Explainer: Is data the new oil in the GCC?

Explainer: Is data the new oil in the GCC?

Gulf Business‘s article that as an Explainer: Is data the new oil in the GCC? is a good snapshot of the present situation of that part of MENA countries.

We all know that ‘Big Oils’ management and petrol countries alike have underscored scientific research showing the link between burning fossil fuels and a dangerously heating planet. They’ve lobbied and funded reports to either downplay or deny the risks to the climate—and humanity—of using their products. It went on unabated until the advent of clean and accessibility to all the latest technological hard and software for a broad spectrum of commercial activities. 

Explainer: Is data the new oil in the GCC?

Technology has now become a key driver of economic growth in the GCC, with data already defining the region’s future, opines Maurits Tichelman, VP – Sales, Marketing, and Communications and GM – Global Markets and Partners, EMEA at Intel

Is the term ‘data is the new oil’ still relevant?
Yes, data has practically become the ‘new oil’. Data is playing a significant role as a crucial source of wealth for oil-rich nations and territories such as the GCC, which has historically been particularly dependent on oil as the main contributor to the GDP.

We are witnessing a significant shift from oil to data in the region as governments embark on strategic initiatives to diversify towards more knowledge-based and tech-driven economies. Data is already playing a key role in this transformation. A concrete example of this process could be autonomous driving. Autonomous vehicles run on data in the same way that today’s cars run on gasoline. Therefore, undoubtedly, data will be the new oil.ADVERTISING

In the GCC, oil has been crucial to economic growth. Will technology/data be able to provide the same level of economic prosperity?
Countries in the region are heavily investing in diversified industries such as technology, manufacturing, education, and healthcare, among others. As the Gulf states transform and diversify, the importance and impact of technology will take on an even greater role. Data is already defining the region’s future, complemented by mega projects planned with greater focus on smart infrastructure (smart cities), advanced telecoms services, and somewhat
accelerated by the rapid rise of remote learning and working due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, technology has now become a key driver of economic growth, from providing goods and services efficiently, to optimising advanced technologies to help businesses and governments access natural resources that can benefit people. Additionally, increased efficiency of labour has improved productivity and profitability.

While we are producing ample amounts of data in the region, are we currently maximising its benefits?
We are surrounded by data and it continues to grow exponentially. According to estimates, in 2021 alone, there will be 74 zetabytes of generated data and it is expected to reach 149 zetabytes by 2024. As a result, the need to understand and optimise data has become even more significant as every business uses data to some extent. However, there is a lack of knowledge and skills in utilising the data to its full potential. With the rise of digitalisation, companies and governments across the region and worldwide are investing in digital transformation, a positive indication that more organisations are now realising the importance of data.

The Covid crisis has highlighted the importance of technology – but will it retain its relevance post-pandemic across industries? 
The pandemic has undeniably prompted companies to invest more in technology adoption across industries including healthcare, education, retail and real estate, among others. The use of innovation technology such as virtual medical/doctor consultation has helped people during lockdowns. The Covid crisis has forced organisations and governments to adapt and prepare better to tackle future calamities with the aid of technology.

Businesses have seen the advantages and have started deploying smart and intelligent technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to improve safety standards and increase productivity. Thus, it is clear that technology has become an absolute necessity rather than a mere option; its relevance has never been so crucial and without a doubt the use and benefits will play a bigger role post-pandemic across industries locally, regionally and internationally.

What are the biggest challenges hindering tech adoption/data-driven growth in the region? 
Although organisations are implementing advanced technologies, the vast majority still operate on outdated and traditional models, which prevent them from utilising the benefits of the latest available technologies. Secondly, reluctance and resistance from employees in adopting technology poses challenges for companies. Lastly, a lack of skilled professionals is a key factor that has restricted organisations in the region from completing their digital transformation.

Looking ahead, GCC states are seeking to become global knowledge hubs. How can that journey be accelerated?
GCC governments are accelerating their digital transformation journeys with progressive strategies and initiatives. Smart Dubai, Dubai Data Strategy, Saudi Arabia’s The National Strategy for Digital Transformation and the Qatar Smart Program (TASMU) are examples of the regional commitment and ambition to explore all possibilities of technology and its impact on daily life and business. These strategies, roadmaps and ambitions are the key drivers and accelerators of their technological transformation journey.

