Time of The Machines

Time of The Machines

  • IoT creates a number of applications, services, and solutions that help us not only have control of our lives but also everything around us.
  • Turning life into a connected society where you can have control over your home, business, health, education, and everything else from anywhere is our goal.
  • It would be nice to show the world in 2020 that the middle east is exporting more than it consumes.

The power of today’s telecommunication and IT technologies has made it possible for humans to communicate with each other over great distances and despite means. That same technology also makes it possible for humans to communicate with machines and create amazing tools and applications such as Apple’s Siri or Google’s search engine.

Now is the era of machine-to-machine communication or what is commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). This creates a number of applications, services, and solutions that help us not only have control of our lives but also everything around us. The region needs pioneers that specialize in building ecosystems—pioneers that will build solutions on top of the current telecom and IT infrastructure—using telecom as a platform to connect with different verticals. Verticals like health, education, fleet management, SME, Smart Homes, and utilities are just some examples of the ecosystems that we strive for and continue to promote in the Middle East.

Ericsson reported that there would be 50 billion connected devices by the year 2020. This is around eight times the number of people in the world. Ericsson explains that we are in the early stages of the second phase of connected society development. The first phase was networking consumer electronics such as your mobile phone, your laptop, or your play station. The next phase will be networking industries. Building healthcare, government, home automation, and fleet management ecosystems are just a few examples of the planned industrial connectivity. We can already see some growth in the fleet management and home automation sectors, but not yet in other areas.

Turning life into a connected society where you can have control over your home, business, health, education, and everything else from anywhere is our goal. Imagine that you have a connected fridge at home that senses you are running out of milk. Imagine this fridge talking to your local grocery store, which then automatically picks the milk—and any other items you may be running low on—from the store shelf and notifies you via your cell phone: 1) of the store that is fulfilling your order; 2) for authorization and confirmation of payment; and 3) of an expected delivery time. Once you put the milk on your Smart Home refrigerator shelf, the system resets itself.

It will be interesting to see where technology takes us in a few years from now. The Middle East has many things to offer the world. And innovation should be one of them. Out of the projected 50 billion connected devices, let’s work on innovating and engineering at least 10 percent of that. I think this is fair if you take into consideration that the Middle East accounts for 8 percent of the world’s population. Wouldn’t it be nice to show the world during the 2020 Dubai Expo that the Middle East is exporting more technology than it consumes?

The article is written by Yasser Alobaidan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review


Arab Public Administration & the Transition from e-Governance to m-Governance

Arab Public Administration

  • Development of a robust ICT infrastructure has helped Arab nations adopt e-governance at a fast pace.
  • GCC countries lead the pack when it comes to e-Governance readiness, but other Arab countries have also started developing citizen-centric e-governance programmes.
  • However, all governments in the region are yet to adopt mobile-based applications for delivering e-governance services.
  • Arab governments will need to continuously upgrade their existing knowledge and attitude towards e-governance to remain in the lead, as shown by the example of UAE, whose e-governance framework has evolved over the years to meet changing requirements, and is currently considered one of the best in the world.

Development of a robust ICT infrastructure has helped Arab nations adopt e-governance at a fast pace. Arab countries are looking to upgrade their existing public service delivery infrastructures, and according to a survey, the average e-governance development index in Western Asia continent largely comprising of Arab countries was above the world average, i.e. 0.5547 to 0.4882 in 2012. The performance is driven by the growing investments aimed at building digital knowledge-based economies that has led to development of the ICT infrastructure in the region. High internet penetration in the region has enabled hosting of government web portals to share information.

Further, telecom companies in the region have transitioned from voice services to provide bundled telecom services with 3G / 4G services on smart phones, and fibre-optic networks.  As a result, internet usage in the Middle East is higher than the global average and the citizens in the region are often classified as heavy users of electronic social networks having high dependence on digital communications. This all-round development and usage of internet in the Arab world has laid the perfect ground for e-governance in the region.

GCC countries lead other Arab countries when it comes to e-Governance readiness. GCC nations have been making efforts to induce eGovernment in their societies and promote digital transformation and literacy. These governments are competing among themselves to develop a new knowledge-based economy, which will reduce their dependence on oil, and enable them to make their products and services competitive on a global scale. As part of these efforts, they are creating service oriented and citizen-centric operating models, and developing electronic operating environments that have the potential to support the e-Citizens model.

