We asked our 2020 intake of Technology Pioneers for their views on how technology will change the world in the next five years.
From quantum computers and 5G in action to managing cancer chronically, here are their predictions for our near-term future.
1. AI-optimized manufacturing
Paper and pencil tracking, luck, significant global travel and opaque supply chains are part of today’s status quo, resulting in large amounts of wasted energy, materials and time. Accelerated in part by the long-term shutdown of international and regional travel by COVID-19, companies that design and build products will rapidly adopt cloud-based technologies to aggregate, intelligently transform, and contextually present product and process data from manufacturing lines throughout their supply chains. By 2025, this ubiquitous stream of data and the intelligent algorithms crunching it will enable manufacturing lines to continuously optimize towards higher levels of output and product quality – reducing overall waste in manufacturing by up to 50%. As a result, we will enjoy higher quality products, produced faster, at lower cost to our pocketbooks and the environment.
In 2025, carbon footprints will be viewed as socially unacceptable, much like drink driving is today. The COVID-19 pandemic will have focused the public’s attention on the need to take action to deal with threats to our way of life, our health and our future. Public attention will drive government policy and behavioural changes, with carbon footprints becoming a subject of worldwide scrutiny. Individuals, companies and countries will seek the quickest and most affordable ways to achieve net-zero – the elimination of their carbon footprint. The creation of a sustainable, net-zero future will be built through a far-reaching energy transformation that significantly reduces the world’s carbon emissions, and through the emergence of a massive carbon management industry that captures, utilizes and eliminates carbon dioxide. We’ll see a diversity of new technologies aimed at both reducing and removing the world’s emissions – unleashing a wave of innovation to compare with the industrial and digital Revolutions of the past.
By 2025, quantum computing will have outgrown its infancy, and a first generation of commercial devices will be able tackle meaningful, real-world problems. One major application of this new kind of computer will be the simulation of complex chemical reactions, a powerful tool that opens up new avenues in drug development. Quantum chemistry calculations will also aid the design of novel materials with desired properties, for instance better catalysts for the automotive industry that curb emissions and help fight climate change. Right now, the development of pharmaceuticals and performance materials relies massively on trial and error, which means it is an iterative, time-consuming and terribly expensive process. Quantum computers may soon be able to change this. They will significantly shorten product development cycles and reduce the costs for R&D.
4. Healthcare paradigm shift to prevention through diet
By 2025, healthcare systems will adopt more preventative health approaches based on the developing science behind the health benefits of plant-rich, nutrient-dense diets. This trend will be enabled by AI-powered and systems biology-based technology that exponentially grows our knowledge of the role of specific dietary phytonutrients in specific human health and functional outcomes. After the pandemic of 2020, consumers will be more aware of the importance of their underlying health and will increasingly demand healthier food to help support their natural defences. Armed with a much deeper understanding of nutrition, the global food industry can respond by offering a broader range of product options to support optimal health outcomes. The healthcare industry can respond by promoting earth’s plant intelligence for more resilient lives and to incentivize people to take care of themselves in an effort to reduce unsustainable costs.
5. 5G will enhance the global economy and save lives
Overnight, we’ve experienced a sharp increase in delivery services with a need for “day-of” goods from providers like Amazon and Instacart – but it has been limited. With 5G networks in place, tied directly into autonomous bots, goods would be delivered safely within hours.
Wifi can’t scale to meet higher capacity demands. Sheltering-in-place has moved businesses and classrooms to video conferencing, highlighting poor-quality networks. Low latency 5G networks would resolve this lack of network reliability and even allow for more high-capacity services like telehealth, telesurgery and ER services. Businesses can offset the high cost of mobility with economy-boosting activities including smart factories, real-time monitoring, and content-intensive, real-time edge-compute services. 5G private networks make this possible and changes the mobile services economy.
The roll-out of 5G creates markets that we only imagine – like self-driving bots, along with a mobility-as-a-service economy – and others we can’t imagine, enabling next generations to invent thriving markets and prosperous causes.
Technology drives data, data catalyzes knowledge, and knowledge enables empowerment. In tomorrow’s world, cancer will be managed like any chronic health condition —we will be able to precisely identify what we may be facing and be empowered to overcome it.
In other words, a new normal will emerge in how we can manage cancer. We will see more early and proactive screening with improved diagnostics innovation, such as in better genome sequencing technology or in liquid biopsy, that promises higher ease of testing, higher accuracy and ideally at an affordable cost. Early detection and intervention in common cancer types will not only save lives but reduce the financial and emotional burden of late discovery.
We will also see a revolution in treatment propelled by technology. Gene editing and immunotherapy that bring fewer side effects will have made greater headway. With advances in early screening and treatment going hand in hand, cancer will no longer be the cursed ‘C’ word that inspires such fear among people.
Historically, robotics has turned around many industries, while a few select sectors – such as grocery retail – have remained largely untouched . With the use of a new robotics application called ‘microfulfillment’, Grocery retailing will no longer look the same. The use of robotics downstream at a ‘hyper local’ level (as opposed to the traditional upstream application in the supply chain) will disrupt this 100-year-old, $5 trillion industry and all its stakeholders will experience significant change. Retailers will operate at a higher order of magnitude on productivity, which will in turn result in positive and enticing returns in the online grocery business (unheard of at the moment). This technology also unlocks broader access to food and a better customer proposition to consumers at large: speed, product availability and cost. Microfulfillment centers are located in existing (and typically less productive) real estate at the store level and can operate 5-10% more cheaply than a brick and mortar store. We predict that value will be equally captured by retailers and consumers as online.
One thing the current pandemic has shown us is how important technology is for maintaining and facilitating communication – not simply for work purposes, but for building real emotional connections. In the next few years we can expect to see this progress accelerate, with AI technology built to connect people at a human level and drive them closer to each other, even when physically they’re apart. The line between physical space and virtual will forever be blurred. We’ll start to see capabilities for global events – from SXSW to the Glastonbury Festival – to provide fully digitalized alternatives, beyond simple live streaming into full experiences. However, it’s not as simple as just providing these services – data privacy will have to be prioritised in order to create confidence among consumers. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we saw a lot in the news about concerns over the security of video conferencing companies. These concerns aren’t going anywhere and as digital connectivity increases, brands simply can’t afford to give users anything less than full transparency and control over their data.
9. Putting individuals – not institutions – at the heart of healthcare
By 2025, the lines separating culture, information technology and health will be blurred. Engineering biology, machine learning and the sharing economy will establish a framework for decentralising the healthcare continuum, moving it from institutions to the individual. Propelling this forward are advances in artificial intelligence and new supply chain delivery mechanisms, which require the real-time biological data that engineering biology will deliver as simple, low-cost diagnostic tests to individuals in every corner of the globe. As a result, morbidity, mortality and costs will decrease in acute conditions, such as infectious diseases, because only the most severe cases will need additional care. Fewer infected people will leave their homes, dramatically altering disease epidemiology while decreasing the burden on healthcare systems. A corresponding decrease in costs and increase in the quality of care follows, as inexpensive diagnostics move expenses and power to the individual, simultaneously increasing the cost-efficiency of care. Inextricable links between health, socio-economic status and quality of life will begin to loosen, and tensions that exist by equating health with access to healthcare institutions will dissipate. From daily care to pandemics, these converging technologies will alter economic and social factors to relieve many pressures on the global human condition.
Construction will become a synchronized sequence of manufacturing processes, delivering control, change and production at scale. It will be a safer, faster and more cost-effective way to build the homes, offices, factories and other structures we need to thrive in cities and beyond. As rich datasets are created across the construction industry through the internet of things, AI and image capture, to name a few, this vision is already coming to life. Using data to deeply understand industry processes is profoundly enhancing the ability of field professionals to trust their instincts in real-time decision making, enabling learning and progress while gaining trust and adoption.
Actionable data sheds light where we could not see before, empowering leaders to manage projects proactively rather than reactively. Precision in planning and execution enables construction professionals to control the environment, instead of it controlling them, and creates repeatable processes that are easier to control, automate, and teach.
That’s the future of construction. And it’s already begun.
