Tech trends: AI, cloud, blockchain top agenda for Middle East in 2019

Tech trends: AI, cloud, blockchain top agenda for Middle East in 2019

Under scrutiny for human rights issues and abuses - from the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey to the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar - the Middle East is under pressure to change gear and clarify its position in the world. Leveraging its smart cities and new visions, the region is investing in AI, cloud and blockchain to give it a competitive edge.

Digital transformation is high on the agenda for the region as countries push plans to move away from economic dependence on oil and gas. In fact, spending on digital transformation is forecast to top the $20 billion mark by the end of 2018 and more than double by 2022, according to IDC.

A report by Accenture notes that executives in the Middle East are looking at AI (64%) and Internet of Things (68%) as priority investments in the next few months. Global players like Siemens are investing heavily in the region. The software and engineering giant is injecting $500 million in investment through its building of two Internet of Things centers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

In line with this is Statistica's recent report that found that data center spending in the Middle East and North Africa will likely hit US$5.1 billion by 2020, surpassing 2017 spend by 8.5%. Much of this spend will be focused on supporting the smart city initiatives that are core to the region's ambitions, according to Statistica.

The UAE's 2021 vision plan is aimed at "transitioning to a knowledge-based economy, promoting innovation and research and development, strengthening the regulatory framework for key sectors, and encouraging high value-adding sectors."

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Bianca Wright

Bianca Wright is a UK-based freelance business and technology writer, who has written for publications in the UK, the US, Australia and South Africa. She holds an MPhil in science and technology journalism and a DPhil in Media Studies.

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