It is confirmed here in The Brand Berries.com OPINIONS that Digital Transformation and its Implications on Brands and Consumers in The Middle East by Imad Sarrouf, Head of Publishers at DMS ( Member of the Choueiri Group) is as valid a statement as can be these days.
12 November 2020
The Middle East is showing the promise to scale to unprecedented levels apropos of its digital transformation market is no news. In 2016, along with Africa, this market was valued at USD 1,1 Billion and was estimated to achieve an implausible growth by 2024.
Major powers in the Middle East including UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia have shown impressive strides towards the goal, with their Governments setting precedents by integrating digital transformation in the public sector. The growth that these regions have achieved in terms of tech-savvy infrastructure has made some of the most powerful heads turn in the Gulf direction.
Clearly, the private sector and the public in themselves have taken the cue and are leaving no stone unturned in embracing the digital revolution. As more and more middle eastern companies pave the way for digital, such transformation is going to shape up the future of brands and consumers in this region.
The State Of Digitization Of Brands and Companies In The Middle East
At large, a territory’s adoption and adaptation to the digital era are measured with reference to the population’s access to smartphones, engagement with social media platforms, and availability of high-end digital technologies. While the Middle East has been making headlines for rising up these ladders, the scope of the implementation of digital transformation goes far beyond just that.
The digital transformation market in the middle east is basically divided into 2 regions; the GCC countries and other Arab countries. According to a survey report by Strategy And, hardly about 7.5% of the brands and companies in the GCC region understand the potential of digital transformation as a means to realize efficiencies.
Considering that building a digital strategy for future upscaling is the fundamental step for a company towards transformation, only about 37% of the major brands in the Middle East had teams working on one. The major employable channels across a vast range of sectors for brands include big data and analytics, IoT, Cloud Computing, Cyber physics, and technologies of similar likes. Popular frontrunners leading the race of transformation include Microsoft, Google Inc, SAP, Protiviti, Ixtel, Oracle among others.
Gulf Brands Go Smart: How The Middle East Is Accelerating The Digital Revolution
Closer technical analysis of the major Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE shows that digital initiatives have taken the front seat among leading brand growth agendas. These agendas have been presenting, and are expected to continuingly present themselves under three major brackets;
Adoption Of Smarter Projects And Initiatives
These comprise the entire smart market — right from smart homes, smart healthcare, smart hospitality, and tourism, to smart transportation, entertainment, business, and shopping. Some of the most successful digital initiatives include health monitoring wristwatches, virtual assistants as tour guides, IoT based interconnected home system, among others. While the scope of AR, VR, and advanced AI is still being explored and systematically implemented, work in progress projects in this area include AR/ VR enabled cars in the mobility segment, and some medical testing procedures in the healthcare sector.
Implementation Of Smarter Payment Gateways
The world is always in the need of a better and safer way to pay, and we have all been a witness to this when people furiously shifted to digital mode of payments as soon as they were introduced. With cryptocurrency in the picture, the only challenge is the lack of exposure and education in this area. However, several middle eastern companies are coming forward to give this option to consumers. In fact, in 2017, Dubai’s residential real estate project, Aston Plaza was the first in the world to allow full payment in the form of bitcoins.
Customization Of Production and Operational Convenience
The way the manufacturing sector has been catching up with digital opportunities is magnanimous. The drastic shift from mass production to customized production is one of the most obvious demonstrations of the same that runs alongside the heavy reliance on light mobile apps. These apps ensure higher accuracy, operational convenience, and shipment tracking; some of the features that have become manufacturing prerequisites in an ideal digital world.
For companies that can afford a drastic change, the digital initiatives in this sector also include transforming the entire ecosystem to be more optimized, increasingly sustainable, and minimally invasive.
In a capsule, the digital transformation scene in the companies of the Middle East is seen tracing three major models — digital business model, digital consumer model, and the digital operations model — of which the consumer model is observed to be spearheading the growth. Let’s now understand how this consumer model is being implemented despite regional limitations including the slowdowns due to the recent pandemic instituted lockdowns.