11. Gigaton-scale CO2 removal will help to reverse climate change
A scale up of negative emission technologies, such as carbon dioxide removal, will remove climate-relevant amounts of CO2 from the air. This will be necessary in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. While humanity will do everything possible to stop emitting more carbon into the atmosphere, it will also do everything it can in order to remove historic CO2 from the air permanently. By becoming widely accessible, the demand for CO2 removal will increase and costs will fall. CO2 removal will be scaled up to the gigaton-level, and will become the responsible option for removing unavoidable emissions from the air. It will empower individuals to have a direct and climate-positive impact on the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. It will ultimately help to prevent global warming from reaching dangerous levels and give humanity the potential to reverse climate change.
Jan Wurzbacher, Co-Founder and co-CEO of Climeworks
12. A new era in medicine
Medicine has always been on a quest to gather more knowledge and understanding of human biology for better clinical decision-making. AI is that new tool that will enable us to extract more insights at an unprecedented level from all the medical ‘big data’ that has never really been fully taken advantage of in the past. It will shift the world of medicine and how it is practiced.
Improvements in AI will finally put access to wealth creation within reach of the masses. Financial advisors, who are knowledge workers, have been the mainstay of wealth management: using customized strategies to grow a small nest egg into a larger one. Since knowledge workers are expensive, access to wealth management has often meant you already need to be wealthy to preserve and grow your wealth. As a result, historically, wealth management has been out of reach of those who needed it most. Artificial intelligence is improving at such a speed that the strategies employed by these financial advisors will be accessible via technology, and therefore affordable for the masses. Just like you don’t need to know how near-field communication works to use ApplePay, tens of millions of people won’t have to know modern portfolio theory to be able to have their money work for them.
14. A clean energy revolution supported by digital twins
Over the next five years, the energy transition will reach a tipping point. The cost of new-build renewable energy will be lower than the marginal cost of fossil fuels. A global innovation ecosystem will have provided an environment in which problems can be addressed collectively, and allowed for the deployment of innovation to be scaled rapidly. As a result, we will have seen an astounding increase in offshore wind capacity. We will have achieved this through an unwavering commitment to digitalization, which will have gathered a pace that aligns with Moore’s law to mirror solar’s innovation curve. The rapid development of digital twins – virtual replicas of physical devices – will support a systems-level transformation of the energy sector. The scientific machine learning that combines physics-based models with big data will lead to leaner designs, lower operating costs and ultimately clean, affordable energy for all. The ability to monitor structural health in real-time and fix things before they break will result in safer, more resilient infrastructure and everything from wind farms to bridges and unmanned aerial vehicles being protected by a real-time digital twin.
15. Understanding the microscopic secrets hidden on surfaces
Every surface on Earth carries hidden information that will prove essential for avoiding pandemic-related crises, both now and in the future. The built environment, where humans spend 90% of their lives, is laden with naturally occurring microbiomes comprised of bacterial, fungal and viral ecosystems. Technology that accelerates our ability to rapidly sample, digitalize and interpret microbiome data will transform our understanding of how pathogens spread. Exposing this invisible microbiome data layer will identify genetic signatures that can predict when and where people and groups are shedding pathogens, which surfaces and environments present the highest transmission risk, and how these risks are impacted by our actions and change over time. We are just scratching the surface of what microbiome data insights offer and will see this accelerate over the next five years. These insights will not only help us avoid and respond to pandemics, but will influence how we design, operate and clean environments like buildings, cars, subways and planes, in addition to how we support economic activity without sacrificing public health.
16. Machine learning and AI expedite decarbonization in carbon-heavy industries
Over the next five years, carbon-heavy industries will use machine learning and AI technology to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint. Traditionally, industries like manufacturing and oil and gas have been slow to implement decarbonization efforts as they struggle to maintain productivity and profitability while doing so. However, climate change, as well as regulatory pressure and market volatility, are pushing these industries to adjust. For example, oil and gas and industrial manufacturing organizations are feeling the pinch of regulators, who want them to significantly reduce CO2 emissions within the next few years. Technology-enabled initiatives were vital to boosting decarbonizing efforts in sectors like transportation and buildings – and heavy industries will follow a similar approach. Indeed, as a result of increasing digital transformation, carbon-heavy sectors will be able to utilize advanced technologies, like AI and machine learning, using real-time, high-fidelity data from billions of connected devices to efficiently and proactively reduce harmful emissions and decrease carbon footprints.
Despite the accelerating regulatory environments we’ve seen surface in recent years, we are now just seeing the tip of the privacy iceberg, both from a regulatory and consumer standpoint. Five years from now, privacy and data-centric security will have reached commodity status – and the ability for consumers to protect and control sensitive data assets will be viewed as the rule rather than the exception. As awareness and understanding continue to build, so will the prevalence of privacy preserving and enhancing capabilities, namely privacy-enhancing technologies (PET). By 2025, PET as a technology category will become mainstream. They will be a foundational element of enterprise privacy and security strategies rather than an added-on component integrated only meet a minimum compliance threshold. While the world will still lack a global privacy standard, organizations will embrace a data-centric approach to security that provides the flexibility necessary to adapt to regional regulations and consumer expectations. These efforts will be led by cross-functional teams representing the data, privacy and security interests within an organization.
How will technology change the world in the next five years?
It is very exciting to see the pace and transformative potential of today’s innovative technologies being applied to solve the world’s most pressing problems, such as feeding a global and growing population; improving access to and quality of healthcare; and significantly reducing carbon emissions to arrest the negative effects of climate change. The next five years will see profound improvements in addressing these challenges as entrepreneurs, the investment community and the world’s largest enterprise R&D organizations focus on developing and deploying solutions that will deliver tangible results.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a difficult lesson in just how susceptible our world is today to human and economic turmoil, it has also – perhaps for the first time in history – necessitated global collaboration, data transparency and speed at the highest levels of government in order to minimize an immediate threat to human life. History will be our judge, but despite the heroic resolve and resiliency on a country by country basis, as a world we have underperformed. As a global community and through platforms like the World Economic Forum, we must continue to bring visibility to these issues while recognizing and supporting the opportunities for technology and innovation that can best and most rapidly address them.
Approximately half of all jobs will be materially impacted by automation in the next 15-20 years, said professional services firm Accenture in a new report.
Meanwhile, 79 per cent of executives agree that work is shifting from roles to projects—challenging both the function and makeup of the workforce as we know it, said Tanushree Guha, managing director of Applied Intelligence and global lead for the Workforce Analytics practice at Accenture in the report titled “OCED Employment Outlook 2019: The Future of Work”.
As more and more employees look for different opportunities, many are not choosing permanent jobs. In 2018 alone, 56.7 million Americans freelanced, and it is predicted that by 2027, the majority of America’s workers will be freelance. Those choosing part-time work or even working for multiple employers at one time will need to be factored into evolving workforce models, says Guha.
“Advances in digital and automation have allowed organizations to gain efficiency and increase productivity. But adopting these technologies means that organizations must plan for their workforce—especially those at risk of being made redundant,” the report said.
As many as 40 percent of companies are already reporting that talent shortages are impacting their ability to adapt and innovate and this highlights the need for organizations to upskill, reskill and cross-skill existing workers, it added.
A new approach to workforce management
Strategic workforce planning (SWFP) helps organizations strike the right balance between external contractors and internal workforce, as well as the right blend of human and machine effort to drive the business forward.
By providing a holistic perspective of the current workforce, and existing as well as future gaps, workforce planning can help organizations assess forthcoming risks and identify quick wins to yield potential savings. This enables organizations to strategize their recruitment and reskilling plans well in advance, as well as ascertain the most advantageous size and workforce mix of the organization both in the short and long term, the article said.
For example, using HR transformation analytics, organizations are turning recruitment from what was traditionally often a process based on “gut-feel,” to one informed and backed by advanced data insights. This transformation enables businesses to find the right people at the right time with the most relevant skills from a larger pool of applicants, whilst saving on time and money.
According to Guha, SWFP helps companies to be in a future-ready state, by enabling them to:
• Have a good hold of the current workforce scenario • Be well informed of possible future workforce gaps, facilitating them to strategize gap fulfilment and avoid the probable revenue losses due to those gaps • Devise a comprehensive action plan on efficiently utilizing the various workforce types to drive maximum productivity • Be well aware of the overtime changes in workforce dynamics and reasons for those changes • Design and implement optimal reskilling strategies in line with the changing requirements, at the same time as providing optimal career pathways to their workforce. – TradeArabia News Service
ABU DHABI, UAE, Oct. 16, 2019 / PRNewswire/ — Abu Dhabi today announced the establishment of the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), the first graduate level, research-based AI university in the world. MBZUAI will enable graduate students, businesses, and governments to advance artificial intelligence.