Why Sustainability is Essential to Long Term Development

Why Sustainability is Essential to Long Term Development

Ethically, architects and engineers alike have been good at policing themselves to meet their client’s needs through the design process.
In the UAE’s design industry predominantly of South Asian architects and engineers, an elite has emerged to respond to the built environment’s strong but slightly waning demands successfully. But why sustainability is essential to long term development in the Middle East that makes it at this conjecture, climate emergency has become not only a challenge but a goal; all had to keep in mind. The said elite is rising to meet such arduous tasks, as highlighted in this article written by Payal of Prasoon Design Studio.

Why Sustainability is Essential to Long Term Development in the Middle East

May 26, 2021

Sustainability is an essential design philosophy that influences the construction sphere within the Middle East. The implementation of green energy, eco-friendly strategies, and sustainable rating measures have significantly affected the way that the region drives development long-term. In fact, sustainability and green strategies have the power to unlock close to US$3 trillion in economic development by 2030, which is why cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi are leading the way.

With rising energy demand and increased urbanisation, developers are also focusing on sustainability from a strategic perspective. Along with green materials and natural landscaping, sustainability is being driven right from the planning stage. The top architecture firms in Dubai, such as Prasoon Design, are specialising in planning the right layout, orientation, methodology, and approach to ensure long-term sustainability.

The region has historically focused on introducing new measures and guidelines to implement eco-friendlier design and construction. Using indigenous materials, new technologies, and recycled components, the Middle East’s architects are redefining the limits of sustainability. They are innovating not only on the aesthetics front but also in the longevity and ecological balance sphere as well.

Impacting Policymaking in the Region

The construction industry in the Middle East works within specific guidelines that govern its practices across residential, commercial, industrial, and infrastructure spheres. In terms of policymaking, sustainability is a key driver of the region’s long-term goals and vision. Saudi Arabia and UAE’s Vision 2030 includes plans to enhance renewable supply by 30%, with Dubai focusing on 75% clean energy by 2050.

Sustainability also shapes many of the policies around energy consumption, the use of new technologies, innovative materials, and novel construction practices. Sustainability is helping drive the industry forward by aiding in the formation of longevity-focused guidelines. The Pearl rating system is the ideal example of this, giving developers points for specific objectives that can be analysed and approved during development.

Promoting the Use of eco-friendly Measures

The construction industry is one of the few ecosystems worldwide that can radically transform the scope of sustainability within a region. With the industry accounting for 38% of carbon emissions, it is important to leverage the right construction methodologies and waste management strategies to ensure long-term sustainability. In fact, the construction industry has the potential to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 if it follows the right practices and guidelines for sustainable development.

The construction industry in the Middle East can lead the way in achieving the region’s targets of sustainability, energy consumption, and renewable energy use. Architecture firms Dubai and Abu Dhabi based are actively working with government entities, developers, and construction material suppliers, to ensure that new projects are aligned with the region’s overall sustainability vision.

Improving adaptability to new challenges

Many of the key challenges of the next few decades are going to be around sustainability and energy consumption. With the summer months accounting for 50-60% of energy use within buildings, it is important to design all future iterations of residential and construction projects to be self-sustaining. Whether through solar, wind, or an eco-friendly hybrid model, energy generation and utilisation would have to be optimised long-term.

The circular nature of construction means that developers need to focus on the entire lifecycle of the project. To implement truly impactful initiatives, such as zero waste, recycling, ecological balance, natural landscaping, zero emissions, and resource efficiency, developers need to be adaptable to new challenges. Developers that overcome challenges of the future in the present are also more likely to attract investment within the region for large-scale construction projects.

Innovative Materials Use within the Region

The construction industry is a highly innovative sphere within the Middle East, focusing on using the best materials that are sustainable, aesthetically pleasing, and durable. High-performance concrete, nanoparticles, cross-laminated timber, 3D graphene, and other innovative materials are shaping the way for the future of development. The region’s focus on leveraging these new materials is unmatched, with many new projects being designed keeping these high-insulating and low-maintenance materials in mind.

Additionally, innovative materials are easier to store, manage, and dispose of. They are highly sustainable by design and can be recycled or demolished without releasing toxic emissions or harmful compounds in the air. With C&D waste accounting for 70% of total waste generated in the UAE, it is important to use the right materials to ensure long-term sustainability within Middle Eastern countries.

Influencing design aesthetics through sustainability

Some of the most architecturally complex and aesthetically advanced projects are being designed in the Middle East owing to the region’s focus on sustainability. New geometries, shapes, layouts, and styles are being innovated to ensure that projects capture as much natural energy as possible. The balance between ecology and construction is also being promoted through sustainable architecture in the region as well.

