Overcoming challenges in the GCC’s tech ecosystem

Overcoming challenges in the GCC’s tech ecosystem

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Artificial intelligence is well on its way to becoming a transformative force in the Gulf Cooperation Council area. The pace has been further accelerated by the rise of generative AI, which is projected to be a $24 billion market in the GCC by 2030.

However, the region’s stakeholders will need to play catch-up to unlock AI’s full potential. A range of factors must be in place to create a thriving AI ecosystem that supports innovation. Currently, the region faces obstacles in three areas.

First, while the GCC has seen significant funding commitments in AI infrastructure across connectivity, data centers, and cloud, it must accelerate progress, especially in data centers, where supply trails total demand by more than 40 percent.

For example, the market for high-performance computing data centers in Saudi Arabia alone is projected to grow from $200 million to $300 million by 2030.

To accommodate higher-density requirements, data centers around the world are undertaking HPC fit-outs using specialized chips. The resulting supply shortage threatens to impede growth. Indeed, the lead time for chip orders in the region is two years.

Second, GenAI uses foundational large language models trained on publicly available data to generate insights. The real value may lie in training these LLMs on an organization’s own datasets.

However, companies typically must undertake a series of time-consuming steps — including, in some cases, reinforcement learning from human feedback — to make raw data usable.

An additional hurdle involves concerns about global regulations on data privacy, access, and copyright. Consider that 27 percent of organizations around the world have banned the use of GenAI altogether.

Third, GCC tech companies seeking to scale up face a talent gap. To date, they have found it difficult to attract specialized tech talent for roles such as machine learning engineers, cloud architecture designers, and data scientists.

The region’s universities are producing competitive graduates, but most companies still source talent from global tech hubs such as Bangalore, London, and Silicon Valley.

Beyond lucrative salaries, these candidates have become accustomed to packages that include equity-linked compensation, flexible working policies, and values-based recruitment. GCC companies have yet to embrace these practices, putting them at a disadvantage.

Elevating the region’s AI ecosystem will require targeted action by the region’s private and public sectors across these three areas.

The AI landscape is evolving quickly, fueled by seemingly continuous advancements in GenAI. The GCC could be well positioned to capture its share of the market.

Prateek Chauhan, Diana Dib, Chady Smayra & Hani Zein

GCC tech champions must adopt an interoperable infrastructure that seamlessly connects both Eastern and Western technologies to ensure adaptability, scalability, and resilience in an ever-evolving tech landscape.

They could address chip shortages either by sourcing from alternative vendors or using cloud services that offer graphic processing units “as a service.”

Companies also need to strengthen their data privacy measures to give customers confidence in how data is handled — for instance, by building gateway LLM architectures that use enterprise datasets in a secure and effective way.

Regional tech leaders can bridge talent gaps through global acquisitions and deploy low-code, no-code, and generative-code tools to empower a broader talent pool.

Meanwhile, regional governments can help remove obstacles to the ecosystem’s development. To ensure the GCC has the necessary infrastructure, they could craft policies and incentives supporting investment in critical hardware and the establishment of HPC data centers to meet local demand.

Regional governments could also aggregate national data and make it available for companies to train and fine-tune LLMs.

Given broader concerns about the accuracy and reliability of AI models, regional policymakers must take a holistic approach to regulating the use of AI. They will need to strike a balance among competing priorities.

For example, setting policies and frameworks that govern data privacy, copyright, and Internet protocol without stunting innovation in AI application development could improve the ability of both local tech champions and the region to promote adoption.

One path would be for government leaders to participate in setting global tech and AI standards rather than simply following them.

Last, they could reimagine the education ecosystem, from K-12 to university, to produce a sufficient supply of data scientists, experts, and tech leaders.

The AI landscape is evolving quickly, fueled by seemingly continuous advancements in GenAI.

The GCC could be well positioned to capture its share of the market — if private companies and public sector leaders can move forward collaboratively and with a sense of urgency to support growth and innovation.

