The Middle East’s technological landscape is ever-changing, but COVID-19 has certainly accelerated it since last year. Technology has become the cornerstone of global leadership as a result of the recent significant digital acceleration in the Middle East area. However, for businesses, it also entails broadening the definition of value to include factors such as employee well-being, healthcare, sustainability, and more.
These are a few trends that aren’t necessarily cutting-edge technologies, but they have significant ramifications for how and where businesses compete, as well as the capabilities they require to improve performance.
The broad implementation of 5G is a fundamental component of digital transformation. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have all made significant investments in 5G rollouts. According to an Opensignal study conducted in mid-2020, the Saudi 5G network has the fastest average download speed in the world. By 2025, the MENA area is expected to have more than 80 million 5G customers.
The push to build 5G networks in the Middle East reflects both government-led programmes like Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and consumer-driven demand for mobile services. Businesses benefit from 5G’s improvements, which include lightning-fast data transfer speeds and increased network stability. 5G technology promises hundreds of times faster download rates, increased bandwidth, and lower latency, enabling innovations like telesurgery and the continuous growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). 5G will be able to connect more devices at quicker speeds than ever before.
In the oil and gas industry, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology will also allow for more efficient monitoring and data collection. According to a survey by STL Partners, 5G and IoT technologies have the potential to enhance the oil and gas sector’s contribution to GDP by roughly 4.9 percent.
Technology towards zero food waste
Every year, more than 30% of the world’s food is lost or squandered, with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimating that the Near East and North Africa region wastes an average of 250 kg of food per capita, or over a third of all food.
Food waste is estimated to cost the UAE economy $3.5 billion each year.
Restaurants rarely collect precise statistics on the types of food they discard and why they do so. Managers can only guess how to eliminate waste if they don’t have this essential knowledge. In light of this, utilising technology to prevent food waste is essential.
Winnow, a digital firm, solves this challenge by allowing employees to track waste, decrease costs, save time, and manage more lucrative and sustainable kitchens using cutting-edge AI technology. Winnow worked with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment to reduce food waste. Furthermore, Middle Eastern startups such as EreoGo, which describes itself as a conscious grocery shopping app, and Uvera, which uses FDA-approved UV light exposure to extend the shelf life of meat, baked goods, and fresh produce by 20-60%, are leading the charge in terms of using technology to combat food waste.
The Emirates Group also use AI algorithms to forecast the amount of food consumed by its business class guests for each trip on each day. The algorithm’s predictions help it avoid over-catering, food waste, and reduced meal and fuel costs, all of which save money. We expect more food-related businesses to recognise opportunities for digital solutions to reduce food waste.
Rise in digital and contactless payment
The digital payment business is expected to develop significantly this year and beyond, thanks to increased online buying. According to Checkout.com, a London-based payment systems provider, 62 percent of people who buy online at least once a month pay with a card or digital wallet, compared to 44 percent of those who shop online less frequently. The region, which has traditionally been dominated by cash payments, offers fintech companies a chance to expand. The strong mobile penetration in the region offers the foundation for the rise of digital payments.
Meanwhile, according to a Mastercard global consumer survey, 70% of respondents in the Middle East and North Africa region now use contactless payments, citing safety and hygiene as important motivators in the face of the pandemic. Furthermore, 79% agreed that contactless payment systems were simple to use. Customers can get in and out of stores faster using contactless payments, which are up to ten times faster than traditional in-person payment methods.
AI and automation in financial services
According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, artificial intelligence (AI) investments by banks and insurance industries are expected to expand by 86 percent by 2025.
The financial services industry has been a pioneer in AI adoption, particularly through chatbot technology. Eva, an AI-powered personal financial assistant, was created by Emirates NBD. Emirates NBD’s lifestyle banking subsidiary, Liv, has a conversational chatbot, while the bank’s Dubai branch employs a “Pepper” customer care robot.
Wealth management is seeing the rise of robo-advisory platforms, which use artificial intelligence and automation to allocate and manage money and allocations at a minimal cost.
IDC also predicts that by 2023, 40% of insurers will use AI and conversational interfaces to automate claims procedures in order to increase response time, efficiency, and personalization.
According to a report by Verloop.io, technologies like AI and machine learning are assisting banks and other financial institutions in automating services swiftly and responding to consumer enquiries more efficiently during the pandemic. According to the Verloop.io study, 65 percent of users prefer automated self-services for small difficulties, therefore conversational AI is engaging customers and encouraging self-service, which enhances customer satisfaction.
User-friendly AI platforms that allow business people to swiftly develop models, easily comprehend and trust their output, and confidently make decisions will be vital in the implementation of AI at a broader scale if firms are to fully utilize the potential of AI.e.