From the exterior façade to the interior finishes, the use of innovative strategies is the key to sustainable development in the region. Both active and passive strategies are being leveraged to accomplish the goals of the construction project, with developers focusing on the right techniques to optimise energy management. Through key initiatives, such as rainwater harvesting, recycled materials, re-using of resources, solar, and water management, buildings are emerging both aesthetically superior and eco-friendlier.

Transforming small cities into smart cities

Transforming small cities into smart cities

Media India Group of New Delhi elaborates on Transforming small cities into smart cities, as seen by the SRMIST and TERRE Policy Centre. Here is the story that could well be of interest to our readers in the MENA region of the Gulf, where Indian Nationals residents make up the great majority of inhabitants.

The picture above is for illustration and is of The Economic Times.

Transforming small cities into smart cities: SRMIST & TERRE Policy

Collaboration to conserve environment

Transforming small cities into smart cities
Dr S Ponnusamy, Registrar, SRM-IST (left); Dr Rajendra Shende, Chairman, TERRE Policy Centre (right)

In order to promote on-campus activities for environmental conservation and fulfil UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, SRM institute collaborates with TERRE Policy Centre.

SRM (Sri Ramaswamy Memorial) Institute of Science and Technology (SRMIST), Chennai, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with TERRE Policy Centre which is a non-profit organisation dedicated to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Our campus in Chennai is like a small city and our aim is to transform that small city to a smart city”, said Professor C Muthamizhchelvan, Vice-Chancellor of SRMIST. While speaking about signing the MoU with TERRE Policy Centre, he also said that collaborating with TERRE they would fulfil their ambition of making all their students and faculty future-ready and SDG-Ready’. “That is what I mean by smart”, he added.

SRMIST is a deemed university as well as an active member of a network of Higher Educational Institutes, called   Smart Campus Cloud Network (SCCN), launched by TERRE Policy Centre in 2017. The network is supported by UNESCO-Paris and India’s Ministry of Education through All India Council of Higher Technical Education (AICTE) and University Grant Commission (UGC).

This digital network of over 350 universities and colleges, including seven foreign universities, promotes the practical activities in the campus that contribute towards the United Nations SDGs. SCCN makes the campus a laboratory for SDGs. The network promotes ‘learning by doing’ within the campus.

In order to fulfil their objective, the network of universities encourages students as well as faculties to share the experiences of practical projects related to SDGs in the college campus. The projects deploy digital technologies like IoT (Internet of Thing), AI (Artificial Intelligence), cloud-networking, Machine-to-machine learning and BlockChain technology.

Apart from these, projects like energy efficiency, harnessing of renewable energy, waste to energy, zero-waste, green buildings, smart-grid, healthy sanitation, e-waste management, air pollution, zero-emission transport, conservation of biodiversity, ban on single-use plastic, water conservation, carbon neutrality, sustainable farming, digital agriculture are among other practices undertaken in the campus. Ideation and research on SDGs are also encouraged on the campus. The results of the practical work on the campus are shared across the universities globally through the digital cloud dashboard that TERRE has developed.

Apart from UNESCO other partners of SCCN are GORD (Gulf Organisation of Research and Development) in Qatar as well as several NGOs. TERRE also works closely with ECOSOC, UNEP, IUCN and UNFCCC.

“Through SCCN we aim to mainstream United Nations Global Goals (SDGs) in the education system where young minds are moulded”, Dr Rajendra Shende, Chairman of TERRE Policy Centre and former director of UNEP, tells Media India Group.

“The MoU has the overarching objective of skill development of the students for implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including making the campus Carbon Neutral,” he adds.

In addition to being a leading higher education and research, the institution has gained an international reputation in various fields and has evolved a comprehensive student-centric learning approach, SRM-IST has also signed carbon neutrality ledge, ‘Not Zero-Net Zero Pledge’ designed and monitored by TERRE under SCCN.

At present, SRM-IST aims to be South India’s regional hub of Smart Campus Cloud Network (SCCN). TERRE Policy Centre, through Smart Campus Cloud Network (SCCN), plans to provide overall guidance and mentoring to SRM-IST on United Nations SDGs and climate change issues

In order to inspire more institutions and organisations across the world, the success stories will be showcased on a number of network platforms including Discussion Fora on its website sccnhub.com. The progress of the activities would be monitored using smart technologies and will be visualised using a cloud platform and a real-time dashboard. The partnership with business, government and civil society would be the key axis around which this network will flourish. ‘Learning by Doing’ and ‘Accelerating by Sharing’ would be the key mantras that TERRE and SRMIST would be practising to train the students for the carbon-neutral future.