The University is named after His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who has long advocated for the UAE’s development of human capital through knowledge and scientific thinking to take the nation into the future. MBZUAI will introduce a new model of academia and research to the field of AI, providing students and faculty access to some of the world’s most advanced AI systems to unleash its potential for economic and societal development.
His Excellency Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State, who has been appointed Chair of the MBZUAI Board of Trustees and is spearheading the establishment of the University, said: “The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence is an open invitation from Abu Dhabi to the world to unleash AI’s full potential.”
“The University will bring the discipline of AI into the forefront, molding and empowering creative pioneers who can lead us to a new AI empowered era,” he added.
Experts from around the world have been selected for the University’s Board of Trustees. They include MBZUAI Interim President, Professor Sir Michael Brady, professor of Oncological Imaging at the University of Oxford, UK; Professor Anil K. Jain, a University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University, USA; Professor Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, Dean of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Information Sciences at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China; Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, a technology executive and venture capitalist based in Beijing, China; Professor Daniela Rus, Director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), USA, and Peng Xiao, CEO of Group 42.
Over the next decade, AI is set to have a transformational impact on the global economy, with experts estimating that, by 2030, AI could contribute nearly $16 trillion to the global economy and account for nearly 14% of the UAE’s GDP.
Professor Sir Michael Brady, Interim President of MBZUAI, said: “We are now at a turning point in the widespread application of advanced intelligence. That evolution is – among other things – creating exciting new career opportunities in nearly every sector of society. At MBZUAI, we will support students to capture those opportunities and to magnify their contribution to the field of AI globally.”
The University will offer Master of Science (MSc) and PhD level programs in key areas of AI – Machine Learning, Computer Vision, and Natural Language Processing. All admitted students will receive a full scholarship, monthly allowance, health insurance, and accommodation.
Graduate students can now apply to MBZUAI via the University’s website. The first class will commence coursework at MBZUAI’s Masdar City campus in September 2020.
With regional governments now set to reduce oil dependency through policy and regulation change, the Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the phenomenon of the Internet of Things (IoT) is now rife among all sectors in the region, added the report from MEED, a leading business intelligence provider.
Organizations are on board to make structural changes through the usage of advanced and innovative technology. But while many of the innovations that promise to shape the region in the coming years are still new, and sometimes experimental, others are widely known, even if not yet in common use.
MEED looks at 10 technologies set to transform the Middle East over the next decade.
Grid-scale batteries to enable energy diversification
Global investment in high-capacity batteries is transforming the market for renewable energy. The large-scale adoption of alternative energy has long been hampered by the unreliable, inflexible nature of its major sources, the wind and sun. The problems caused by intermittent energy production can only be solved by developing effective storage solutions; batteries that can store energy at peak production times for later deployment.
A significant drop in the prices of lithium and vanadium – essential battery components – in addition to improvements in battery efficiency, are enabling large scale adoption of energy storage facilities.
Abu Dhabi’s recent launch of the region’s first Grid-Scale Battery Deployment and the world’s largest Virtual Battery Plant is indicative of the region’s commitment to diversifying its energy supply.
Digital payment – fintech
The initial caution of governments in GCC to digital payments and financial technology (fintech) is beginning to abate and the first online payments were made across the region in 2018, following a series successful trials of the technology that persuaded authorities to relax regulation. With limited access to banking facilities, an estimated 86 per cent of adults in the region (Reuters) do not have a bank account. This, coupled with an increase in the mobile phone capabilities makes the Mena market a real opportunity for fintech investment. Research company Mena Research Partners estimated the fintech market in the Mena region to be worth $2 billion in 2018 and it is expected to reach $2.5 billion by 2022.
There is a growing realisation that complex systems such as oil fields, electricity grids, building sites and entire cities can be managed more effectively if siloed data can be combined on a single platform. New remote sensor technology can provide critical real-time data, allowing managers to make quick, informed decisions and increasingly intelligent software is being developed to automate complex processes. Internet of Things (IoT), which is a convergence of technologies such as remote sensors, machine learning and real-time analytics, is central to the development of these smart, digital ecosystems.
The GCC has been a global frontrunner in the uptake of autonomous driving, with UAE leading the way. The Dubai Future Foundation in partnership with Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) launched the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy which aims to make 25 per cent of Dubai transportation autonomous by 2030, saving $6 billion annually. The RTA is currently conducting tests to decide the winners of the Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport, which are focused on the provision of first/last Mile transportation.
5G supporting the new digital ecosystem
In May this year, Emirates Telecommunication Company, Etisalat, launched the region’s first 5G enabled smartphones. The new 5G networks transfer data 20 times faster than 4G, have a bigger capacity, are more reliable. This vital development is needed to support the emerging ecosystem of digital technologies including IoT, smart cities, cloud computing and autonomous vehicles. According to Globaldata, the number of mobile network subscriptions in the Mena region is expected to be 15.8 million by 2023.
Shift away from traditional fuel sources to free up crude oil for higher value products and export sees an increase in demand for alternative energy sources. One of the most promising alternative fuels is hydrogen, which can be produced using solar photovoltaic technology. This will be showcased at Expo 2020 by the use of fuel-cell vehicles that run on hydrogen generated at a solar-driven hydrogen electrolysis facility at Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park.
Using AI to make the most of VR and AR
Initially gaining popularity through the gaming industry, augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) are increasingly being used for training, marketing and problem-solving. VR systems can have powerful applications when combined with artificial intelligence (AI). For example, it could be possible to develop a microscope that can highlight cancerous cells or the dashboard of a vehicle that can detect hazards and alert the driver using signals on the dashboard.
Electrification of transport
Electric Vehicles (EVs) potentially are among the most transformative of all emerging technologies, delivering a change as significant as the move from horse-drawn carts and internal combustion engines in the early 2oth century. While electric milk floats and golf buggies have been widely used since the middle of the 20th century, huge leaps forward in battery capacity and materials technology have brought EVs to the edge of becoming mainstream modes of transport.
Their benefits in terms of reducing carbon emissions and energy conservation could be huge. Technical challenges ranging from development of electricity charging infrastructure through to battery capacity and safety capabilities remain to be overcome however before EVs they will become our primary mode of transport.
By 2025, the global 3D printing market is expected account for an annual spend of over $20bn.The Middle East is recognising the potential of additive manufacturing, with Dubai leading the trend with its3D printing strategy, announced in April 2016, which set the ambitious target of all constructing 25 per cent of new buildings using additive manufacturing. The sectors that could see the most benefit from the technology are healthcare – for joints, teeth, medical and training equipment, aerospace, consumer manufacturing and construction.
Food security – Vertical farming and hydroponics
Increasing population, extreme climate conditions and political and economic instability are putting food security in the Middle East high on the political agenda. With the region importing over 50 per cent of its food, governments are looking to boost local production using soil-free methods of farming that are 70 per cent more water efficient than traditional methods and use fewer chemicals. New, vertical farming techniques that require less space can be adopted in urban areas to bring production closer to the consumers.
With these new technological trends disrupting the market, Meed has introduced the third edition of the MEED awards, assessing companies on their initiatives in becoming more technologically advanced. Powered by Parsons (strategic construction partner) and Acwa Power (official power & water partner) the MEED awards is due to close its submission deadlines by the end of this week. – TradeArabia News Service
Egypt is working on formulating a strategy for artificial intelligence (AI) which will include the establishment of the country’s first faculty of artificial intelligence and artificial intelligence academy in the coming academic year, in a bid to produce the scientific workforces needed to develop a sustainable knowledge-based economy.
The FAI will start student enrolment in the next academic year, 2019-20, as a centre of excellence for artificial intelligence research, education, teaching and training.
Besides establishing an artificial intelligence academy specialising in innovation and new thinking in artificial intelligence, several AI departments will also be set up at higher education institutions to develop capacity and boost innovations.
AI is the science of developing computer systems capable of carrying out human tasks.
According to a 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report entitled The Potential Impact of AI in the Middle East, it is estimated that 7.7% of Egypt’s gross domestic product could come from the AI sector by 2030.