Prateek Chauhan is principal, and Diana Dib, Chady Smayra, and Hani Zein are partners at Strategy& Middle East, part of the PwC network.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

Iraq seeks Egyptian and Saudi investment for developing new cities

Iraq seeks Egyptian and Saudi investment for developing new cities
Updated 18 min 47 sec ago
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Iraq seeks Egyptian and Saudi investment for developing new cities

Iraq seeks Egyptian and Saudi investment for developing new cities

RIYADH: Iraq has unveiled plans to attract Egyptian and Saudi investment for five new cities in Baghdad and other governorates, as part of efforts to address the housing shortage. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani presented these projects under the government’s initiative to launch 11 new cities, emphasizing their crucial role in addressing the urban housing challenge, especially for low-income groups, according to an official statement. 

The country has long been affected by political instability, impacting its economy and infrastructure, and faces a significant housing shortage. 

The prime minister highlighted Iraq’s rapid growth and recovery phase, noting numerous promising investment opportunities, particularly in housing and new city projects.  

With a demand for around 3 million housing units, he emphasized the government’s commitment to developing integrated cities that incorporate all sectors, services, entertainment, and commercial facilities, linked to Baghdad through a strong transportation network. 

The prime minister hosted a delegation of Egyptian, Saudi, and Iraqi businessmen, including Hisham Talaat Moustafa, chairman of TMG Holding; Sulaiman Al-Muhaidib, group chairman of Al Muhaidib Group; and businessman Ahmed Talaat Hani. The delegation specializes in real estate development and the establishment of integrated and smart residential cities. The meeting was attended by the Saudi Ambassador to Iraq, Abdulaziz bin Khalid Al-Shammari. 

Al-Sudani urged Egyptian and Saudi company owners to invest in resorts, hotels, and entertainment facilities, highlighting Iraq’s diverse tourist destinations. He emphasized that Iraq’s development and progress align with the economic interests of other Arab countries. 


Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe

Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe
Updated 20 min 46 sec ago
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Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe

Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe
  • Spain is bidding to win the Euros for a record fourth time and for the first time since 2012
  • England lays claim to be the birthplace of soccer and hasn’t won a major title since the 1966 World Cup

BERLIN: Spain and England will meet in the European Championship final on Sunday, with much of the focus on a teenage wonderkid and whether one of the world’s most underachieving teams can end its decades-long wait for a title.
The match is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) in Berlin and is expected to be attended by Prince William, Spain’s King Felipe, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Keir Starmer, Britain’s new prime minister.
Spain is bidding to win the Euros for a record fourth time, breaking a tie with Germany/West Germany, and for the first time since 2012. The team’s new superstar is winger Lamine Yamal, a prodigy who turned 17 on Saturday.
England, who lays claim to be the birthplace of soccer, hasn’t won a major title since the 1966 World Cup and that was on home soil. This is the team’s second straight European Championship final, having lost in a penalty shootout in the final to Italy three years ago.
The teams have taken different paths to the final, which will take place at Berlin’s Olympiastadion — the 71,000-seat venue built for the 1936 Olympic Games and which hosted the 2006 World Cup final that featured Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt.
Spain has won all six of its matches and is widely regarded as the best team at Euro 2024, having seen off Germany and France in the knockout stage. England was unimpressive in the group stage and has shown resilience in coming from behind in all three of its knockout-stage games.


