4 Digital Transformation Trends Defining the Future of the GCC

Abed al hadi Fleifel
April 13, 2023

The GCC region is at the forefront of digital transformation, with many organizations leading the way in terms of innovation and implementation. Here are four digital transformation trends that are defining the future of the region:

1. Investment-powered digital transformation

2. Citizen-centric digital services

3. Cloud-based technologies

4. Data governance strategies

Now that you know what the trends in digital transformation are, let’s break them down so that you can determine the best initiatives for your own organization to remain competitive and serve your customers in new and innovative ways.

1. Investment-Powered Digital Transformation

The investment-powered digital transformation trend is fueled by the need for more sophisticated and scalable technologies, such as edge computing and artificial intelligence. These technologies are critical to supporting digital business models' hyper-growth and can be leveraged for new revenue streams and cost efficiencies.

Investment-Powered Digital Transformation is a key trend in the GCC region due to the growing demand from customers for more efficient solutions. This trend will continue gaining traction as businesses aim to keep pace with market demands while leveraging advanced technologies to drive new revenue streams and cost savings. 

In addition, many companies do not have enough budget for IT infrastructure and software development needs. This has led many organizations to look at alternative funding sources such as cloud computing solutions.

A great example of investment-powered digital transformation is 5G Networks. ZDNet reported, “Early investment in 5G networks has also helped to lay the foundations for this network activity. Countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE were pioneers in providing 5G.”

While there is still a lot more to be done with 5G, early adopters of it will help to enjoy to full benefits 5G provides.

2. Citizen-Centric Digital Service

The citizen-centric digital service is the most impactful of the digital transformation trends in the GCC region. In fact, this trend is expected to continue to dominate the scene. It is driven by governments becoming more open to sharing data, information, and knowledge with their citizens. This is a reflection of their desire to build trust with citizens and increase their engagement with government bodies. Citizen-centric digital service can be summed up as follows:

  • Awareness: The first step in developing a citizen-centric digital service is raising awareness of the importance of citizen participation in shaping government policies and initiatives. 

The impact of this step on performance outcomes would depend on how effectively this message was conveyed through different channels such as social and traditional media.

  • Engagement: The second step is engaging citizens through various channels such as social media platforms or online forums where individuals can exchange ideas with other members of their community or even government officials about issues that concern them most, such as the unemployment rate, education system, etc. This engagement helps identify the most important aspects for each group of people and then helps them prioritize their concerns accordingly during discussions.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the GCC area saw opportunities for citizen-centric digital service. The Boston Consulting Group reported, offerings like telehealth “fundamentally shifted citizens’ expectations for how services can and should be delivered.” Additional examples they shared for citizen-centric digital services included:

  • Making payments for taxes, rates, fines, penalties, etc… online
  • The ability to update addresses when moving quickly and efficiently
  • Vehicle and driver’s license registrations
  • Filing tax returns
  • Looking for employment.

The possibilities of what governments can offer their citizens digitally to speed up civic processes are endless.

3. Cloud-Based Technologies

Cloud-based technologies will be important to the GCC area's digital transformation. Businesses are and will continue to be increasingly looking to move their operations to the cloud, and some firms are even going so far as to plan for a 100 percent cloud-based future. This is due partly to the security and flexibility that comes with cloud computing and its potential cost savings.

The National News reported’, “Countries in the GCC are increasingly attracting a large number of global cloud technology companies due to the rise of tech-focused young consumers and an evolving digital landscape in the region.” 

They went on to say that global spending on public cloud services is projected to rise more than 20 percent annually and is expected to hit $495 billion in 2020, roughly $84 billion more than what was spent this year. Reaching $600 billion by 2023.

Three companies to watch in the region include Alibaba Cloud, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services.

Cloud computing has already revolutionized how we use technology in our everyday lives. Cloud storage enables authorized individuals the ability to access documents, images, and other files from anywhere as long as they have a login and an internet connection. At the same time, cloud-based applications make it possible for users from around the world to collaborate on projects without having to meet face-to-face.

However, businesses have also found that migrating their entire infrastructure to the cloud isn't always practical or as cost-effective as they would hope. For example, companies may choose not to migrate critical data and applications because they require more robust security than what is typically provided by public cloud service providers — particularly when it comes to compliance with regulations like GDPR.

4. Data Governance Strategies

Data governance is an essential element of effective data management. It is the process of identifying, monitoring, and governing data quality across an enterprise. A comprehensive data governance program helps organizations use their data to its full potential while avoiding unnecessary risks to their business. Established practices and procedures preserve the integrity of the data resources and enable users to make better decisions based on accurate and timely information.

Data governance consists of two major components — policies and processes — which are implemented through various technical tools. The guidelines define where data resides, who has access to it, and how it can be used. Techniques include how people access and use data and how they create and manage it over time. While there is no single right way to implement a data governance strategy, organizations should consider these key aspects:

Data location

  • Where does your organization store its most critical data? Is it on-premises or in the cloud? 
  • How many different locations are there for this data? 
  • Are there any regulatory requirements around where certain types of sensitive or confidential information must be stored? 

These factors will significantly impact your overall strategy for managing this information throughout its lifecycle (from creation through retirement).

Data Inventory

Another thing to consider in any data governance strategy is an inventory of all the data within your organization. This encompasses data of virtually any type, be it structured, these types of data, or unstructured data. A complete checklist will allow you to identify weaknesses, gaps, and other areas where more information is required.

Data Quality Management

Once you've identified all your existing data sources, it's time to start working on their quality. You want to ensure that each piece of information is accurate and up to date before it can be used by other departments or made available externally through APIs or other public-facing channels.

Deloitte reported governments in the GCC to understand just how important it is to protect the data of their citizens. As a result, many have built and implemented “comprehensive Big Data strategies and programs.” Examples of these include:

  • Dubai’s Smart City Strategy
  • Qatar Smart Program (TASMU)
  • Bahrain Open Data, and 
  • KSA Open and Big Data Strategies

Wrapping Up

Customer expectations have changed, and companies have altered their brand communication strategies due to the shift in customer communication preferences. Companies are now focused on real-time customer engagement, both online and mobile. With the continued implementation of digital transformation strategies, companies will see a higher success rate in meeting the needs of their customers.

Citizen expectations within governments have changed as well. As people become more dependent on technology, political decisions, and government programs will need to keep up with the demands of the people. Systems will need to be upgraded, new policies put in place, and added protections for citizen data will be more critical than ever before. The good news is, with improvements in technology, the future is looking brighter for people living and working in the GCC.

Digital Transformation
GCC Business
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