Digital Transformation Driving Middle Eastern Consumer Experience
Middle eastern companies’ digital strategies are highly driven by keeping consumer experience enhancement at the forefront. This includes micro-target marketing to improve customer engagement and channelizing customer feedback.
Some of the most dynamic and successful initiatives include:
Online to Offline Commerce is replacing traditional retail shopping hard and fast. Retail stores are being improvised to act as mere distribution centers while more and more investments are being concentrated towards online initiatives. The lucrative combination of browsing through hundreds of options on the screen, without having to move an inch, getting discount codes and coupons by shopping online, yet getting the look and feel of shopping by personally trying and collecting as per convenience has proved to be an instant hit in this region.
Chatbots and virtual assistants
This technology has proved to be such a huge success that it has become fairly common to find chatbots on every other website or app we use. What companies in the middle east are also empowering are pharma, healthcare, and hospitality sectors through this technology. You can know the right medicine to take for mild symptoms and problems, you can schedule and monitor your family’s health checkups and reports, and coordinate your entire stay with an expert assistant. These applications have particularly received widespread recognition because of its social-distancing friendly nature.
Middle Eastern Challenges To A Rapid Digital Adaptation
For any company, digital transformation is a major shift, that more than anything else will require capital and man-power investment. The most natural challenges that companies in the middle east are facing is the broad skill gap in the existing organizations, change in operating model to an agile one, and starting off on the right footing to make the transformation a profitable success.
Keeping skill-building, awareness, and education at the core, however, can be a unanimous way out of the hindrances posed by these challenges. As companies find access to greater resources; human and otherwise; proficient in the field, brands will gain more confidence to take the digital leap of faith.
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Imad Sarrouf (in feature picture above) is a digital expert with over 15 years of experience in the digital media industry working across a large portfolio of publishers and ad technology platforms in the middle east. In his position, he leads digital innovation and transformation – responsible for the ad tech solutions business and process automation to drive business growth.
Institutions and businesses face a global revolution in the information system that unlike in the past, results in too much information especially if left unused or mishandled. The consequences of such a situation are debated here by Professor A. Mebtoul of Algeria.
With the new information system, unlike in the past, there is too much information. The credibility of the statistical apparatus and the operative selection of this mass of information could induce problems of adapting to the new global digital revolution. That has an impact on the behaviour of citizens as well as on the management of institutions. It is because the further information and communication technologies (ICTs) have implications for political governance, business and administrative management, and also have an impact on our modern way of life, which refers to knowledge and continuous innovation.
Politicians, entrepreneurs, citizens, we all live today in a society of electronic communication, plural and immediate that forces us to make decisions in real-time. The mastery of time being the main challenge of the century, in this 21st century, committing national security any inadequacy to these changes would further isolate the country. This analysis of these global information and technological changes and the impact on the Algerian economy, I developed at length in the American Herald Tribune of August 11, 2018.
The new information system, a global revolution
ICT is a set of technologies used to process, modify, and exchange information specifically digitised data. The birth of ICT is due to the convergence of IT, telecommunications and audiovisual. The development of high-speed Internet, the democratisation of computers and new technologies are the result of lower rates offered by ISPs and growing demand from customers.
The boom in blogs and e-mail is giving ICT an increasingly important place in our society. This interaction between electronics and computing explains why ICT applications can meet the needs of businesses and the state as well as households and individuals. Now subject to the same market laws as any other market production activity, ICT is also a sector where competition is directly played out on a global scale.
The globalisation of companies, markets and financial circuits has not only involved a reshaping of economic structures and exchange flows, but it has also led to the professionalisation of communication and information, as well as an increasingly advanced integration of the phases of product design, creation and consumption. , in parallel with the merger of spheres of activity that were once separated or even opposed. More than opening up to the general public, ICT is revolutionising the internal organisation of the business world. Management software called ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) manages different tasks such as inventory or treasury, collaborative work.
