Countries in the Middle East have formulated strategies to boost the contribution of information and communications technologies (ICT) to its economic and digital transformation. Frost & Sullivan's 2021 analysis finds that digital transformation initiatives and acceptance of disruptive technologies from governments and enterprises catalyze ICT market growth. As a result, the region’s ICT market is expected to reach $95 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 2.4%.
Without a doubt, ICT is considered among the most important aspects of the digital era. Think about how 5G, cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), software innovation, automation, and cybersecurity trends are disrupting business models and daily tasks. Thus, individuals, enterprises, and authorities are all embracing the revolution that these technologies entail within a smarter, more interconnected, and highly advanced community.
A lot of effort is being made to adapt and incorporate new technologies to digitalize the world. The ICT sector as a whole becomes an important driver for the future development of the global digital economy. It creates, nurtures, and modernizes the digital ecosystem, which is a global network comprised of the internet, mobile and sensor networks, telecom towers, fiber infrastructure, smart machines, and many more.
The boom of the ICT sector during the last decade, and most especially during the pandemic, can be credited to the high demand for constant communication and uninterrupted access to information. From here, telecom technologies have revolutionized the way people live, work, and communicate. Above all, improved connectivity brings the ICT sector into the spotlight.
A future powered by connectivity, data, and intelligence is upon us. A new intelligent world with everything connected, data-rich, and processed in ways to create actionable outcomes are being built – one framework at a time.
In the Middle East, spending on ICT-centric projects continuously arises as regional economies prosper and ventures put on hold due to the pandemic are now resumed on fast track. Local governments are also prioritizing the communication needs of people and businesses by ensuring stable communication systems that are always operating seamlessly and securely.
ICT deployments are definitely a challenge due to the rapid pace of transformation seen today. But within three major areas: sustainability, mobility, and opportunity, the collaboration between industry leaders, trailblazers, entrepreneurs, and various governing bodies effectively undertake every step needed for a bigger, better, and brighter society.
ICT would boost the overall economic well-being and competitiveness within the digital economy. With modern infrastructure and services, it is an enabler of scalable, fast, quality, accurate, and cost-efficient solutions that are not possible years ago. Now, we have access to products and resources that help reduce poverty and hunger, boost health, mitigate climate change, improve energy efficiency and make cities and communities sustainable.
To emphasize, sustainability targets are attainable if ICTs are designed, deployed, and managed in the most reasonable and environment-friendly manner. In this way, not only will the city benefit, but it influences how the technologies can be utilized in the long run.
Technology innovation and sustainability go hand-in-hand. As technological innovation is recognized as one of the main growth drivers, it plays a critical role in achieving the UN’s SDGs. From the local to the global level, technologies can provide efficient solutions, particularly in helping to build resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and fostering breakthroughs.
By scaling and integrating sustainable ICT applications, addressing critical demands such as energy management is fulfilled. New technologies result in more efficient energy storage and manufacturing of power electronics. Thus, renewable energy sources are becoming more effective in replacing fossil fuels. More so, we can reach carbon neutrality through a combination of clean power, energy conservation, and carbon emission reduction.
With effective policies and greater public awareness, digital power technologies are accelerating our path towards carbon neutrality. It is worthy to keep in mind that the ICT industry is one of the pillars of efficient energy usage worldwide. As mobile connectivity evolves, GSMA has relentlessly pursued its goals by advocating energy efficiency. This involves transitioning to renewable electricity and actively engaging with the supply chain in the mobile technology ecosystem.
In fact, GSMA has been recognized by the UN as one of the first ‘Race To Zero Accelerators.’ The organization’s role in coordinating the industry and the steady progress it has made over the last five years are notable. However, there is more to be done. The mobile industry needs to push for collaboration in the right direction to accomplish the UN’s 2030 Agenda.
As mobile operators set up 5G networks around the world, it is encouraging to know that 5G mobile networks are built with network energy efficiency in mind. A 90% reduction in the energy being used to transfer each bit of data is among 5G’s specifications.
In addition, a GSMA report disclosed that carbon reductions are being reached with the help of smart technologies in various sectors, including smart cities, traveling, hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, etc. These developments are also potential new markets for mobile operators to provide not only connections but also smart technology services.