“We estimate that the Middle East is expected to accrue 2% of the total global benefits of AI in 2030. This is equivalent to US$320 billion,” the report stated.
“In the wake of the fourth industrial revolution, governments and businesses across the Middle East are beginning to realise the shift globally towards AI and advanced technologies.
“They are faced with a choice between being a part of the technological disruption, or being left behind. When we look at the economic impact for the region, being left behind is not an option.”
The biggest opportunity for AI in the Middle East and Africa region is in the financial sector where it is estimated that 25% of all AI investment in the region predicted for 2021, or US$28.3 million, will be spent on developing AI solutions. This is followed by the public services, including education among other sectors, according to the PwC report.
Samir Khalaf Abd-El-Aal, a science expert at the National Research Centre in Cairo, welcomed news of the FAI as a “pioneering initiative” that will have an impact on Egypt as well as North Africa.
“It is a good step forward for raising awareness of the potential of AI for sustainable development as well as contributing in facing regional challenges to fully harness the deployment of AI, including infrastructure, skills, knowledge gaps, research capacities and availability of local data,” Abd-El-Aal told University World News.
“The FAI is an important initiative in training students in AI, which will become one of the tools of future jobs, as well as building AI applications in Arabic, which can easily go to all Arabic-speaking countries including North African states.”
“The FAI could also act as a regional focal point for carrying out mapping for local artificial intelligence start-ups, research centres and civil society organisations as well as serving as an incubator for skills development and promoting AI entrepreneurship oriented towards solving North African problems,” Abd-El-Aal said.
Virtual science hub
The Egypt government also announced the launch of a virtual science hub at the Forum. The hub, affiliated to the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, aims to enable integration, management and planning of Egyptian technological resources, work on the international information network, and includes an integrated database for all Egyptian technological resources.
It also includes all scientific and technical resources as well as material assets and academic research contributions, which will make it possible to measure the degree of technological readiness of all Egyptian academic and research institutions. The general objective of the system is to provide the necessary information to support decision-makers in research projects and to facilitate the follow-up of research activities.
I can still recall my surprise when a book by evolutionary biologist Peter Lawrence entitled “The making of a fly” came to be priced on Amazon at $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping). While my colleagues around the world must have become rather depressed that an academic book could achieve such a feat, the steep price was actually the result of algorithms feeding off each other and spiralling out of control. It turns out, it wasn’t just sales staff being creative: algorithms were calling the shots.
This eye-catching example was spotted and corrected. But what if such algorithmic interference happens all the time, including in ways we don’t even notice? If our reality is becoming increasingly constructed by algorithms, where does this leave us humans?
Inspired by such examples, my colleague Prof Allen Lee and I recently set out to explore the deeper effects of algorithmic technology in a paper in the Journal of the Association for Information Systems. Our exploration led us to the conclusion that, over time, the roles of information technology and humans have been reversed. In the past, we humans used technology as a tool. Now, technology has advanced to the point where it is using and even controlling us.
We humans are not merely cut off from the decisions that machines are making for us but deeply affected by them in unpredictable ways. Instead of being central to the system of decisions that affects us, we are cast out in to its environment. We have progressively restricted our own decision-making capacity and allowed algorithms to take over. We have become artificial humans, or human artefacts, that are created, shaped and used by the technology.
Examples abound. In law, legal analysts are gradually being replaced by artificial intelligence, meaning the successful defence or prosecution of a case can rely partly on algorithms. Software has even been allowed to predict future criminals, ultimately controlling human freedom by shaping how parole is denied or granted to prisoners. In this way, the minds of judges are being shaped by decision-making mechanisms they cannot understand because of how complex the process is and how much data it involves.
In the job market, excessive reliance on technology has led some of the world’s biggest companies to filter CVs through software, meaning human recruiters will never even glance at some potential candidates’ details. Not only does this put people’s livelihoods at the mercy of machines, it can also build in hiring biases that the company had no desire to implement, as happened with Amazon.
In news, what’s known as automated sentiment analysis analyses positive and negative opinions about companies based on different web sources. In turn, these are being used by trading algorithms that make automated financial decisions, without humans having to actually read the news.
In fact, algorithms operating without human intervention now play a significant role in financial markets. For example, 85% of all trading in the foreign exchange markets is conducted by algorithms alone. The growing algorithmic arms race to develop ever more complex systems to compete in these markets means huge sums of money are being allocated according to the decisions of machines.
On a small scale, the people and companies that create these algorithms are able to affect what they do and how they do it. But because much of artificial intelligence involves programming software to figure out how to complete a task by itself, we often don’t know exactly what is behind the decision-making. As with all technology, this can lead to unintended consequences that may go far beyond anything the designers ever envisaged.
But the algorithms that amplified the initial problems didn’t make a mistake. There wasn’t a bug in the programming. The behaviour emerged from the interaction of millions of algorithmic decisions playing off each other in unpredictable ways, following their own logic in a way that created a downward spiral for the market.
The conditions that made this possible occurred because, over the years, the people running the trading system had come to see human decisions as an obstacle to market efficiency. Back in 1987 when the US stock market fell by 22.61%, some Wall Street brokers simply stopped picking up their phones to avoid receiving their customers’ orders to sell stocks. This started a process that, as author Michael Lewis put it in his book Flash Boys, “has ended with computers entirely replacing the people”.
The financial world has invested millions in superfast cables and microwave communications to shave just milliseconds off the rate at which algorithms can transmit their instructions. When speed is so important, a human being that requires a massive 215 milliseconds to click a button is almost completely redundant. Our only remaining purpose is to reconfigure the algorithms each time the system of technological decisions fails.
As new boundaries are carved between humans and technology, we need to think carefully about where our extreme reliance on software is taking us. As human decisions are substituted by algorithmic ones, and we become tools whose lives are shaped by machines and their unintended consequences, we are setting ourselves up for technological domination. We need to decide, while we still can, what this means for us both as individuals and as a society.
Global research and advisory firm Gartner has highlighted the top strategic technology trends that organizations need to explore in 2019 in its special report titled “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019”.
Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which are rapidly growing trends with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years.
Cearley: The Intelligent Digital Mesh continues as a major driver through 2019
“The Intelligent Digital Mesh has been a consistent theme for the past two years and continues as a major driver through 2019. Trends under each of these three themes are a key ingredient in driving a continuous innovation process as part of a Continuous NEXT strategy,” said David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow.
“For example, artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of automated things and augmented intelligence is being used together with IoT, edge computing and digital twins to deliver highly integrated smart spaces. This combinatorial effect of multiple trends coalescing to produce new opportunities and drive new disruption is a hallmark of the Gartner top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019.”
The top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019 are:
Autonomous things, such as robots, drones and autonomous vehicles, use AI to automate functions previously performed by humans. Their automation goes beyond the automation provided by rigid programming models and they exploit AI to deliver advanced behaviours that interact more naturally with their surroundings and with people.
“As autonomous things proliferate, we expect a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of collaborative intelligent things, with multiple devices working together, either independently of people or with human input,” said Cearley.
“For example, if a drone examined a large field and found that it was ready for harvesting, it could dispatch an “autonomous harvester.” Or in the delivery market, the most effective solution may be to use an autonomous vehicle to move packages to the target area. Robots and drones on board the vehicle could then ensure final delivery of the package.
Augmented analytics focuses on a specific area of augmented intelligence, using machine learning (ML) to transform how analytics content is developed, consumed and shared. Augmented analytics capabilities will advance rapidly to mainstream adoption, as a key feature of data preparation, data management, modern analytics, business process management, process mining and data science platforms.
Automated insights from augmented analytics will also be embedded in enterprise applications — for example, those of the HR, finance, sales, marketing, customer service, procurement and asset management departments — to optimize the decisions and actions of all employees within their context, not just those of analysts and data scientists. Augmented analytics automates the process of data preparation, insight generation and insight visualization, eliminating the need for professional data scientists in many situations.
“This will lead to citizen data science, an emerging set of capabilities and practices that enables users whose main job is outside the field of statistics and analytics to extract predictive and prescriptive insights from data,” said Cearley. “Through 2020, the number of citizen data scientists will grow five times faster than the number of expert data scientists. Organizations can use citizen data scientists to fill the data science and machine learning talent gap caused by the shortage and high cost of data scientists.”
