dubbed ‘the world’s most ambitious project’ – a smart city where citizens will travel in driverless vehicles, have free Internet and live in zero-carbon homes.
According to Necip Ozyucel, cloud and enterprise business solutions lead at Microsoft Gulf, 60 percent of enterprises are planning to adopt AI and AI-embedded use cases including predictive analytics, robotics and machine automation… particularly in growth industries such as retail, finance and manufacturing. There is a growth in AI adoption not only in private sectors but also in the government services. The customer service chatbot of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Rammas, is a good example. The healthcare industry too offers great potential to embrace AI to enhance its services. Dr Bassam Mahboub of the Dubai Health Authority, believes that ‘the roadmap of future healthcare is a system that is a mix of mobile applications, chatbots, and smart computer analytics that will provide patients with their diagnosis’. The government has even established a ‘Drones for Good’ initiative which is ‘dedicated to transforming the innovative technologies behind civilian drones into practical, realisable solutions for improving people’s lives today.’
A recent report also revealed that UAE citizens express a strong interest in biometric technologies that make their lives easier. They believe that new forms of authentication, such as fingerprint, facial, and voice recognition, can make unlocking accounts and payments much easier and more convenient than traditional passwords or PINs. We at Robosoft have experienced the benefits of convenience coupled with security in a sensitive category like personal finance thanks to our work for online trading companies mobile payments & e-commerce platforms and banks.
In essence, digital technologies will continue to be interwoven into the everyday lives of all citizens and businesses in the UAE. In this context, design thinking will play a crucial role in planning the customer experience by empathising with their pain points. The future bodes well for the citizens of the region as technology is not used as an end in itself but as a means to end – a delightful customer experience.
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