18 Jun 2017

How to transform GCC to an innovative region? Opportunities for global leadership

In a globalized economy, a region represents a critical mass for presenting a model of innovation at all levels and domains including health, education, energy, transport, green technology, and services.  The resilience and sustainability of the federal system in the US and the EU (which was initiated as a community of coal and steel) was founded on the ethos of common destiny and future for prosperity, economic integration and peace.


GCC presents an example of a region that embodies integral innovation which encompass both cultural and organizational innovation. Transforming the human capital in the Arab world to be innovative is rooted in values and culture; since the search for wisdom is a collective mission and a mandate. Simply said, wisdom is the tacit knowledge that is crucial for an innovative region since it captures the “internet of ideas” like harmony, co-existence, and collectiveness. I call this the “software of innovation” which is underpinned by local culture and worldview that embrace the motto:  “I am, because We are”.

The last few decades witnessed that the center of gravity was moving to GCC in terms of science, technology and innovation. First class model science institutions like KACST, KAUST, MASDAR are examples of excellence in innovation and global leadership. In practice, the Arab world including GCC had embarked on a number of systemic innovation in all sectors that help to foster a culture of innovation. For example, the government of UAE had introduced the post of Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) in the public sector. In KSA, the initiative Doroob offers on-line training, e-health, and e-employment for youth. Innovation labs and incubators are key ingredients of the eco-system of innovation. I-labs provide the space where innovation can flourish and the nation’s competitiveness takes-off. This in turn unlocks the human capital of the youth to be empowered, innovative and engaged citizens.


Knowledge-based urban development in GCC was evident in investment in renewable energy, innovative financing and governance. A learning and innovative region implies investment in ICT infrastructure, human capital and institutions. Big data and open data are instrumental for business, education, health, e-government and user-driven innovation. Technologies like smart phones provide immense and rich data that can be of value in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT). According to a report by McKinsey shows that in 2004 more than 1 billion emails were sent per day. The data that companies and individuals are producing and storing in one year is equivalent to more than 60,000 US Libraries of Congress. The annual economic value of Big Data analytics was estimated to amount to $1 trillion.


The use of Big Data in the public sector worldwide contributes to improve the quality of public services. For example, The Arabian Gulf University in Bahrain is using Big data analytics for health and bio-technology research and many GCC cities adopt e-government  policies to enable citizens to search regulations and laws and to track public services online. Moreover, the digital government or e-government services including e-payments, tax filing and traffic services are in practice and provide services to customers.


The main conditions to nurture and support an innovative culture in GCC depends on how we use our intellectual capital and wisdom. Building on the rich Arab culture, GCC can pioneer innovative ways of creating value-added and sharing resources along the water-energy-food nexus. Looking at culture and creative industries (like art, architecture, fashion, publishing, media and film making) as an asset is key for realizing the vision 2030 and for making a transition to a low carbon economy and sustainable development. Adopting new business models and willingness to learn and adapt to new technologies are crucial to transform economy and society.


In sum, an innovative GCC is a flagship and a source of pride for all Arabs and Muslims. It is a unifying power that celebrates and embraces the notion of “unity within diversity”. This critical mass of One GCC is necessary for security and a catalyst for innovation, peace, and sustainability. The future of the Arab region hinges on creative co-construction of our common future.



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17-20 Oct 2021, Dubai World Trade Centre


17 Oct: 11 AM - 5 PM
18-20 Oct: 10 AM - 5 PM