The market is rapidly shifting from an approach in which professional data scientists must partner with application developers to create most AI-enhanced solutions to a model in which the professional developer can operate alone using predefined models delivered as a service.
This provides the developer with an ecosystem of AI algorithms and models, as well as development tools tailored to integrating AI capabilities and models into a solution. Another level of opportunity for professional application development arises as AI is applied to the development process itself to automate various data science, application development and testing functions. By 2022, at least 40 percent of new application development projects will have AI co-developers on their team.
“Ultimately, highly advanced AI-powered development environments automating both functional and nonfunctional aspects of applications will give rise to a new age of the ‘citizen application developer’ where nonprofessionals will be able to use AI-driven tools to automatically generate new solutions. Tools that enable nonprofessionals to generate applications without coding are not new, but we expect that AI-powered systems will drive a new level of flexibility,” said Cearley.
A digital twin refers to the digital representation of a real-world entity or system. By 2020, Gartner estimates there will be more than 20 billion connected sensors and endpoints and digital twins will exist for potentially billions of things. Organizations will implement digital twins simply at first. They will evolve them over time, improving their ability to collect and visualize the right data, apply the right analytics and rules, and respond effectively to business objectives.
“One aspect of the digital twin evolution that moves beyond IoT will be enterprises implementing digital twins of their organizations (DTOs). A DTO is a dynamic software model that relies on operational or other data to understand how an organization operationalizes its business model, connects with its current state, deploys resources and responds to changes to deliver expected customer value,” said Cearley. “DTOs help drive efficiencies in business processes, as well as create more flexible, dynamic and responsive processes that can potentially react to changing conditions automatically.”
The edge refers to endpoint devices used by people or embedded in the world around us. Edge computing describes a computing topology in which information processing, and content collection and delivery, are placed closer to these endpoints. It tries to keep the traffic and processing local, with the goal being to reduce traffic and latency.
In the near term, edge is being driven by IoT and the need keep the processing close to the end rather than on a centralized cloud server. However, rather than create a new architecture, cloud computing and edge computing will evolve as complementary models with cloud services being managed as a centralized service executing, not only on centralized servers, but in distributed servers on-premises and on the edge devices themselves.
Over the next five years, specialized AI chips, along with greater processing power, storage and other advanced capabilities, will be added to a wider array of edge devices. The extreme heterogeneity of this embedded IoT world and the long life cycles of assets such as industrial systems will create significant management challenges. Longer term, as 5G matures, the expanding edge computing environment will have more robust communication back to centralized services. 5G provides lower latency, higher bandwidth, and (very importantly for edge) a dramatic increase in the number of nodes (edge endoints) per square km.
Conversational platforms are changing the way in which people interact with the digital world. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) are changing the way in which people perceive the digital world. This combined shift in perception and interaction models leads to the future immersive user experience.
“Over time, we will shift from thinking about individual devices and fragmented user interface (UI) technologies to a multichannel and multimodal experience. The multimodal experience will connect people with the digital world across hundreds of edge devices that surround them, including traditional computing devices, wearables, automobiles, environmental sensors and consumer appliances,” said Cearley.
“The multichannel experience will use all human senses as well as advanced computer senses (such as heat, humidity and radar) across these multimodal devices. This multiexperience environment will create an ambient experience in which the spaces that surround us define “the computer” rather than the individual devices. In effect, the environment is the computer.”
Blockchain, a type of distributed ledger, promises to reshape industries by enabling trust, providing transparency and reducing friction across business ecosystems potentially lowering costs, reducing transaction settlement times and improving cash flow.
Today, trust is placed in banks, clearinghouses, governments and many other institutions as central authorities with the “single version of the truth” maintained securely in their databases. The centralized trust model adds delays and friction costs (commissions, fees and the time value of money) to transactions. Blockchain provides an alternative trust mode and removes the need for central authorities in arbitrating transactions.
”Current blockchain technologies and concepts are immature, poorly understood and unproven in mission-critical, at-scale business operations. This is particularly so with the complex elements that support more sophisticated scenarios,” said Cearley. “Despite the challenges, the significant potential for disruption means CIOs and IT leaders should begin evaluating blockchain, even if they don’t aggressively adopt the technologies in the next few years.”
Many blockchain initiatives today do not implement all of the attributes of blockchain — for example, a highly distributed database. These blockchain-inspired solutions are positioned as a means to achieve operational efficiency by automating business processes, or by digitizing records. They have the potential to enhance sharing of information among known entities, as well as improving opportunities for tracking and tracing physical and digital assets. However, these approaches miss the value of true blockchain disruption and may increase vendor lock-in. Organizations choosing this option should understand the limitations and be prepared to move to complete blockchain solutions over time and that the same outcomes may be achieved with more efficient and tuned use of existing nonblockchain technologies.
A smart space is a physical or digital environment in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact in increasingly open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ecosystems. Multiple elements —including people, processes, services and things — come together in a smart space to create a more immersive, interactive and automated experience for a target set of people and industry scenarios.
“This trend has been coalescing for some time around elements such as smart cities, digital workplaces, smart homes and connected factories. We believe the market is entering a period of accelerated delivery of robust smart spaces with technology becoming an integral part of our daily lives, whether as employees, customers, consumers, community members or citizens,” said Cearley.
Digital Ethics and Privacy
Digital ethics and privacy is a growing concern for individuals, organizations and governments. People are increasingly concerned about how their personal information is being used by organizations in both the public and private sector, and the backlash will only increase for organizations that are not proactively addressing these concerns.
“Any discussion on privacy must be grounded in the broader topic of digital ethics and the trust of your customers, constituents and employees. While privacy and security are foundational components in building trust, trust is actually about more than just these components,” said Cearley. “Trust is the acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation. Ultimately an organization’s position on privacy must be driven by its broader position on ethics and trust. Shifting from privacy to ethics moves the conversation beyond ‘are we compliant’ toward ‘are we doing the right thing.’”
Quantum computing (QC) is a type of nonclassical computing that operates on the quantum state of subatomic particles (for example, electrons and ions) that represent information as elements denoted as quantum bits (qubits). The parallel execution and exponential scalability of quantum computers means they excel with problems too complex for a traditional approach or where traditional algorithms would take too long to find a solution.
Industries such as automotive, financial, insurance, pharmaceuticals, military and research organizations have the most to gain from the advancements in QC. In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, QC could be used to model molecular interactions at atomic levels to accelerate time to market for new cancer-treating drugs or QC could accelerate and more accurately predict the interaction of proteins leading to new pharmaceutical methodologies.
“CIOs and IT leaders should start planning for QC by increasing understanding and how it can apply to real-world business problems. Learn while the technology is still in the emerging state. Identify real-world problems where QC has potential and consider the possible impact on security,” said Cearley. “But don’t believe the hype that it will revolutionize things in the next few years. Most organizations should learn about and monitor QC through 2022 and perhaps exploit it from 2023 or 2025.”
Analysts will explore top industry trends at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2018 running from March 4 to 6, 2019 in Dubai, UAE.
Gartner Symposium/ITxpo is the world’s most important gathering of CIOs and senior IT leaders, uniting a global community of CIOs with the tools and strategies to help them lead the next generation of IT and achieve business outcomes. More than 25,000 CIOs, senior business and IT leaders worldwide will gather for the insights they need to ensure that their IT initiatives are key contributors to, and drivers of, their enterprise’s success.
“It is safe to say that there is no sector or industry that has not been impacted by the ongoing digital transformation and the innovative technologies” said Ali Al Jassim, CEO, Etihad ESCO in an article of TECHNICAL REVIEW MIDDLE EAST on Monday, 24 September 2018.
Ali Al Jassim is the CEO of Etihad ESCO. (Image source: Etihad)
The advent of smartphones, social media, intelligent manufacturing and automation are set to transform the future of industries, including electric power systems. The electricity sector is poised to take advantage of the rapid digital transformation, with US$1.3 trillion of value estimated to be captured globally between the year 2016 and 2025.
Be it renewable energy, non-renewable energy or any other source of energy at generation – it doesn’t matter – power system is still going to play a pivotal role in future. Being an integral part in transmission and distribution (T&D) and with continuous growth in energy demand, power system has to be smart and robust to support sustainability.