Key initiatives launched in these countries include network readiness, infrastructure readiness, service availability, citizen inclusion, and development of a national identity management infrastructure. Further, technological advancements have enabled these governments to provide ‘citizen services’ through multiple delivery channels such as the internet, smart phones, or contact centres. At present, conventional service counters are the most-used channels; however, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, that own evolved government portals, provide lot of citizen transactions online. According to an Arab Advisors Group report, 20% of the portals provide messaging services via mobile, whereas 65% of the portals deliver transactional services.

The leadership position of GCC countries is reflected in the results of the Arab world’s 2013-14 e-Governance Development Index recently published by MRD and Orient Planet. Further, according to United Nations 2012 Survey, UAE ranked 28th (up from 49 in 2010) on the global e-government development index. Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, ranked among the top 100 countries worldwide.

Arab Public Administration 1

 Other nations have been following these e-governance leaders and there has been a significant development in adoption of citizen-centric e-governance programmes in the Arab world. The e-governance movement is not limited to GCC nations only, and this is reflected in the fact that by August 2013, 18 Arab countries had electronic government portals – these countries included Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen.

The increased penetration of the smart phones will lead to increased usage of e-governance portals and other offerings through mobile channels; however, all governments in the region are yet to adopt mobile-based applications for delivering e-governance services. Most countries in the Arab World have built their base for e-government services, however, provisions for m-applications and social media for service delivery is yet to be integrated completely. The larger and the richer countries are have been adopting the social media and m-applications in public services at a higher rate than the smaller ones.

Also, governments in the region will need to continuously upgrade their existing knowledge and attitude towards e-governance. Current e-governance practices in the Arab world have been shaped and influenced by IT vendors or consultancy firms, and there is a need to upgrade these practices to keep in-line with evolving citizen requirements. Such an upgrade will entail much more than just a technology upgrade; instead it will require a fundamental change in thinking where governments will need to act like service providers and treat citizens like customers.

Among other things, there is a need to provide single window system and integrated platforms to enable faster citizen transactions with the government. Such systems should also sustain the momentum of complex, cross-departmental projects, promote good governance, and ensure easy solutions to the change management challenges of governments. Finally, such systems should allow the governments to monitor their e-governance development and evolution.

Long story short, some Arab countries have made good progress in their march towards e-governance, but a lot remains to be achieved as online public administration systems are in the process of being implemented in most countries. And for countries already having such systems in place, it will be important to continually upgrade those to meet e-citizen standards being followed worldwide. The following case study of steps taken by the UAE should be useful for other countries looking to adopt e-governance best practices.

UAE – a case study for successful e-governance implementation in the Arab World

UAE adopted the e-governance path way back in 2001 when it launched an electronic card known as the eDirham to collect service fees. After that, the country has continuously built its e-governance prowess and today the nation is considered to have one of the most advanced and world-class information and communication technology infrastructures. UAE was ranked third in Accenture’s list of leading digital governments. A timeline of e-governance implementation in the UAE is appended below.

UAE Federal e-Government Evolution

Arab Public Administration 2

Source: European Journal of ePractice

One of the reason for the success of the e-governance model in the UAE is the hybrid approach where the government departments create new online services, while the central authority work towards building the common parts required by all departments, such as payment and customer support. This approach leads to standardization, cost savings and rapid execution. One of the examples can be “Markabati,” a portal from the central authority enabling people in UAE to connect with every aspect of vehicle service in the public and private sector. All the services can be found and transacted through the portal.

Further, the UAE e-governance system has adopted latest technology trends, and seeks to move from e-government to m-government. The country has one of the largest smart phone and mobile penetration rates in the world. The government had announced its plans to set up the region’s first lab to test secure ways to offer residents m-government services. Citizens would be able to deal with government departments via their smart phones without any restrictions on time. UAE has plans that all the government departments should be able to provide a one-stop store for applications and enable all transactions through a single login. Other initiatives include the building of a federated identity management system to provide secure, unique and tamper-proof digital identities to its citizens.

All this is a part of UAE’s Federal eGovernment Strategic Framework from 2012-2014, which covers more than 35 initiatives across four vital eGovernment areas:

  1. Strengthening the regulatory framework and governance mechanisms for eGovernment in the country.
  2. Infrastructure support of information systems in the United Arab Emirates.
  3. Launching and providing eGovernment applications and services.
  4. Development of effective mechanisms for performance management.

