The Arabian Business tells us a story about the ongoing trends in high-tech businesses, technological innovation and the use of social media in the Emirate, wondered if Dubai can be the next Silicon Valley technology hub?
The emirate provides those in the Web 3 space with the ‘perfect balance of work and fun,’ making it attractive for talent, said the 26-year-old co-founder of interactive short video platform Vurse
Originally intending to stay in Dubai for only 12 days, Shadman Sakib ended up “falling in love” with the city and choosing it to launch his interactive short video platform Vurse from, set for the second half of 2022.
Vurse will be one of the first deep tech companies to come out of the Middle East and 26-year-old Sakib said Dubai “has so much potential and can become the next Silicon Valley.”
“We just have to fine-tune people’s mentality on a deep tech perspective and once that happens, the sky is the limit. For us people in the Web 3.0 space, we really want a nice balance between fun and work and Dubai really has the capability to provide both,” said Sakib.
“We are in the process of hiring our team members from across the world and it is actually much easier for us to attract them being based here in Dubai versus other cities because of the fine balance between work and life, plus the entertainment aspect. This is why we chose Dubai and we feel like it is going to be our long-term home,” he continued.
Sakib believes Vurse’s growth will translate into the growth of Dubai in the deep tech and Web 3.0 space, giving the example of how the presence of the big tech companies in San Francisco led to the development of the American state’s tech reputation.
“Dubai is one of the smartest cities in the world. You go to the airport and immigration is done in minutes, not many cities in the world can compete with that kind of technology,” explained Sakib.
“It is therefore high time we have a homegrown company that goes beyond the traditional businesses we have in this city. Traditional companies can only grow so far versus the companies in deep tech or Web 3 space – especially the ones with proper resources – where the sky is the limit; you have the whole world to play with,” he continued.
How Sakib got into tech and conceived of Vurse
Sakib grew up in Bangladesh and says he was “pretty much of an underdog,” for most of his life, recounting how he dropped out of his undergraduate studies in the US before moving to the UK where he again pursued his studies while working as a waiter on the side.
Lying on his couch one day and playing with his phone Sakib wondered why he was using someone else’s product instead of developing a product that people could use.
“I was 20 years old at the time and while my peers were focused on enjoying life, I was consumed with finding a purpose for mine,” he recalled.
“My philosophy was all about being determined that I would have a strong footfall by the time my friends finish university so that they would come to me and ask for a job,” added Sakib.
Having no background in technology, Sakib talked to a few of his friends and contacts in the app design space but was frustrated with the ideas they came up with as they were a copy of what already existed.
“I wanted to look at how I can wow the customer or my user not recreate the same thing – I wanted to build something different,” explained Sakib. As such, he taught himself coding before meeting the co-founder of Vurse who is a “coding genius.”
It is within this context that the idea of Vurse came about to take the social media experience into the Web 3 space and give content creators ownership over their content rather than having a platform control that.
“Our target is to make the content creators bigger because once they are a big brand themselves, a similar effect will happen to the company itself,” explained Sakib.
“My co-founder and I have been wanting to work on a consumer-facing product for some time now because that is where we think the main fun is. We want to understand the newer generations that are coming up and their culture. We also want to understand the music industry very well,” he continued.
As such, Sakib has delegated his other businesses to fully focus on Vurse, a business he self-funded. And while he declined disclosing much information about Vurse itself, he said it is built on three verticals: a content creator marketplace where people will be able to trade NFTs, a short video platform and the AI verse, a self-created metaverse within the platform.
“The metaverse will stay but the way we see and think of it will change. Currently, you have to have a specialised device to access the metaverse which restricts access somehow,” said Sakib.
“Once the technology catches up to the extent that it is easily accessible to anyone anywhere, then the real game begins,” he continued.
CallisonRTKL (CRTKL), a global cultural agency specialising in architecture, planning and design, has published a report forecasting the future of the built environment and the key factors that will shape the residential market and its BTR and senior living lifestyle developments in 2022.
According to the report, the brief for the home is changing. The need now is for productive living environments with the technological infrastructure to support residents. Consequently, a new era is driving hybrid lifestyles and hybrid working cities. Residents are working, exercising, shopping, learning and meeting in more unexpected ways, which are now being dictated by purpose and convenience rather than demand.
For example, coffee shops are popping up in offices, ghost kitchens in hotels and healthcare services in apartment buildings. As these lines continue to blur, a different set of residential amenities are emerging and bringing with them, buildings that will play a more active role in the health and wellness of those that inhabit them.