Olympics-Egyptian cyclist disqualified from Paris Games after collision uproar

Olympics-Egyptian cyclist disqualified from Paris Games after collision uproar
Updated 27 min 11 sec ago
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Olympics-Egyptian cyclist disqualified from Paris Games after collision uproar

Olympics-Egyptian cyclist disqualified from Paris Games after collision uproar

CAIRO: An Egyptian cyclist was disqualified from the Paris Olympics on Sunday by the local Olympic committee after her selection caused a social media backlash stemming from a video that appeared to show her knocking a competitor off her bicycle months ago.
The largest Arab country is building its credentials for a possible bid for the 2036 Games, which if successful would bring the Olympics to Africa for the first time, spending billions on facilities and sending its biggest delegation to Paris.
During the national championship in April, a video showed Shahd Saied colliding with one of her challengers, Ganna Eliwa, pushing her to the ground before racing ahead.
Eliwa accused Saied of a deliberate attack and said she suffered concussion, a broken collarbone, bruises and temporary loss of memory. Saied insisted the incident was an accident but was handed a one-year ban from local competition.
The Egyptian Cycling Federation raised eyebrows on Tuesday when it named her for the Paris Games, saying she had qualified prior to the incident.
Saied started her career in her hometown in Fayoum, south of Cairo, about four years ago. She won two gold medals in individual contests at an African championship earlier this year.
Many Egyptians expressed anger and embarrassment, accusing the federation of disregarding sportsmanship.
“What is she doing there, didn’t she crash into her competitor on purpose?” asked one Facebook user under the announcement of Shahd’s participation in the games.
“This is beyond shameless and I hope you fail.”
After the country’s sports ministry asked for a review of the decision, the Olympic Committee ruled on Sunday that the local ban made her ineligible for international competitions.
Saied had, however, already told a local TV host she was retiring. “I’m not going to bike anymore. If they don’t want me to represent Egypt, fine, I won’t go to the Olympiad,” she said on Saturday.


Pakistani minister, Iraqi envoy discuss possibility of free entry visas for pilgrims 

Pakistani minister, Iraqi envoy discuss possibility of free entry visas for pilgrims 
Updated 31 min 12 sec ago
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Pakistani minister, Iraqi envoy discuss possibility of free entry visas for pilgrims 

Pakistani minister, Iraqi envoy discuss possibility of free entry visas for pilgrims 
  • Pakistani Shia Muslims Muharram travel to Iraq’s Najaf, Karbala cities during Muharram every year
  • Iraqi envoy assures Pakistan’s interior minister of making travel easier for pilgrims, says state media 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi discussed the possibility of free entry visas for Pakistani pilgrims into Iraq with the country’s envoy Hamid Abbas Lafta, state-run media reported. 

Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala hold tremendous significance for Shia Muslims around the world, including from Pakistan, who travel to these cities during the first two months of the Islamic lunar calendar to recall the sacrifices made by Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). 

Lafta met Naqvi and Chaudhry Salik Hussain, the minister for overseas Pakistanis in Islamabad to discuss ways to improve the travel experience for Pakistani pilgrims in Iraq. 

“The discussion highlighted the possibility of free entry visas for Pakistani pilgrims and increasing the number of people allowed to visit each year,” the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported. 

Pakistan’s national airline last week launched special flights to Najaf city during Muharram for the country’s pilgrims. Pakistan said it would operate return flights for pilgrims from Najaf from July 20. 

Naqvi expressed “serious concern” about travel agents charging Pakistani pilgrims excessive fees, ensuring the Iraqi envoy he would take action against those breaking the law. 

“He also requested the Iraqi government to consider the issue of permitting Pakistani pilgrims to keep their passports while in Iraq,” the APP said. 

The Iraqi ambassador assured full cooperation in making travel easier for Pakistani pilgrims and provided a list of travel agents who had been overcharging visitors, the state media said. 

“The two sides also agreed to quickly finalize a visa waiver agreement for diplomats and officials from both countries,” APP said. 

The APP said both countries are additionally working on a deal that will make it easier for Pakistani workers to obtain work permits in Iraq.