Arab nations looking to develop effective e-governance systems will need to develop long-term frameworks (like UAE) that meet their local needs and are in line with contemporary e-governance standards.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Apple and IBM Partnership

Apple and IBM Partnership


  • The new IBM-Apple partnership targets the missing gap between popular Apple mobile divides, BYOD programs and enterprise applications.
  • The goal is to combine this into a better solution while offering more flexibility to the end users, cheaper administration costs and more efficiency in the daily business operations.
  • With cyber security and data privacy on the rise, this article will take a look on how this partnership will address the needed protection to corporate knowledge and what we can expect in the near future.
Apple – IBM Partnership and Impact on Security
The much publicized new partnership between Apple and IBM is significant as it positions Apple to increase its penetration into the enterprise business area. The main focus of this partnership will address mobility and the increasing BYOD/CYOD that many companies have implemented. Rolling out a new class of more than 100 industry-specific enterprise solutions including native apps, developed exclusively from the ground up for iPhone and iPad is the key point in this partnership. Unique IBM cloud services optimized for iOS, including device management, security, analytics and mobile integration; new AppleCare® service and support and as well as offerings from IBM for device activation, supply and management will open up a large market opportunity for Apple and put IBMs renowned big data analytics at iOS users’ fingertips.
Apple is planning to have iOS become a serious player in the enterprise and with this alliance to develop an enterprise-friendly range of systems on tablets and smartphones. This will ease some serious enterprise concerns around how to manage Apple’s iOS systems and addressing the BYOD issues companies are facing, but how will this address the questions around integration, functionality and security?
In the US, around 65 per cent of firms allow iOS usage, according to IDC figures and allow workers access enterprise applications via personally owned devices because of the perceived productivity benefits. Although 98% of employers have a security policy in place for mobile access to corporate data, 21% allow employee access with no security at all. Without properly enforced controls, companies will continue to face serious security challenges.
Chief Information Security Officers’ opinions across various industries have been split over whether Apple’s consumer-focused iOS operating system, could be secured and integrated appropriately for business applications and sensitive data and therefore minimizing the risk of data loss and breach. True enterprise mobile apps need back-end services integration, security and identity management. In the last IBM CISO Assessment, mobile security was a top concern, with more than half of interviewed security leaders ranking it as a major technology challenge that needs to be addressed over the next two years; 76% say the loss of a mobile device with access to corporate data could result in a significant security event.

IBM MobileFirst Platform for iOS is planned to address some of these issues by providing the services required for an end-to-end enterprise capability. This will not only include analytics, workflow and cloud storage, but also security and integration while making use of IBM’s unique Bluemix Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering.

Bluemix mobile zone for iOS will enable developers that work with Xcode and inside the iOS environment to benefit from Internet cloud storage, workflows, analytics and many other capabilities, giving them easy ways to plug into SDKs and APIs and take advantage of existing offerings on Bluemix. This alone should contribute to the roll out and implementation of new apps which will address the increasing need for data security and privacy. Although it will not allow the same collaboration and flexibility as in an open source environment, it will allow easy integration of new apps into already existing security features IBM is currently offering such as Security Access Manager (a context based authorization) or its mobile web app and web elements vulnerability scanning. New security features will include complex device fingerprinting of mobile devices, protection against financial account take overs, compromised mobile device detection and a global fraudster database.

The new class of “made-for-business apps” which Apple and IBM are working on now, will target industries such as healthcare, banking, telecommunication and insurance and will be made available fall 2015. Considering that Trend Micro estimates that 1 in 10 Android apps are malware with the number of mobile apps nearly quadrupled between 2011 and 2013, the Apple-IBM team can certainly build on the relatively low apple app infection rate plus their developed apps with the enterprise touch for end point protection and security.
The corporate world will get the best out of this partnership. Using IPads with IBM software, and central management will make it easier for companies to go mobile as well as manage these devices and provide the adequate protection needed. Deploying and managing Apple devices in volumes should have cost reductions over conventional PCs given the industrial-strength AppleCare that will be in place.
Considering the constantly increasing BYOD programs and many employees using their own Apple products – although with limited enterprise connections and tools – consumers might benefit from this partnership as well. BYOD programs with Apple products should get better, be better supported by corporate IT departments and cause less headaches for CIOs on how to secure corporate data on the on the so popular but not really enterprises compatible hardware.

The article is written by Dasha Deckwerth for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review