With the introduction of smart automation, artificial intelligence and continuous monitoring a lot can be achieved. These can help in estimation of future loads, seasonal requirements on grid accordingly generation can be planned using sum of renewables and non-renewables source. Smart power systems can help in minimising T&D losses, also it can help in better maintenance, power quality, sustainability.
The disruptive convergence of digital technology advancements is marked by its customer-centric nature; on-demand, tailored consumption; and a decentralised infrastructure. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution, according to the World Economic Forum, ‘builds on the digital revolution and combines multiple technologies that are leading to unprecedented paradigm shifts in the economy, business, society, and individually,’ we need to ensure that the growth of electric power systems is in the right direction.
As energy efficiency and sustainability continue to be the biggest challenges we face today, the electric power industry is witnessing a period of sustained growth to cater to the rising energy needs. Modernisation initiatives such as the deployment of smart grid solutions will support the continuing growth of the sector’s infrastructure, as new facilities get added to the existing network and incorporated with the installed base. Grid intelligence will aid planners and operators in successfully navigating the increasing complexity of safe and reliable power supply and delivery.
Even as renewable power generation technologies expand to contribute to reducing the total amount of energy consumed, yet they cannot completely displace the necessity for new baseload generation. Fossil generation sources that provide cleaner and lower emissions will continue to be the mainstay of power generation additions. As the industry envisions its future, nuclear power is expected to grow in significance, but this will also give rise to challenges for industrialised countries.
Demand reduction and the need for new generation additions can be attained through conservation and efficiency improvements to an extent. For the installation of new substations in thickly populated urban areas with intense load densities, compact designs with reduced footprints will be imperative.
An ideal mix of power generation resources will encompass central station power, supported by renewable energy sources including wind and solar technologies, and eco-friendly distributed generation complemented by consumer demand side response programs. The right mix of these resources will lead to the creation of an efficient and feasible energy market with balance. A central and distributed generation capability will also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, since renewable energy can be effectively used to serve load based on resource availability, in response to consumer demand.
The problems plaguing the current electric power system include aging infrastructure, unreliability, weather-related outages and security concerns. Energy loss during transmission, another major drawback of the existing power system, happens during the transmission of energy from large power plants to the consumers through extensive networks over long distances. Electricity transmission and distribution losses average about five per cent of the electricity being transmitted and distributed annually in the United States, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Despite the current challenges faced by the electric power industry, the opportunities for improvement are numerous. If integrated under appropriate interconnection standards, in microgrids, or in automated distribution systems, distributed resources can help improve grid reliability and resilience for customers who seek uninterrupted service.
There is no doubt that the need of the hour is a modern power system that is capable of supporting the development and deployment of increasingly clean energy and energy-efficiency technologies. Such systems will have certain essential features as identified now and may need more of them that will become apparent over time. Further development and implementation of a regulatory framework and business models that provide incentives for power generators, system operators and utilities that focus on reducing or eliminating pollution and other environmental damages, is the most essential feature. System reliability, protection of physical and virtual assets from malicious or accidental damages, enhancement of grid infrastructure, and safeguarding consumers from unfair pricing and other pitfalls must also be focus areas. An ideal electric power system will be the one that creates sustainable business models for firms in the power sector, while also achieving these goals.
The automation of distribution has immense potential in optimising the reliability and performance of distribution systems. As the industry aims to capitalize on the deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) systems, major investments in new distribution automation and distribution management systems can be expected in the near future. The potential of digital technologies in accelerating the sector’s modernisation and growth is immense and can add exceptional shareholder, customer and environmental value. This is exactly what makes these times both exciting and challenging for our industry.
As we turn to leveraging the fundamentals of digitisation to increase the life cycle of energy infrastructure and to optimize electricity network flows, Energy Service companies are set to play an increasingly important role in regulating the electric power system to ensure the efficient use of energy by providing valuable data on energy losses in the system to customers and helping them resolve these issues.
PwC, a global provider of assurance, advisory and tax services with 40 years in the Middle East where it has 23 offices across 12 countries in the region with around 4,200 people. (www.pwc.com/me). It researched AI’s contribution to the global and middle eastern economies and recently produced a report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how to put it to work for the planet as possibly contributing up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030.
It is prefaced as follows:
The artificial intelligence (AI) opportunity for the Earth is significant. Today’s AI explosion will see us add this technology to more and more things every year. The AI itself will also become smarter with each passing year – not only more productive but developing intelligence that humans don’t yet have, accelerating human learning and innovation. As we think about the gains, efficiencies and new solutions this creates for nations, business and for everyday life, we must also think about how to maximise gains for society and our environment. We live in exciting times: it is now possible to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems with emerging technologies, such as AI. It’s time to put AI to work for the planet. has shown that AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030, more than the current output of China and India combined. Of this, labour productivity improvements are expected to account for half of all economic gains to 2030, while increased consumer demand resulting from AI-enabled product enhancements will account for the rest. In a specifically tailored chapter for the Middle East: it holds that:
In the wake of the fourth industrial revolution, governments and businesses across the Middle East are beginning to realise the shift globally towards AI and advanced technologies. They are faced with a choice between being a part of the technological disruption, or being left behind. When we look at the economic impact for the region, being left behind is not an option. We estimate that the Middle East is expected to accrue 2% of the total global benefits of AI in 2030. This is equivalent to US$320 billion.
In absolute terms, the largest gains are expected to accrue to Saudi Arabia where AI is expected to contribute over US$135.2 billion in 2030 to the economy, equivalent to 12.4% of GDP. In relative terms the UAE is expected to see the largest impact of close to 14% of 2030 GDP.
So according to PwC, AI contributing $320 billion to the Middle East economy by 2030, representing 11% of GDP, and that there are greater, untapped opportunities that could increase the impact of AI on the region’s economy. Moreover, the impact could be even larger if governments continue to push the boundaries of innovation and implementation of AI across businesses and sectors between now and 2030.
That first wave consists of largely known technological innovations that are either adoption-ready or that are currently being fine-tuned or scaled for broader implementation. Beyond 2030, the scope of AI impacts on both the economy and society will almost certainly increase, so it is important for the Middle East to be strategically placed to provide a springboard for the future.
The most significant relative gains in the region are expected in the UAE where AI is expected to contribute almost 14 per cent of GDP in 2030. This is followed by Saudi Arabia (12.4 per cent), the GCC4 (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar (8.2 per cent)) and then Egypt (7.7 per cent).
The construction and manufacturing sector of course with almost $100 billion in 2030 would be first to be affected with the retail and wholesale trade and public health and education sectors following in that order to be the most significant recipient of AI’s contribution.
AI’s adoption varies from industry to industry as confirmed one PwC’s chief economist, the difference would be as always through infrastructure and access to skilled labour; for ever considered especially in the Gulf region as key enabling factors for any development, let alone AI’s.
Al Monitor IRAN PULSE produced this article that is summarised as the US tech giants Apple and Google have removed Iranian-developed apps from their online stores, sparking a backlash. Meanwhile most of the MENA youth take to the free for all social media without any second thoughts as to who is offering these media and for which purpose. As put by The Economist : “A NEW commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable . . . .” Reviewing some of the comments to this article clearly shows the overall sentiment of the local users bear against the above named data providers. More thoughts? Please comment.
REUTERS/TIMA Iranian youths use their mobile phones as they rest at a park in Tehran, Iran, May 16, 2017.
Imagine trying to hail an Uber on a street corner only for the Uber app on your iPhone to suddenly stop working. That’s what happened to some Iranians when Apple pulled Snapp, a popular local ride-hailing app, from its App Store on Aug. 24. The US technology company purged over a dozen popular Iranian apps, including Alopeyk, an on-demand delivery service; Delion, a food delivery service; Digikala, an online store; Takhfifan, a coupon service; and Zoraq, a travel-booking service.
Now when the name of a popular Iranian app is typed into Apple’s App Store search engine, suggestions for alternative titles pop up, or in some cases, the following message appears: “The item you requested is not currently available in the US store.” Amid the confusion, Iranian iOS app developers received a message from Apple, stating, “Under the US sanctions regulations, the App Store cannot host, distribute, or do business with apps or developers connected to certain US embargoed countries.” The week after Apple’s purge, Google followed suit, removing Iranian apps for Android phones from Google Play.