An Homage To Zaha Hadid: “Abstracting The Landscape”

An Homage To Zaha Hadid: “Abstracting The Landscape”

Marking five years since the passing of renowned architect and artist Zaha Hadid, Zurich’s Galerie Gmurzynska presents a celebratory and revelatory exhibition of her work entitled “Abstracting the Landscape”.

The picture above is for illustration and is of Ocula.

An Homage To Zaha Hadid: “Abstracting The Landscape” Exhibition At Galerie Gmurzynska In Zurich

Nel-Olivia Waga, Contributor to Travel

I write about conscious luxury, focusing on travel, well-being & art.

Described as the “Queen of Curves”, this Iraqi-British innovator was one of the major figures of late 20th Century and 21st Century architecture and design. Her buildings and interiors always dared to be different and her global legacy reveals her creative and enduring genius. What she achieved is an influential body of work which others look to for inspiration.

Zaha Hadid Abstracting Landscapes at Gallery Gmurzynska Paradeplatz Zurich
Zaha Hadid Abstracting The Landscape at Gallery Gmurzynska Paradeplatz Zurich GMURZYNSKA

Hers was a career marked by recognition for all that she contributed to the development of design and function. Her impact on the built environment was extensive and driven by her fusion of Modernism into her architectural creations. This saw her become the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the only woman ever to be presented with the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects. Her numerous and acclaimed exhibitions have included “The Great Utopia” at the Guggenheim Museum and Art Basel in both Switzerland and Miami.

Zaha Hadid Abstracting The Landscape at Gallery Gmurzynska Paradeplatz Zurich
Zaha Hadid Abstracting The Landscape at Gallery Gmurzynska Paradeplatz Zurich GMURZYNSKA

Her architecture always evolved as she was never prepared to stand still or to accept anything that would compromise her vision. She was always eager to challenge preconceptions bringing some much-needed refreshment to an architectural establishment that can often appear stale and inflexible. The fact that her many buildings already seem timeless is a testament to her ongoing relevance and her ability to prompt those who follow to strive to achieve such a level of authenticity.

Zaha Hadid Abstracting The Landscape at Gallery Gmurzynska Paradeplatz Zurich
Zaha Hadid Abstracting The Landscape at Gallery Gmurzynska Paradeplatz Zurich GMURZYNSKA

Galerie Gmurzynska has had a long association with Zaha Hadid having highlighted her work in a number of earlier exhibitions. There is therefore an initial poignancy around this collection of models, drawings, artworks and sculptures as it prompts the thought that she has now gone. However, the sheer vibrancy of the pieces quickly dispels any feelings of melancholy and it is a joy to look at and experience what is so carefully set out here. 

“When we saw Zaha’s design for the “Great Utopia” exhibition of Russian Avantgarde at the Guggenheim New York in 1992, it took our breath away. And that is what our relationship was about, to implement breathtaking projects ever since. For most she will be remembered as the female architect who broke the glass-ceiling. For her the term “female architect” was irrelevant. For us, as a gallery, her drawings and paintings could be considered works of art, while Zaha never considered herself to be an artist. Zaha was an eternaly curious and artistic minded person with a vision. It is this Zaha that we attempt to present in our current exhibition as an homage to Zaha Hadid.” says Matthias Rastorfer, CEO and Partner at Galerie Gmurzynska

Zaha Hadid Abstracting The Landscape at Gallery Gmurzynska Paradeplatz Zurich
Zaha Hadid Abstracting The Landscape at Gallery Gmurzynska Paradeplatz Zurich GMURZYNSKA

Zaha Hadid’s use of non-figurative forms and shapes fuses technology with art and the clever interplay of light and color combinations show her freshness of vision, creativity and technical expertise. Elements of the exhibition are so “reach out and touch” that they draw both the hand and the eye as they fill the gallery’s floor space. The sinewy contours of many of the works on display seem irresistible and lure both our eyes and hands to discover more. The mixing of media adds depth to the exhibits and there is also the contrast between the modernity on show here as it juxtaposes with the traditional architecture of the commercial building which appears opposite.

Zaha Hadid Abstracting The Landscape at Gallery Gmurzynska Paradeplatz Zurich
Zaha Hadid Abstracting The Landscape at Gallery Gmurzynska Paradeplatz Zurich GMURZYNSKA

The exhibition involved close co-operation with the late artist’s designs team who act as the guardians of her legacy and who seek to preserve and respect her artistic integrity. It is fitting that Galerie Gmurzynska has decided to incorporate key elements of Zaha Hadid’s work as a permanent element of its gallery space. This will act as a reminder and a living memorial of this great architect and artist’s depth of contribution over the length of her career. 