Through the use of intranet and messaging, the “wireless” or “online” system maintains a permanent link with employees on the go as well as video conferencing, all of this generates better sharing and internal information flow. Thus, the world became a large glasshouse. The Internet’s infrastructure is now spreading across the globe to create a massive global network thanks to the computing that today allows information to be digitised and new systems managed. The integration of telecommunications, it and audiovisual technology has given rise to the Information Society, which is the subject of specific attention from states and international organisations.
This interest has been increased for more than a decade because of the socio-economic and cultural benefits of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT): the “digital divide” transcends geographical divides and crosses all human societies. This is because the new means of telecommunications facilitate the exchange and dissemination of knowledge. These new ICTs are therefore profoundly changing the daily lives of citizens, the functioning of businesses and the state. All of this leads to new mental and social representations. This is more obvious at the multimedia level (TV, video on demand, GPS, music) on mobile phones.
On the macroeconomic front, new ICT processes have implications for the value of products and services, which will be more life-cycled, which tends to be shortened and influences productivity gains and ICT-related growth. ICTs also influence scientific and technical research and indirectly enable discoveries that have a new macroeconomic effect. Finally, ICTs have an impact in many other areas such as leisure, culture, health, time management and social behaviour. The advent of the Internet and the tremendous development it has undergone through in recent years have practically put the company, of any importance, at a critical notice to adapt and make the most appropriate and productive use of it. Competitiveness requires it to obtain or give information in real-time; the company will indeed invest the Web and use electronics to face competition and develop its activities. In recent years, ICTs have been able to set up models of work organisation, the main characteristics of which are decentralisation and flexibility. The phenomenon of offshoring of employment is mainly due to the search for productivity gains and opportunities offered by ICT to companies, especially those that are large: online remote work is an everyday reality.
Mastering Economic Intelligence, the Foundation of National Security
Economic Intelligence and its strategic management have become for a nation and enterprise in a particular way, one of the essential drivers of its overall performance and safety. In practice, economic intelligence is a process arising from the intelligence cycle. The information collected helps build a conviction throughout processing and not confirms the erroneous opinion that an actor might initially have.
A formalised need-expression step allows research to be “targeted” by defining a limited perimeter, an essential step to avoid the accumulation of unnecessary data and thus to be equipped with counterproductive information overload. All the fields that complement Economic Intelligence, such as knowledge management, information protection, lobbying, can be grouped into the global concept of Strategic Intelligence. Economic intelligence incorporates two additional dimensions compared to the previous day: decision-making and knowledge of information.
The Economic Intelligence model covers three concepts. We first have data that are numbers, words, current events outside a conceptual frame of reference. Then we have the information, which is the accumulation of data, processed and transformed that become information, validated, and confronted, that begins to make sense. Finally, we have the knowledge that is the set of interpreted information that makes it possible to make decisions. The passages through these three concepts are done in the following way. I want the right information at the right time. For this, it is necessary to define objectives; search and collect data sort and store the data and finally have relevant information. How can I make the information useful? Once the overall information objectives have been set, and research, collection, sorting. Storage missions have been validated, and information must be analysed, results used to highlight aspects that help in decision-making. From then on, the transition from knowledge to intelligence arises. The culture of managers, both political, military and economic, must be changed.
The decision-making system is not a fixed system. It must adapt and evolve; for this, it is necessary to share information, assess the quality and relevance of decisions and the question itself. It is essential to integrate it into the functions of administration and business to make economic intelligence a real competitive advantage. The process approach allows for better coordination of steps to make the most of the information repository for effective action on the administration or the company or its environment through complex interactions. A nation or a company will be better than its competitors if it has, before the others, the right information at the right time, whether it is market knowledge, legal, technological, normative or other information.