Tyler Cullis, an associate sanctions attorney with Ferrari & Associates, P.C., told Al-Monitor, “It is unclear why Apple and Google were permitting the hosting of Iranian apps on their respective app stores in the first place, but the decision to remove them appears consistent with US sanctions laws.”
There is indeed the possibility that Apple and Google may have misinterpreted US sanctionslaw. In March 2010, under the Barack Obama administration, the United States granted a license — known as the General License D-1, or Personal Communications GL — authorizing a range of activities, including permitting Iranians to access and download mobile phone apps from US app stores. Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said at the time that the license was to ensure that Iranian citizens, and others, could practice their “most basic rights.” Cullis pointed out, however, “[It] does not appear to permit Apple or other US tech companies to host apps created by Iranian users on their app stores and make those apps for sale.”
Apple and Google are not alone in barring Iranians from their services. Iranians also have no access to Adobe, Android Developer, Dropbox and PayPal, among many other online services.
Although Apple has no corporate presence in Iran, millions of Iranians have jailbroken iPhones imported from China, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. The devices are sometimes sold for double or triple the original price. There are even shops in Tehran that claim to be legal distributors, and in some cases, emulate the Apple Store experience. Local media reported on Sept. 24 that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus arrived in Iran less than 24 hours after their release and were going for double the US price, with shops charging customers a pre-sale price of 130 to 250 million rials ($3,864 to $7,431) for the iPhone X.
According to Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, more than a tenth of the 48 million smartphones in Iran are iPhones, making Iran one of the largest markets in the Middle East. Despite Apple’s purge, some Iranians, accustomed to having to resort to circumvention, are bypassing the restrictions by downloading alternative, Iranian-designed iOS app stores, such as Sib App and Nassaab. Meanwhile, others, unaware of the alternative iOS stores, are even going so far as to switch to Android phones, so they can use Iranian-designed Android marketplaces, like Cafe Bazaar, to download Iranian apps. Google’s Android operating system is compatible with an array of mobile companies’ devices, including from Samsung, which opened a Tehran sales center in February.
Iranians quickly took to social media — much of which is accessed through circumvention tools since it is blocked by the Iranian government — to express their frustration, using the hashtag #StopRemovingIranianApps. Many tweeted in English during Apple’s annual September product event using the hashtag #AppleEvent. One developer tweeted, “I wont be able to buy the great iPhone X because as a persian iOS developer I wont have a job soon.” Another Iranian posted on Twitter, “Today @Apple is the first enemy of iranian iOS developers. We are developing software not nuclear weapon.”
Since the apps’ removal, an online petition addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has circulated, attracting more than 16,000 signatures as of Sept. 26. On Sept. 18, the Bloomberg Editorial Board defended Iranian entrepreneurs, arguing that the goal of the sanctions was to pressure the Iranian government, but also stating, “Restrictions on apps have instead handed Iran’s government a propaganda gift, allowing it to rail against American technology companies for discriminating against Iranian business people and consumers.”
Cullis told Al-Monitor that while some Iranian officials believe the measures harm the Iranian people, hard-liners bemoan the concern and urge Iranians to develop their own technologies, so reliance on companies like Apple is not necessary.
Payam, an Iranian computer engineer who only gave his first name, expressed his frustration to Al-Monitor, “Google’s Play Store was not allowing Iranians to use it until a couple of years ago since there are alternatives, but the app removal is just sad. It’s like the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] never happened.”
It is unclear whether the Donald Trump administration is applying pressure on US technology companies, given the president’s staunch stance against the Iran nuclear deal. During remarks to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19, Trump called the nuclear deal, which was signed by Iran and the six world powers, “an embarrassment to the United States.” He went on to explain how the Iranian people were suffering under their own government.
If Trump cares for the well-being of the Iranian people, and wants them to “be happy and prosperous once again,” he can start by getting their apps back on Apple and Google’s online stores.
Holly Dagres is an Iranian-American analyst and commentator on Middle East affairs. Currently living in Egypt, she is the assistant editor at the Cairo Review of Global Affairs. On Twitter: @hdagres
In this interesting essay of Dr Timothy Hodgetts, Research Fellow in the Geopolitics of Wildlife Conservation, University of Oxford on the very actual subject of driverless cars helping humankind sprawl out further. How could this, sometime in the not so far future, affect our everyday life is concisely decortiquated in this article that is republished here with our thanks to The Conversation.
As far as the MENA region is concerned, this sprawling whilst comfortably seated behind a driverless car dash could be limited by the prevailing natural elements and that unlike those in more of clement, it will be confined to only those areas of sustainable life.
Self-driving cars will change how we live, in all sorts of ways. But they won’t just affect us humans – the coming revolution in autonomous transport has significant implications for wildlife as well. Nature conservationists and planners need to think hard about the impact of driverless vehicles, most notably in terms of renewed urban sprawl.
Through minimising traffic jams, driverless cars may also reduce overall energy use. Unlike human drivers, computers can avoid the “concertina” effect of needless acceleration and braking that exacerbates congestion, and won’t be tempted to “rubberneck” when passing an accident. And, as autonomous vehicles aren’t restricted by human reaction times, it may make sense to increase speed limits for them on major inter-city routes.
So driverless cars promise a future of faster journey times with much reduced environmental impacts. They may even mean less wildlife roadkill. But it’s the very efficiency of driverless cars that poses a challenge for planners and conservationists. The threat is an unchecked increase in low-density urbanisation.
Driving into the countryside
Autonomous vehicles promise a future in which passengers are free to use their time productively (working, for example). And they can park themselves (or be part of a shared pool) which saves yet more time in the morning rush. Coupled with faster journey times, the incentives to live further out of town will increase significantly.
There are both push and pull factors at work here: sky-high residential prices in most cities push people away from urban centres while healthy environments and green living pull people towards the hinterlands. The limiting factor in suburban spread is often travel time, either by public or private means. Driverless cars fundamentally alter the equation.
Existing planning policies are based on our current transport systems. Green-belts, for example, are designed to reduce urban sprawl by restricting development within a buffer zone around an urban area. However, the reduced transport times offered by driverless cars make it easier to live outside the belt while still working inside. So these loops of green are in danger of becoming a thin layer in a sandwich of ever-spreading suburbanisation.
This is, of course, a familiar challenge since the rise of the automotive age in the 1940s. However, the solutions designed by planners have been calibrated for a human-driving automotive system – not for the supercharged future of driverless transport.
Other examples of planning protection for wildlife include nature reserves, national parks and (in the UK) “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. Such areas have either strict controls on development, or do not permit it at all. However, they are nice places to live in or nearby. The coming revolution in automotive journey times and the ability to work behind the (computer-driven) wheel will make living in such areas increasingly compatible with a commute to the nearest city.
Sick of sprawl
Natural habitats being lost entirely or splintered into ever-smaller fragments have long been understood as some of the primary causes of species extinctions across the world. Renewed urban sprawl threatens to increase the magnitude of both habitat loss and fragmentation. These threats are well known among conservationists, but there are differences of opinion on how best to respond.
For example, eco-modernists advocate a strategy of “land-sparing”, whereby human activities are concentrated into urban areas and vast tracts of land are set aside for nature. There are many cultural and ethical problems inherent in herding humans into cities, but the near-term planning issues posed by autonomous vehicles will exacerbate the challenge given they will boost demand to live in “unspared” lands.
Alternatively, some conservationists advocate “land-sharing”, in which human communities redesign the way we farm and live so as to co-exist with wildlife, cheek-by-jowl. Autonomous vehicles pose significant challenges for either approach, by supercharging the fragmentary effect of road systems.
Whichever approach is taken, we’ll need to redesign existing systems and policies to take account of the increased range that driverless transport facilitates. This may involve new zoning laws to protect wider areas of countryside than at present. It certainly requires further development of green infrastructure, habitat corridors and “greenways”.
It might also involve engineering solutions, especially given the fact that autonomous vehicles should be much more amenable to being driven underground. It is possible to imagine a future in which the famous bear bridges of Banff are tiny precursors to a vast programme in which rural highways are covered with forests of green. Retro-fitting roads into tunnels won’t be cheap, but it becomes easier when human drivers are taken out of the equation. Software drivers are less bothered by artificial light and more efficient at mitigating the congestion impact during construction.