With the current network infrastructure and Internet access coverage advancements, the ICT sector and its technologies like 5G, cloud, and AI will take most credit. Enhancing mobility, adaptability, and responsiveness for individuals and enterprises alike, these technologies compete in a digitally transformed world with the aim of improving customer experience through real-time, data-driven transactions.
ICT can also optimize operations with automation and greater visibility as well as influence why, how, and the extent of people’s movements and to whom they are connected with. If you come to think of it, ICTs may both encourage and discourage mobility. People’s needs to physically travel may be reduced as ICTs can already connect them ‘virtually’ through audio, video, and teleconference platform.
Having the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, contemporary global societies have been characterized by generally increased mobility and intensified connectedness brought about by ICT advancements.
In a different context than wireless communication, mobility typically pertains to the future of transportation systems. With this in mind, ICT is expected to enable faster, safer, cleaner, and more efficient travel for work or play. Underpinning it all is a mesh of smart devices, network connectivity, and content and experiences delivered in ways that are not possible before.
Telecom companies are integral to this as they are primarily needed to facilitate the surge in demand for connectivity. Alongside other mobility players, they empower the evolving mobility ecosystem. As a result, meaningful improvements to the current way people and goods move will greatly impact businesses across industries. By and large, a transportation infrastructure that is more connected, autonomous, and intelligent gradually emerges. Accordingly, smart mobility will not only bring cost savings but also create lucrative opportunities.
Across the telecom industry value chain, including wireless and fixed-line carriers, infrastructure solution providers, and equipment vendors, billions of investments are at stake to accelerate the 5G rollout. While these 5G investments are not focused solely on the emerging mobility ecosystem, the resulting network can help address a part of the emerging autonomous mobility demands.
With connected and autonomous vehicles (AVs) generating significant amounts of data, as well as demands from over-air updates, in-car entertainment and navigation, a tremendous increase in the need for wireless bandwidth and stability, will occur. Apart from this, management of data layers, back-end cloud services, and data security pose opportunities and risks in the mobility space.
Mapping and navigation software as well as active city traffic management is also on its way for mainstream adoption. In a soon-to-be-fully-AV world, sensor networks and real-time routing information are a must for city traffic management systems to give precise routing directions that would balance congestion and improve the overall flow of the city.
With technologies, the sky’s the limit for opportunities. How can we say so? Because as time progresses, the development of the ICT sector and the process of digitalization have inevitable effects in the economy, on society, and within government policies.
When it comes to the economy, the ICT sector can contribute to GDP growth, create new jobs, boost the process of innovation, and increase the level of productivity. While for the society at large, the increased levels of digitalization can lead to higher social inclusion, equality, and better life quality. Moreover, the ICT sector can enhance the efficiency of administrative services and increase operational transparency.
It has been proven that telecom infrastructure is the foundation for a new digital economy, with investments in this sector expected to generate returns within economic activities, digital inclusion, and social welfare.
Advances in technology have undeniably enriched people to exchange knowledge, become entrepreneurs, and perform previously burdensome activities easily and efficiently. Due to AI integration, penetration of Internet access, the emergence of IoT, cloud adoption, and machine automation, network ecosystems present growth opportunities for expansion and collaboration.
With organizations operating under hybrid setups, digital media and OTT players are also benefiting while VPNs, cybersecurity, and data security are other technologies that have become more important than before. Cloud services have grown, boosted by higher usage of content, gaming downloads, video conferencing, and the impact of remote access to corporate networks. Simultaneously, there will also be an increased focus on technologies like big data, augmented and virtual reality, and blockchain, among others going forward.
Digital workflows, robots, automation are no longer goals; they are necessities appropriate for e-learning, e-commerce, e-governance, and many more. The current circumstances have also accelerated the adoption of 5G to meet the demands of bandwidth and performance. Social distancing and self-isolation have certainly ramped up the need for telecom as people become more engrossed with their screens.
Indisputably, the importance of ICT infrastructure, applications, and services is at the express lane. This opens up the opportunity as well for skills development. In seeking to achieve this goal, a multilateral approach that involves governments, private sectors, academia, and research institutions shall be enforced. Training through both online and face-to-face workshops as well as through established centers of excellence are among the most effective ways in instilling the much-needed skills.