A nation or an enterprise must be able to create an information asymmetry to its advantage to build its competitive advantage concerning security, political, economic and technological issues. It is also for this reason that governments are assisting in the education and education of business leaders so that they can use economic intelligence to strengthen their management skills. Hence the support to companies for access to the large volumes of information on international trade held by departmental departments and agencies, the Intelligence and Counterintelligence Services, setting up an economic information service for the benefit of companies engaged in foreign trade. Industrial property in various aspects (patents, trademarks, models, know-how, copyrights, technology monitoring, secrecy, software protection, technology transfer, licensing agreements, competition law, etc.) is becoming a major issue. Many companies try to extract from their competitors’ technologies, customer files, trade secrets, product cost structures, product manufacturing specifications and procedures, and development plans. Since the advent of intranets and extranets, information has spread more quickly and widely across borders, acquiring such strategic value that the challenge now is to appropriate it. This is why currently, the majority of developed states contribute to ensuring the security control of internal databases within companies to deal with data hacks. The motivations of hackers have evolved: from software piracy by amateurs whose main motivation was to steal for their personal use, we have moved to “professional” hacking of an economic nature (misappropriation of money) and industrial hacking, close to espionage. Beyond the technical risks imposed by the Tic, the security of computer data begins with securing and raising awareness of human resources. Communications interceptions have also evolved. From wiretapping, we’ve gone to intercepting e-mail. When an e-mail is sent in the usual way, it is not encrypted and can pass through a dozen proxies that mark the route to its destination. However, for technical but also legal reasons, they keep a copy of the messages received. The information contained in the message and the attached files can, therefore, be read by as many proxies managers. Document thefts occur not only remotely or not accessing a computer or server but also in the most unexpected way by photocopiers. Each time a document is copied on a modern copier, the machine’s hard drive stores a copy. As a result, they have become real computerised storage centres, often without the knowledge of company managers and employees. The most modern copiers and multifunction machines store information before printing it. Computer experts can, therefore, retrieve this information, especially since most of them are usually connected to a network, either via a PC (shared printer) or through a clean IP address.
Algeria faces the challenges of the globalisation of the information society
Every day, new technological advances make previous advances more obsolete. The challenges – in terms of opportunities and risks of marginalisation – the ICT’s influence on growth and social development. This delay is also due in part to the problem of negative attitudes and attitudes that hinder the implementation of innovative and exciting projects, proposed by specialists. An Algerian study shows that only 15% of Algerian SMEs out of the 321,000 surveyed use information and communication technologies (ICT) in their activities according to the National Agency for the Development of SMEs. In the 2019 ranking of the Bloomberg Innovation Index, which measures the impact of innovation in the economy, it is also based on seven criteria: research and development, manufacturing value-added, productivity, high-tech density, tertiary sector efficiency, the concentration of researchers, number of patents. Algeria is absent from the top 50. This absence is due to the lack of use and development of ICT in daily life, notably the absence of E-payment and E-Education. Another ranking is that Algeria has one of the slowest Internet connections in the world. In the latest “Worldwide broadband speed league 2018”, which annually reports on the speeds of no less than 200 countries (the ranking having been established based on 163 million tests concerning 200 countries),
Algeria, with a download speed of 1.25 Mbps (Megabits), found itself in 175th place. According to this report, it would take 9 hours and 7 minutes for an Algerian Internet user to download a 5GB film (gigabit). In contrast, this time is only 11 minutes and 18 seconds in Singapore, first in the ranking, with a speed of 60.39 Mbps. Furthermore, according to the 2018 edition released on December 5, 2018, of the Global Knowledge Index, developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), that measures the multidimensional concept of knowledge based on seven sector indices, Algeria is ranked 104th out of the 134 studied countries. As for the Global Innovation Index, a global ranking of countries based on their capacity and results of economic innovation published annually by Cornell University, the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2018, out of a total of 126 countries, Algeria achieved a score of 23.87 points out of 100, down two places from 2017. According to the latest edition of the biennial United Nations survey on India’s 2018 E-Government Development in the world, published on July 19 2018 “as a general rule, there is a positive correlation between the country’s income level and its ranking in electronic administration. High-income countries have very high or high EGDI scores. It is not universal, however. Twenty-two upper-middle-income countries and 39 lower-middle-income countries have EGDI scores below the global average of EGDI, and ten countries in the lower-middle-income group have scores above the global average. On the other hand, low-income countries remain lagging due to the relatively low level of development of all components of the index.”