Nel-Olivia Waga at Galerie Gmurzynska's Zaha Hadid Exhibition: ″Abstracting The Landscape″ in Zurich
Nel-Olivia Waga at Galerie Gmurzynska’s Zaha Hadid Exhibition: “Abstracting The Landscape” in Zurich XANDRA M. LINSIN

Impressive on all levels.

I view luxury lifestyle from a conscious perspective and am most passionate about wellbeing, art and travel. I am the founder of the lifestyle blog her-etiquette.com (follow me on Instagram: @her_etiquette). I also run the consulting firm HER CIRCLE which specializes in sustainable luxury strategies and marketing concepts with purpose. Before becoming an entrepreneur I have worked in Sales & Marketing at Coutts & Co, Deutsche Bank and Hugo Boss. Based between Zurich and London, I travel the world and write about the joy of the journey. 

Arabian cult may have built 1000 monuments older than Stonehenge

Arabian cult may have built 1000 monuments older than Stonehenge

NewScientist HUMANS article by Ibrahim Sawal tells us that Arabian cult may have built 1000 monuments older than Stonehenge. Let us see what these are.

The picture above is for illustration and is of Mysterious, massive stone monuments in Arabia.

Arabian cult may have built 1000 monuments older than Stonehenge

ancient monument
There are 1000 ancient monuments across one region of Saudi ArabiaAAKSA and Royal Commission for AlUla

A vast site in north-west Saudi Arabia is home to 1000 structures that date back more than 7000 years, making them older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge in the UK.

Named after the Arabic word for rectangle, mustatil structures were first discovered in the 1970s, but received little attention from researchers at the time. Hugh Thomas at the University of Western Australia in Perth and his team wanted to learn more about them, and embarked on the largest investigation of the structures to date.

Using helicopters to fly over north-west Saudi Arabia and then following up with ground explorations, the researchers found more than 1000 mustatils across 200,000 square kilometres – twice as many as were previously thought to exist in this area. “You don’t get a full understanding of the scale of the structures until you’re there,” says Thomas.

Made from piled-up blocks of sandstone, some of which weighed more than 500 kilograms, mustatils ranged from 20 metres to more than 600 metres in length, but their walls stood only 1.2 metres high. “It’s not designed to keep anything in, but to demarcate the space that is clearly an area that needs to be isolated,” says Thomas.

In a typical mustatil, long walls surround a central courtyard, with a distinctive rubble platform, or “head”, at one end and entryways at the opposite end. Some entrances were blocked by stones, suggesting they could have been decommissioned after use.

Excavations at one mustatil showed that the centre of the head contained a chamber within which there were fragments of cattle horns and skulls. The cattle fragments may have been presented as offerings, suggesting mustatils may have been used for rituals.

Read more: Ancient rock art rewrites the natural history of Arabia

Radiocarbon dating of the skulls shows that they date to between 5300 and 5000 BC, indicating that this was when this particular mustatil was built – and maybe the others too. If so, the monuments would together form the earliest large-scale, ritual landscape anywhere in the world, predating Stonehenge by more than 2500 years.

“This could completely rewrite our understanding of cults in this area at this time,” says team member Melissa Kennedy, also at the University of Western Australia. She says that further south, religious groups became focused in homes, with families displaying small shrines, but the opposite was happening in ancient Saudi Arabia with the mustatils.

There may also have been a relation between the construction of mustatils and the environment. Built during the Holocene Humid Phase – a period between 8000 and 4000 BC during which Arabia and parts of Africa were wetter, and what are now deserts were grasslands. But droughts were still common. Kennedy says it is possible that cattle were herded and used as offerings to the gods to protect the land from the changing climate.

Mustalils were typically clustered in groups of two to 19, suggesting that gatherings may have been broken up into smaller social groups.

“The mustatils themselves are probably associated with an annual or generational coming-together of people who would normally be out with their herds and cattle,” says Gary Rollefson at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, suggesting that these rituals were important for bringing communities together. “But there’s no indication that these guys spent a lot of time around the mustatil.”

Discover megalithic MaltaSome of the world’s oldest structures

“These structures are enigmatic,” says Huw Groucutt at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany. He says they show that remarkable human cultural developments took place in the Arabian peninsula.

But despite all the new findings, there is still much to learn. “People are going to understand these structures even more in the future,” says Thomas. “It’s nice to be at the forefront, but we’re also excited to see what other people find.”

Journal reference: AntiquityDOI: 10.15184/aqy.2021.51

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