GITEX Tech showcases Saudi Arabia’s regional innovation drive

Dubai’s GITEX Technology week showcased the region’s ability to take the lead in innovation technology, with Saudi Arabia on its way to take the driver’s seat. (AN Photo/Tarek Ali Ahmad)
Updated 16 October 2018
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GITEX Tech showcases Saudi Arabia’s regional innovation drive

DUBAI: Dubai’s GITEX Technology week showcased the region’s ability to take the lead in innovation technology, with Saudi Arabia on its way to take the driver’s seat, according to consulting firm Accenture’s country managing director in Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia will be a leader in supporting innovation and the development of new technology in the region,” Khaled Al-Dhaher told Arab News.
“I think we (Arab countries) can always complement each other in the region to make sure we have the best innovation that is relevant for us and focused on the needs of our markets,” he added.
Among the main drivers behind the Kingdom’s surge into innovation and incubation is the Center of Initiatives at Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation (Misk), which is an exclusive partner at GITEX Future Stars 2018.
Misk Innovation showcased 20 Saudi-based start-ups and incubators, ranging from 3D printing technology (SHAKL) to e-commerce (Zid) to online grocery shopping (ZADFresh).
Another prominent player from the Kingdom was the Badir Program, which helps to sustain and develop pioneering environments within the Kingdom and stays in line with following the crown prince’s Vision 2030 plan.
The plan, unveiled in 2016, is a comprehensive blueprint for the future, laying out a strategy and clear targets to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism.
“We see a big support toward start-ups in terms of seed funding, arranging funding rounds, investment funding rounds, which actually is very important to accelerate the growth of these start-ups,” Badir Program’s CEO Nawaf Al-Sahhaf told Arab News, adding: “They (start-ups) created more than 2,000 jobs in the last two years.”
The 38th annual exhibition, which kicked off on Sunday, centered around the rise of smart cities. Dubai’s government featured high-tech stands promoting the emirate’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s vision of a totally smart Dubai.
While Dubai is ahead of Saudi Arabia in this respect, the latter is not far behind.
“Saudi Arabia is building new cities now, and one of them is NEOM. Smart cities needs smart solutions and smart products, so Saudi Arabia is a big supporter of entrepreneurs and the private sector in order to come up with these smart solutions,” Al-Sahhaf said.
“Saudi Arabia is moving in this [Smart] direction and we are in good hands,” he added.
The Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company, Taqania, was also featured at the exhibition. Owned by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, Taqania is one of Saudi Arabia’s main proponents in a non-oil dependent Kingdom aligned with Vision 2030, and invests in technology that contributes to the country’s economic diversification.
The exhibition is split among several categories including Gulf Comms & Mobility, Global Solution Providers, Smart Workplace & Smart Homes, Value-Added Distributors, Printing & Automation, Consumer Tech, Enterprise Software, Network & Security, Future Tech and IOT Big Cloud Data.
GITEX Technology week runs from Oct. 14 to 18, with GITEX Future Stars taking place from Oct. 14 to 17.


Infectious diseases are set to become as great a risk for global business as climate change

Updated 19 January 2019
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Infectious diseases are set to become as great a risk for global business as climate change

LONDON: The Global Risks Report 2019 jointly compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Harvard Global Heath Institute describes a world that is woefully ill-prepared to detect and respond to disease outbreaks.
In fact, the world is becoming more vulnerable to pandemics, despite advances in medicine and public health.
Global GDP will fall by an average of 0.7 percent or $570 billion because of pandemics — a threat that is “in the same order of magnitude” to the losses estimated to be caused by climate change in the coming decades.
“Outbreaks are a top global economic risk and — like the case for climate change — large companies can no longer afford to stay on the sidelines,” said Vanessa Candeias, who heads the committee on future health and health care at the WEF.
Potential catastrophic outbreaks of disease occur only every few decades but regional and local epidemics are becoming more common. There have been nearly 200 a year in recent times and outbreaks of diseases such as influenza, Ebola, zika, yellow fever, SARS, and MERS have become more frequent over the last 30 years.
At the same time antibiotics have become less effective against bacteria.
The impact of influenza pandemics is estimated at $60 billion, according to a report by the Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future — more than double previous estimates.
The trend is expected to get worse as populations increase and become more mobile due to travel, trade or displacement. Deforestation and climate change are also factors.
Businesses need to bone up on the risk of infectious diseases and how to manage them if the overall economy is to remain resilient.
Peter Sands, research fellow at the Harvard Global Health Institute and executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said, “When business leaders are more aware of what’s at stake, maybe there will be a different dialogue about global health, from being a topic that rarely touches the radar screen of business leaders to being a subject worthy of attention, investment and advocacy.”
Predicting where and when the next outbreak will come is an evolving science but it is possible to identify certain factors that would leave companies vulnerable to financial losses, such as the nature of the business, geographical location of the workforce, the customer base and supply chain.
Disease is not the only threat. There is also fear uninformed panic. Past epidemics have shown that misinformation spreads as fast as the infection itself and can undermine and disrupt medical response.
The report advises planning for such emergencies by “trusted public-private partnerships” so that “businesses can help mitigate the potentially devastating human and economic impacts of epidemics while protecting the interests of their employees and commercial operations.”
It is estimated that the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014-2016 cost $53 billion in lost commercial income and the 2015 MERS outbreak in South Korea cost $8.5 billion. According to the World Bank, disease accounts for only 30 percent of economic losses. The rest is largely down to healthy people changing their behavior as they seek to avoid becoming infected themselves.
The authors of the report will make recommendations next week at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.