For national security reasons, Algeria’s information system needs to be redesigned
Statistics are now abundant at all national, regional and global levels, and playing an increasingly important role in our societies and public administrations. They inform public debates, policy formulation and business decision-making, thus raising the issue of the intrinsic quality, compilation and selection of information. In Algeria, however, this information-gathering system needs to be redesigned. Ideally, it would be a Ministry of the Economy with a strategic planning directorate and a National Statistics (ONS) that like the INSEE in France, Great Britain, Germany or the United States of America, is an independent body with an analysis department. It must be part of another institutional organisation that is moving towards the consolidation of ministries for greater efficiency and budgetary rigour, economic regionalisation.
Subject to specific objectives, with several local authorities and institutions not telescoping each other nor making information opaque for reasons of individualised strategies. What are short-term parameters can become variable in the medium term, and what is the strategic sector today may not become so tomorrow. Of course, the ONS not meant to assess current public policies delivers what others interpret its figures by recognising that better inter-institutional coordination between the various and abundant administrative sources and the board would be desirable, calling for more “coherence and integration”. It is because the ONS starts from the micro-economic data of administrations and companies by consolidating them at the macro-economic level. This inconsistency, fostered by an inconsistent pricing system in which administered prices and market prices compiled together, does not allow us to identify the sincerity of the accounts and can lead to mismanagement and even corruption. If the essential information is biased, it gives results at the global level that does not reflect reality. And this is what we see with the crumbling of the information system, where the polling bases are different from one organisation to another resulting in data that contradicts the reality. Therefore, survey methods need to be standardised, whether comprehensive or surveyed. Above all, information must be democratised by opening up the massive media to a broad and contradictory economic debate, as no one has a monopoly on nationalism. However, monetary policy errors can amount to losses of tens of billions of dollars to the country. The crumbling of the information system explains the contradictory discourses of several senior officials; entropy has reached an unacceptable level in recent years.
For transparency, the foundation of good governance, accelerate the digitisation of institutions and companies
The 21st-century world is on the cusp of a fourth economic and technological revolution, based on two fundamentals of good governance and knowledge economy. This revolution, with the trajectory of the digital transition and the energy transition, means that any nation that does not advance is going backwards, that there is no static situation. The majority of paper newspapers are likely to disappear by 2020/2025, if they do not adapt to the new revolution, replaced by online sites that give real-time information. I recall that, as Director-General of Economic Studies and first advisor to the Court of Auditors, I was appointed by the then Presidency in 1983 to deal with the issue of demurrage. This issue is still relevant and made urgent, given budgetary constraints. These numerous raft boats cause large foreign exchange outflows. I had suggested, about the services of the Ministry of Commerce, of the finances and various ministerial departments concerned, the urgency to combat both demurrage and overcharging the establishment of a value table by setting up a networked and real-time information system between ports, customs, banks, tax services and connected to international networks to know the real-time prices of imported goods.
“The statistics available are not accurate; those who oppose digitisation do not want transparency”: Abdelmadjid TEBBOUNE, President of the Republic.
As the President of the Republic has pointed out, those who oppose the digitisation of institutions and businesses do not want either to move forward nor plan for a future in full knowledge of all potential possibilities in as clear an atmosphere as can be had. An example would be the management of ministries, governorates (wilayas) and the majority of services that still follow the methods of the 1960s/1970s with techniques. The urgency of transparency in the management of SONATRACH which provides 98% of the country’s foreign exchange revenues, the financial system as a whole, which must make its transformation, being currently, mere administrative counters, place of interest struggles and distribution of the oil rente. A rentier oligarchy has used, the customs system for overcharges for lack of a table of value linked to the international network, (price, weight costs/quality). The present state system that promotes land squandering; the undigitised tax system that leads to tax evasion, the public banking system that allows enormous loans without real guarantees and interest rate bonuses, with collaboration, without correlation of business would require a radical change. In this context, bureaucracy, the legacy of an administered economy, is one of the heaviest constraints and whose eradication is necessary. The new system should instil the dynamics of development in the context of a controlled liberalisation reconciling economic efficiency and social justice. The latter not being antinomic with efficiency, on the contrary, would prompt the mobilisation of citizens for a new Algeria. The less different the reforms, the more we will deplete the foreign exchange reserves, and this crisis of governance risks turning into a financial, economic and political turmoil with the risk of regional destabilisation. firstname.lastname@example.org
 “Dr. Abderrahmane Mebtoul: “Algeria Still Faces Significant Challenges” and three parts in the international site AfricaPresse Paris on the challenges of Algeria 2018/2020/2030 as follows:
- “Algeria’s development involves the reform of the political system”
- “There is an urgent need to adapt Algerian political parties, for the majority related to rentier interests” and
- “No development for Algeria without strategic vision of the transition to a non-hydrocarbon economy”
The purpose is per TECHNOLOGY of TAHAWULTECH.COM informing that Middle East IT leaders turn to cloud optimisation to cope with post-COVID-19 era.