Obada Adra, Associate Principal at CRTKL, commented: “The residential market and the demands being placed on the home have changed. The need now is for places that are fluid, flexible and authentic. Across the region, people are demanding a more dynamic lifestyle offering that caters to new hybrid working styles and provides greater community and cultural connection.
“At CRTKL, we are developing a blueprint for new buildings that will be more hybridised with changeable systems, structures and modules that can be adapted to suit the evolving needs of the market,” Adra said.
According to the report, three new concepts are driving residential development:
* The Home of Things (HoT): This refers to the physical objects within the home that are embedded with sensors, processing ability, software and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other communications networks. Innovative technology in a fully integrated HoT allows endless opportunities for improved home performance and convenience. Connected and controlled through a resident’s mobile device, the HoT could support amenities by tracking, measuring and improving personal energy usage and well-being. Biometric data gathered here could then be shared with in-house practitioners or resident nutritionists, counsellors, and other health professionals that could rotate through a new type of hyper-local medical office or telemedicine pods that are built into the offer.
* The Branded Residence – Residential meets hospitality meets healthcare: New attitudes about health, wealth, and family are transforming an industry that formerly defined by medical care and home equity. Seniors are delaying entering interdependent living, choosing to age-in-place and increasingly demanding more urban settings and connections to communities and culture. As residents, they want an inner-city lifestyle, impressive amenities, luxury services, superior care, varied culinary options, and resort-like experiences where they can grow and thrive as aging individuals. Spaces that allow their lifestyles, hobbies, and pets to move with them – where they can feel at home, host others, and gain access to improved convenience and care.
To attract the booming elderly population, development is moving in a new direction towards brand residences and a lifestyle product that blends residential operations with a hospitality approach that is based on a professionally managed rental model. These models will focus on holistic health, community integration and mixed-use opportunities, incorporating senior wellness programs across education, exercise (both instructor and technology led), health, nutrition and intergenerational connection.
* The Hybridised model or a ‘Universal Building’: There is a need for the new building typology to feature shared uses that come together to form a hub for a community of creatives, who blend living with working and socialising. The Universal Building allowing for flexible development strategies to take shape over time. With the ability to easily shift the program mix, this supports a city’s strategic goals in that it offers innovative housing and workplace options for an evolving and diverse community. It refers to a framework building with changeable systems, structure, and modules. This uniquely flexible platform can adapt program uses based on changing market needs. From the column grid to carefully considered floor-to-floor heights, the building will easily shift between residential, office and social spaces.
Leading scholar says region must place more importance on liberal arts, not just science and engineering, to build better societies by Anna McKie could be an unprecedented way of covering the recurring issue of underdevelopment not through traditional knowledge but by using the art and humanities knowledge. Let us see what is proposed as per the very words of a Professor: ‘certification’ mania hobbles Middle East development.
Professor: ‘certification’ mania hobbles Middle East development
April 8, 2021
Students in the Middle East and North Africa are too often more interested in “acquiring” a degree than developing the understanding that should come with it, a leading scholar has warned.
Safwan Masri, Columbia University’s executive vice-president for global centres and global development, said too many young people were steered into courses focused on science and engineering when critical thinking and intercultural understanding were desperately needed across the region.
Speaking at Times Higher Education’s MENA Universities Summit, Professor Masri said future leaders being trained in institutions across the region were “not fully prepared to lead”, the product of “technocratic societies led by a global technocratic class”.
“Students – and the parents who bankroll them – are often more interested in acquiring professional certification than truly understanding the world and the role of an educated citizen within it,” said Professor Masri.
“Here in MENA, young people fortunate enough to attend university are almost unilaterally steered into STEM training.
“But STEM competency is only half of the equation. We need people who also know how to organise societies, articulate and secure alignment on political ideals, and build robust civil societies that expand rights and freedoms to historically marginalised groups.”
Professor Masri, an expert on the contemporary Arab world and the head of Columbia’s study centre in Amman, Jordan, said the solution had to be a greater embrace of liberal arts education across the region.
He acknowledged that this “won’t be easy” because generations of Arabs “have been indoctrinated with hyper-nationalist propaganda, exclusionary rhetoric and dogmatic religious discourse at the expense of critical thinking and questioning skills”.
“Progress cannot be achieved without deprogramming and reprogramming this mindset, to learn to coexist with different points of view and ways of life,” Professor Masri said.
“Unless liberal arts training is more highly valued in this region, the region’s ambitions will be thwarted. We must achieve balance. We must help students – and the parents who fund many of them – understand the crucial interplay between content [of academic training] and context [understanding of society].”