France’s Bastille Day parade meets the Olympic torch relay in an exceptional year

France’s Bastille Day parade meets the Olympic torch relay in an exceptional year
Updated 36 min 14 sec ago
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France’s Bastille Day parade meets the Olympic torch relay in an exceptional year

France’s Bastille Day parade meets the Olympic torch relay in an exceptional year
  • Bastille Day marks the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris on July 14, 1789
  • The Olympic torch relay is joining up with thousands of troops marching in Paris beneath roaring fighter jets to mark Bastille Day

PARIS: Paris hosted an extra-special guest for France’s national holiday Sunday — the Olympic flame lighting up the city’s grandiose military parade for Bastille Day.
Just 12 days before the French capital hosts exceptionally ambitious and high-security Summer Games, the torch relay joined up with thousands of soldiers, sailors, rescuers and medics marching in Paris beneath roaring fighter jets.
While people around France mark the day with concerts, parties and fireworks, here’s a look at what the holiday’s about, and what’s different this year:
What does Bastille Day celebrate?
On July 14, 1789, revolutionaries stormed the Bastille fortress and prison in Paris, heralding the start of the French Revolution and the end of the monarchy.
The holiday is central to the French calendar, with events across the country. It aims to embody the national motto of ‘’liberty, equality and fraternity,” though not everyone in France feels the country lives up to that promise.
The Paris parade is the holiday’s highlight. This year, it paid tribute to those who freed France from Nazi occupation 80 years ago, with a re-enactment of the D-Day landings of June 6, 1944, and a presentation by service members from the 31 countries whose troops contributed to the liberation. About half are African nations that were under French colonial rule during World War II.
Who takes part?
Some 4,000 people and 162 horses marched in the tightly choreographed show, among them units that served in NATO missions in eastern Europe, against Islamic extremists in the Sahel, protecting French territories in the South Pacific and global shipping corridors. They were joined this year by three German officers from a cross-border brigade.
The ornamental uniforms are rich in symbolism — most notably those of the French Foreign Legion sappers, with long beards, leather aprons and axes from their original role as route-clearers for advancing armies.
Overhead, 65 aircraft flew in formations, including a British Typhoon fighter alongside French Mirages and Rafales, rescue helicopters and aircraft used in missions from Afghanistan to Mali or international drug busts.
President Emmanuel Macron kicked Sunday’s events off with a review of the troops.
Military bands and choirs played an important role, performing a medley of French military songs, American jazz tunes, a Scottish bagpipe ballad — and the Marseillaise.
The numbers are scaled back compared with previous years, because of Olympics security measures. Around 130,000 police are deployed around France for the holiday weekend.
What’s the political context?
This year’s Bastille Day offered Macron a moment of distraction from the political turmoil he unleashed with snap elections that weakened his pro-business centrist party and his presidency.
The result left a deadlocked parliament with no one clearly in charge. The prime minister could leave office within days, while the left-wing alliance that won the most seats is struggling to agree on a proposed replacement.
Meanwhile, Russia’s war in Ukraine is threatening Europe’s security. At a meeting with military leaders Saturday, Macron said France will keep up support for Ukraine and called for higher defense spending next year because of ‘’approaching threats.’’
What’s different this year?
The Olympic torch relay reached Paris just in time.
The parade wrapped up with the arrival of the flame, escorted by riders on horseback, 25 torchbearers, and cadets dressed in the five Olympic colors forming the shapes of the five interlocking Olympic rings.
The first torchbearer was Col. Thibault Vallette, equestrian gold medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics, who passed it on to a group of young athletes smiling broadly as they passed it hand-to-hand in front of the presidential tribune.
Usually, the parade travels from the Napoleon-era Arc de Triomphe to the Concorde plaza, where France’s last king and queen were beheaded.
This year, Concorde has been transformed into a huge Olympic venue for breakdancing, skateboarding and BMX. So the parade route headed to the Bois de Boulogne park on the city’s edge instead.
Olympic venue construction around the Eiffel Tower means spectators can’t gather beneath the monument to watch its annual fireworks show, either.
After its Bastille Day appearance, the torch relay will swing by Notre Dame Cathedral, the historic Sorbonne university and the Louvre Museum before heading to other Paris landmarks Monday.