Economic Update

Published 26 Mar 2019

In a boost to its standing as a centre for advanced research and innovation, Dubai has been chosen to host an affiliate centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network, an initiative of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

During the Davos summit in January, Klaus Schwab, the founder and CEO of the WEF, announced that Dubai – along with cities in Colombia and Israel – had become a centre for the programme, joining original hubs in the US, China, India and Japan.

The initiative, established last year, aims to develop the sites as centres for innovation and technological development.

It is also designed to better prepare governments and businesses for the opportunities and challenges associated with the development of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution – that is, the changes arising from the rapid development of new technologies in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the internet of things, robotics and virtual reality, among others.

For their part, the affiliate centres will be managed locally and backed by host governments, with Dubai’s to be operated by the Dubai Future Foundation, a government-funded innovation centre. The site will work to promote the development and deployment of pilot frameworks on any of the topics aligned with projects launched by the network.

See also: The Report – Dubai 2019

Centre to focus on blockchain and other technologies

In the case of the Dubai affiliate centre, the initial focus will be on developing blockchain solutions.

This approach aligns with the Dubai Blockchain Strategy, which aims to expand usage of the technology across all social and economic platforms. In fact, authorities in Dubai aim to conduct 100% of applicable transactions on blockchain by 2020.

To this end, existing initiatives include a plan announced by the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts in June last year to put data from court judgements on a blockchain so institutions can verify and share information in real time, leading to improved cross-border law enforcement.

In addition to blockchain, the affiliate centre will also work on applications relating to AI and robotics, as well as precision medicine and the study of the potential of genome sequencing.

Technological change and data management at the heart of government policy

The announcement of Dubai as host of an affiliate centre builds on existing collaboration between the WEF and the UAE.

In November the forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the UAE’s Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future issued a joint policy framework on the topic of personal data.

The document aims to serve as a guide for policymakers on how to effectively regulate personal data while adapting to rapid technological changes.

The paper recommends the establishment of new governance structures to manage digital transformation and to protect digital infrastructure, services and data, while also emphasising the importance of including input from a diverse spectrum of stakeholders during the policy-making process.

This collaboration adds another dimension to the research, development and innovation work being conducted in Dubai, providing a policy pillar to accompany the scientific and technological advances.

Dubai to consolidate its position as a leading innovator

The recent collaboration with the WEF also supports Dubai’s efforts to further establish itself as a regional leader in research, development and innovation.

Speaking via hologram at the World Government Summit, held in Dubai in mid-February, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the emirate’s crown prince and chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, said the authorities aimed to put Dubai “10 years ahead of world cities”, to be achieved through innovation and increased investment in skills and knowledge.

“The competition between cities of the future will not just be about infrastructure, but also about attracting the right talents and minds,” he said.

Goals include altering the design and nature of cities to better cater to transport and industrial needs, with officials aiming to design urban spaces where 80% of citizens’ needs can be met within 20 minutes.

In terms of improving transport mobility through new technology, the emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority estimates that 25% of all transport in the UAE as a whole will be automated by 2025, building on the 9% already achieved by the driverless Dubai Metro.