At the summit, held online in partnership with NYU Abu Dhabi, Professor Masri also argued that at a time of geopolitical turmoil and “historic levels of misunderstanding” between countries and the people within them, knowledge diplomacy led by universities “may be our last and best tool if we are to rebuild a broken world”. He highlighted Columbia’s decision to maintain its global centre in Istanbul even in the face of increasing persecution of academics.
“The solution wasn’t to give in, we contended, but to dig in – to support academics and students, to continue to share knowledge,” Professor Masri said.
But Professor Masri expressed concern about the “weaponisation” of knowledge, highlighting that while Gulf states’ attempts to exercise soft power by funding Middle East studies centres in Western universities ostensibly had “no strings attached”, there were “uncomfortable stories” of researchers at these centres coming under pressure after writing about issues such as human rights and democracy.
A better model of knowledge diplomacy, he argued, was that of the Covid vaccines, which were the result of thousands of researchers crossing the globe over decades, generating the knowledge that informed the vaccines’ designs.
“The Covid vaccine represents decades’ worth, perhaps even centuries’ worth, of university-generated knowledge – distilled down to little more than an ounce of liquid, all concentrated in a single shot,” Professor Masri said.
“This medical and scientific breakthrough will reconnect the people of the world.”
Mohamed A. El-Erian writes that ensuring a Stronger and Fairer Global Recovery is required for a better and more satisfactory tomorrow. The two ginormous economies of the World would lead it that way. Here is what he says about that.
Ensuring a Stronger and Fairer Global Recovery
2 April 2021
Although tough trade-offs are sometimes unavoidable, there is a way for policymakers to maintain a robust global economic recovery in 2021 and beyond while simultaneously pulling up disadvantaged countries, groups, and regions. But it will require both national and international policy adaptations.
CAMBRIDGE – An old joke about tricky trade-offs asks you to imagine your worst enemy driving over a cliff in your brand-new car. Would you be happy about the demise of your enemy or sad about the destruction of your car?
For many, the shape of this year’s hoped-for and much-needed global economic recovery poses a similar dilemma. Absent a revamp of both national policies and international coordination, the significant pickup in growth expected in 2021 will be very uneven, both across and within countries. With that comes a host of risks that could make growth in subsequent years less robust than it can and should be.
Based on current information, I expect rapid growth in China and the United States to drive a global expansion of 6% or more this year, compared to a 3.5% contraction in 2020. But while Europe should exit its double-dip recession, the recovery there will likely be more subdued. Parts of the emerging world are in an even tougher position.
Much of this divergence, both actual and anticipated, stems from variations in one or more of five factors. Controlling COVID-19 infections, including the spread of new coronavirus variants, is clearly crucial. So is distributing and administering vaccines (which includes securing supplies, overcoming institutional obstacles, and ensuring public uptake). A third factor is financial resilience, which in some developing countries involves preemptively managing difficulties from the recent debt surge. Then come the quality and flexibility of policymaking, and finally whatever is left in the reservoirs of social capital and human resilience.
The bigger the differences between and within countries, the greater the challenges to the sustainability of this year’s recovery. This reflects a broad range of health, economic, financial, and socio-political factors.
In a recent commentary, I explained why more uniform global progress on COVID-19 vaccination is important even for countries whose national immunization programs are far ahead of the pack. Without universal progress, leading vaccinators face a difficult choice between risking the importation of new variants from abroad and running a fortress economy with governments, households, and firms adopting a bunker-like mindset.
Uneven economic recoveries deprive individual countries of the tailwind of synchronized expansion, in which simultaneous output and income growth fuels a virtuous cycle of generalized economic well-being. They also increase the risks of trade and investment protectionism, as well as disruptions to supply chains.
Then there is the financial angle. Buoyant US growth, together with higher inflation expectations, has pushed market interest rates higher, with spillovers for the rest of the world. And there is more to come.
European Central Bank officials have already complained about “undue tightening” of financial conditions in the eurozone. Rising interest rates could also undermine the dominant paradigm in financial markets – namely, investors’ high confidence in ample, predictable, and effective liquidity injections by systemically important central banks, which has encouraged many to venture well beyond their natural habitat, taking considerable if not excessive and irresponsible risks. In the short term, high liquidity has pushed cheap funding to many countries and companies. But sudden reversals in fund flows, as well as the growing risk of cumulative market accidents and policy mistakes, could cause severe disruptions.
Finally, uneven economic recovery risks aggravating the income, wealth, and opportunity gaps that the COVID-19 crisis has already widened enormously. The greater the inequality, particularly with respect to opportunity, the sharper the sense of alienation and marginalization, and the more likely political polarization will impede good and timely policymaking.
But, whereas the old joke hinges on the unavoidability of tough trade-offs, there is a middle way for the global economy in 2021 and beyond – one that maintains a robust recovery and simultaneously lifts disadvantaged countries, groups, and regions. This requires both national and international policy adaptations.