More than 66 percent of businesses across the Middle East have had to increase their expenditure on technology during lockdown, with the majority (68 percent) anticipating further increases in the next 12 months.
However, as spending rises, cost control becomes more important, with over three quarters (86 percent) of IT leaders saying the pandemic has brought new concerns around budget. Having to scale down (28 percent) and funding innovation (25 percent) are the most common areas of concern.
These are some of the key findings from Rackspace Technology’s new report, Technology Budgets: Managing Shifting Priorities. The research examines the proliferation of IT budget management across organisations, internationally and results indicate that it is becoming difficult to maintain visibility into where and how IT budgets are being spent.
As rising tech costs bring budgetary concerns, there is growing recognition of the importance of optimising costs through the cloud. However, the research found that many IT leaders lack either the understanding or the skills to take full advantage of its cost optimisation potential.
Despite nearly all companies leveraging cost optimisation tools within their cloud infrastructure (96 percent), a lack of understanding may be limiting their ability to seize their cost-controlling benefits.
As little as less than half (44 per cent) of IT decision-makers actually understand what cloud cost governance and cloud cost optimisation are and how they differ. This not only signals that there may be significant room for improvement in cost optimisation strategies but also highlights how many businesses face the risk of cloud sprawl and other unwanted costs at this crucial time. Indeed, this is reflected in IT leaders’ confidence in their ability to optimise costs: about two fifths (36 per cent) feel that while they or their teams are empowered to make IT budget decisions, they lack the skills to do so. This is despite a vast majority (75 per cent) of companies having a dedicated team or individual in house whose responsibility it is to manage IT budgets and costs.
Cloud has emerged as the central focus of modern business operations, with almost two thirds (64 percent) of IT leaders seeing cloud infrastructure as their priority when budgeting.
Cloud is also viewed as an effective way of cutting costs, with nearly half ( 46 per cent) of IT leaders planning to optimise their existing cloud infrastructure and about two fifths (38 per cent) intending to deploy new cloud infrastructure in order to make savings. In fact, of those companies that had planned to either move to multi or hybrid cloud ( 76 per cent) or develop cloud-based solutions ( 88 per cent) in 2020, three quarters have now accelerated these plans (74 per cent and 77 per cent respectively).
“Many businesses have found out the hard way in 2020 that their IT systems, resources and spend tracking weren’t ready for Covid-19,” said Martin Blackburn, Managing Director, EMEA at Rackspace Technology. “While it is encouraging to see so many IT leaders recognise the central role cloud can play in controlling costs, intention to follow best practices and the actual knowledge required to do so are different things, and support is often required.
“With most companies having to increase investment in tools, businesses have been forced to adapt quickly to a changing environment which is why we designed the Cloud Optimisation solution, to provide customers with an end-to-end solution to help them optimise their cloud workloads for cost and performance.”
Through the new Cloud Optimisation Solution, Rackspace Technology provides expertise and guidance to help customers address cost and performance optimisation at each step of their cloud journey, which enables them to save money, improve performance, and gain a team of highly specialised experts to focus on their cloud optimisation initiatives. Rackspace Technology’s certified cloud experts take a collaborative and flexible approach with each engagement, with the flexibility to adapt quickly to overcome any new challenges and ensure the success of each project.