Much conservation policy is based on planning for the world we live in now. Strategic conservation planning needs instead to take account of likely futures. And in a future of driverless cars, that is likely to result in the mega cities of the 20th century becoming the mega sprawls of the 21st. Unless, of course, planners and conservationists rise to this new challenge.
Lots of writing on the subject is regularly being produced such as this brilliant essay on the potential impact of the 4IR on human mobility or transhumance. This latter would always be there as a natural breathing valve of an economy and the advent of Artificial Intelligence as a major segment of the anticipated Fourth Industrial Revolution would presumably help make it more as it were manageable, if not more controllable. .
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is unfolding at a time when human mobility is increasing and, in many instances, becoming more precarious. Last year, the world saw 250 million international migrants, only 21 million of whom qualified as refugees under the UN Refugee Convention. Within countries, the rate of internal migration from rural areas to cities has also been increasing, with urbanization estimates reaching 66% by 2050.
Indeed, there are 270 million internal migrants in China alone. Considering existing migration trends, the impact of more extreme weather on economies and livelihoods, and countries’ constraints in dealing with migration effectively, we simply cannot afford to overlook the potential of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies in supporting safe, orderly and regular migration.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) represents new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies, for example through robotics, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology. The 4IR has implications for global migration in a multitude of ways, some of which have been experienced in the past. Concretely, the 4IR has the potential to create business and job opportunities for migrants that never existed before, especially if they receive the right training, for example, on robots and their myriad set of applications. It also opens avenues for entrepreneurship, since migrant entrepreneurs are at the forefront of technological innovation (Elon Musk, for example, is a migrant).
At the same time, disruptions to the labour market inherent in any industrial revolution have generated a high level of distrust and scepticism around the benefits of migration. Indeed, lower-skilled workers are positioned to lose their jobs in the face of labour-saving 4IR advances, and migrants are not only at risk of this, but also blamed for precipitating lower labour standards by accepting less attractive employment.
But the 4IR is also changing migration and perceptions of migration beyond the implications observed in the past. From migration management and border control to directing migration flows and facilitating migrant integration, we should expect to see significant changes to migration policies and practices in the coming decade as a result of specific 4IR technologies.
Here are some examples:
Applying drone technology
We have already seen the way in which digital and smartphone technology has altered the migrant experience: two of the first questions migrants and refugees ask when arriving in a new country are how to get a SIM card and where to connect to WIFI. Smartphones are now seen by migrants as essential tools in navigating challenging journeys safely and preparing support networks for their arrivals.
While migrants and refugees use GPS and social media communications applications to monitor and decide on their migration paths, international organizations and NGOs are increasingly using drone technology in humanitarian activities. In fact, the usage of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) has increasingly been recognized as an essential tool for humanitarian action since drones are particularly useful for mapping, delivering goods to remote locations and assessing and monitoring damage and change. They have increasingly been deployed for humanitarian purposes since 2013 when the United Nations launched its first surveillance experiment in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda.
Governments are also aware of the potential use of drones for migration management. Starting in 2005, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began to use drones domestically in an effort to track migration across its borders; there are now plans to equip the border service with smaller, lightweight drones capable of identifying individuals using through facial recognition or other biometric technology within a three-mile range. The idea is to enable CBP agents to launch and track multiple humans on foot, horseback or in vehicles.
Meanwhile, the European Union has also taken steps to invest in a fleet of drones with video, infrared sensors and chemical detection to provide real-time data on migrant flows. In the Mediterranean, drones have already been used by European government and NGOs to facilitate the rescue missions of migrants.
Thus, the potential for drones in the realm of migration is promising and still largely to be explored. However, this type of tracking raises a number of ethical issues frequently flagged in debates around balancing national security interests with individual rights and freedoms. In particular, the use of drones for migration surveillance challenges individual rights to privacy and is seen by critics to undermine civil liberties more broadly. Legal scrutiny around the use of this technology must go hand in hand with its deployment.
How AI can strengthen migration policy
As in many areas, policy on migration lags behind technological trends in ways that undermine the potential gains of the phenomenon. Artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning applied to relevant migration questions could help illuminate successful approaches to anticipating migration flows, harnessing skills, and better understanding the power of remittances. AI machine learning has the potential to use a wealth of data, frequently crowdsourced or publically available, to look for data patterns and correlations that may indicate future human mobility flows.
This type of analysis starts from examining historical and current migration patterns and understanding related triggers. It can move policy makers closer to unravelling complexity around the origin of migration flows. If the data is high quality and appropriately incorporates the possibility of a political, economic and/or social “disruption” that might change the predictive trajectory, applying machine learning to migration trends could help map future migration flows. The result could help countries and communities prepare migrant integration strategies more effectively.
Likewise, these predictive maps could provide helpful information in further managing migration flows. Coupling these migration data with labour market information, such as skills gaps, could provide migrants with a better idea of where their skills would be valued, and therefore where to plan their moves. Supporting migrants to make informed decisions about migration is perhaps the next stage of evolution of “chatbots” that have supported refugees arriving in Europe. The potential for better matching skills or opportunity and human resources offers to create a new narrative around migration and its potential benefits.
At this stage, there have been some attempts at using artificial intelligence for migration-related matters, largely in crisis situations. One of the first examples of this was Ushahidi, which used real time, crowdsourced reports from Facebook and Twitter to develop a crisis map after the Haiti Earthquake in 2010. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have since been applied to various crises settings, such as Nepal, and even to help victims cope psychologically with the effects of war, such as in Syria. However, there remains incredible opportunity to elucidate trends that could lead to better migrant integration and outcomes for society.
AI could be also a crucial part of the activities implemented by organizations during displacement or after settlement in new countries. For example, running mandatory AI-based skills assessment and offering training on such technologies and assistance on entrepreneurship for migrants and refugees could unleash their full potential, helping them to rebuild their lives. It could also counterbalance the perceived precipitation of labour standards, since migrants would not work on precarious and low-productivity sectors that largely mismatch their skills, but would allow them to help the host country to prosper.
How Fintech supports integration
As migration around the world increases, one of the most pressing needs is for the availability of a full range of cost efficient, convenient financial services to assist effective integration of migrants in host nations.
However, in many countries the financial services sector is not even able to serve the needs of many of its own citizens, and the situation for many migrants is even worse.
Migrants face hardships across many fronts – from the basic opening of bank accounts without the required documents for KYC (Know-Your-Customer requirements) to difficulties receiving or sending money, and often at exorbitant rates. Migrants are often not able to have access to convenient ways to pay bills, access insurance, or even obtain credit or loans to improve their lives or invest for the future – all these services remain a dream.
The 4IR, for the first time, presents a significant opportunity to include migrants in the financial system quickly and efficiently in a way that has not even been experienced by many of the host countries’ own nationals. Technological solutions pave the way to both disrupt the way traditional financial services have been delivered and at the same time enable banks to innovate and provide exciting new products and services to address real customer needs.
Much of the early innovation has come from Fintech companies that are disrupting the traditional way of doing things. Transferwise, originally a payments company, has recently created a borderless bank. Alipay and Tencent have led a financial revolution in Asia and innovative companies like Lenddo use big data and AI to allow financial institutions to deliver products and services to underserved markets in a sustainable way.
Some governments such as India and Estonia are also leading the way with their government led digital initiatives resulting in fast-growing financial inclusion. Also, some international organizations, such as UNCHR in partnership with IrisGuard and Cairo Amman Bank in Jordan, are using innovative hi-tech solutions such as iris recognition to secure access of refugees to financial assistance, not only including refugees in the financial system but also increasing the efficiency and efficacy of humanitarian aid.
The opportunity exists – and it will be interesting to see how other countries can learn from these examples and whether incumbent banks and other financial institutions can deliver services to the growing number of migrants that demand them; or whether it will take disruptive Fintech companies or innovative international organizations and governments to grant access to critical services that are taken for granted by many of us.
Smarter migration through the Fourth Industrial Revolution
In the past decade concern over the risks of migration have often made it harder for people to grasp the potential benefits. The 4IR offers a unique opportunity to expand and recreate such cases of success, assisting the host society and migrants to thrive together.
In considering future applications of 4IR technologies, there are definite ethical issues, like data privacy and margins of error, with which to contend. However, the promise of smarter migration is one which the international community, individual nations and businesses need to realize in order to achieve a more peaceful and sustainable world.
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