National policies need to accelerate reforms that combine economic relief with measures to foster much more inclusive growth. This is not just about improving human productivity (through labor reskilling, education reforms, and better childcare) and the productivity of capital and technology (through major upgrades to infrastructure and coverage). To build back better and fairer, policymakers must now also consider climate resilience as a critical input for more comprehensive decision-making.Sign up for our weekly newsletter, PS on Sunday
Global policy alignment also is vital. The world is fortunate to have benefited initially from correlated (as opposed to coordinated) national policies in response to the COVID-19 crisis, with the vast majority of countries opting upfront for an all-in, whatever-it-takes, whole-of-government approach. But without coordination, policy stances will increasingly diverge, as less robust economies confront additional external headwinds at a time of declining aid flows, incomplete debt relief, and hesitant foreign direct investment.
With the US and China leading a significant pickup in growth, the global economy has an opportunity to spring out of a pandemic shock that has harmed many people and, in some cases, erased a decade of progress on poverty reduction and other important socio-economic objectives. But without policy adaptations at home and internationally, this rebound could be so uneven that it prematurely exhausts the prolonged period of faster and much more inclusive and sustainable growth that the global economy so desperately needs.
Unlike traditional devices, the artificial hand can be customised for children and youths, who otherwise require an expensive series of resized models as they grow up.
The company Cure Bionics also has plans to develop a video game-like virtual reality system that helps youngsters learn how to use the artificial hand through physical therapy.
Mohamed Dhaouafi, the 28-year-old founder and CEO of Cure Bionics, designed his first prototype while still an engineering student in his home city Sousse.
“One team member had a cousin who was born without a hand and whose parents couldn’t afford a prosthesis, especially as she was still growing up,” he said.
“So we decided to design a hand.”
Dhaouafi launched his start-up in 2017 from his parents’ home, at a time when many of his classmates chose to move abroad seeking higher salaries and international experience.
“It was like positive revenge,” he told AFP. “I wanted to prove I could do it. I also want to leave a legacy, to change people’s lives.”
Dhaouafi pointed to hurdles in Tunisia, where it can be hard or impossible to order parts via large online sales sites. There is a lack of funding and, he said, “we lack visionaries within the state”.
But by pooling money raised through sponsored competitions and seed investment from a US company, he was able to recruit four young engineers.
They are now fine-tuning designs, writing code and testing the artificial hand.
‘Climb like Spiderman’
The device works with sensors attached to the arm that detect muscle movement, and AI-assisted software that interprets them to transmit instructions to the digits.
The hand itself has a wrist that can turn sideways, a mechanical thumb and fingers that bend at the joints in response to the electronic impulses.
To teach youngsters how to use them, Cure has been working on a virtual-reality headset that “gamifies” the physical therapy process.
“Currently, for rehabilitation, children are asked to pretend to open a jar, for example, with the hand they no longer have,” said Dhaouafi.
“It takes time to succeed in activating the muscles this way. It’s not intuitive, and it’s very boring.”
In Cure’s version, the engineer said: “We get them to climb up buildings like Spiderman, with a game score to motivate them, and the doctor can follow up online from a distance”.
3-D printing meanwhile makes it possible to personalise the prosthesis like a fashion accessory or “a superhero’s outfit”, said Dhaouafi.
Cure hopes to market its first bionic hands within a few months, first in Tunisia and then elsewhere in Africa, where more than three-quarters of people in need have no access to them, according to the World Health Organization.
“The aim is to be accessible financially but also geographically,” said Dhaouafi.
The envisaged price of around $2,000 to $3,000 is substantial, but a fraction of the cost of bionic prostheses currently imported from Europe.
Cure also aims to manufacture as close as possible to the end users, with local technicians measuring the patients and then printing individually fitted devices.
“An imported prosthesis today means weeks or even months of waiting when you buy it, and again with each repair,” the inventor said.
The bionic hand is made of Lego-like parts that can be replaced if damaged or to match a child’s physical growth.
It can also be solar-powered via a photovoltaic charger for use in regions without a reliable electricity supply.
The 3-D printing of rudimentary prostheses started about a decade ago and is becoming standard.
It is not a magic solution because specialised medical know-how is still crucial, said Jerry Evans, who heads Nia Technologies, a Canadian non-commercial organisation that helps African hospitals manufacture 3-D-printed lower limbs.
“3-D printing is still in its early stages,” he said, “but it is a major game changer in the field of prosthetics and orthotics.”
“Developing countries will probably leapfrog to these technologies because the cost is much lower.”
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