Digital Middle East: from cloud hubs to Smart Cities

Digital Middle East: from cloud hubs to Smart Cities

The Middle East, especially the Gulf region, which is characterized by a combination of centralized governments with active investment activity and the growing presence of digital industry giants, is becoming one of the world's centers for the development of cloud technologies, analytical services, 5G networks, the IoT and futuristic urban initiatives. Here we have collected some projects and tendencies that determine the technological "map" of this region.

The Gulf region as a global node of cloud services

Israel has long established a reputation as one of the world's premier digital hubs and development centers, attracting major industry corporations. Microsoft created the company's first cloud region in Israel with data centers equipped to work with IoT applications. This cloud region is expected to be able to provide up to 56 cloud regions in 21 countries and includes Azure cloud services, with database technologies and data analytics. In addition, Microsoft launched two cloud data centers in the UAE.

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Amazon, Cisco and other Western technology corporations are also involved in the development of the region's IT sector.  Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been bringing its IoT, cloud services and data analytics technologies to the Middle East with the opening of data centers in Bahrain in 2019 (two years later, AWS announced an opening of its second cloud region in the Middle East, located in the United Arab Emirates). According to Zawya, In 2022, about 85% of government data in Bahrain was transferred to the AWS platform.

The case of Dubai: e-government and smart city

Dubai launched its first e-government initiative in 2001 and since then the global Digital Strategy for the emirate was created, together with the Digital Dubai Office, that has launched over 130 initiatives in partnership with government organizations and private companies. Its key initiatives include, the Dubai Data Initiative, the Dubai Blockchain Strategy, the Dubai AI Roadmap and the Dubai Paperless Strategy. For the region and the global workforce as a whole, developing this strategy means training 50,000 new digital professionals.

More than 120 government smartphone applications have been developed, and already the digitization rate of Dubai government services is currently 99.5% and digital transactions account for 87% of total government service transactions. In 2021, the document flow of public institutions in Dubai became completely paperless, while previously the number of paper documents reached the number of 1 billion per year.

Dubai Digital Clouds, the latest in a series of projects involving the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (PJSC), Digital Dubai and Microsoft. As part of this project, the Moro cloud service is being created, which will reduce infrastructure maintenance costs, increase its efficiency and contribute to increasing carbon neutrality. Previously, General Electric Corporation took part in the creation of a digital water supply system with its Predix IoT platform.

The Line, an ambitious future city project in Saudi Arabia

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, the implementation of the concept of creating a completely new city, called The Line, has begun. This city will be a a 170 km long agglomeration, in Neom, Tabuk province. The Line will consist of 135 modules connected in a chain, each of which will be 800 meters long and 500 meters high. Such a vertical structure of the city, as conceived by its creators, will save space and minimize the infrastructure area. The Line is expected to accommodate 9 million people and be built on an area of just 34 square kilometers. Naturally, such an ambitious project involves huge investments and promises to create several hundred new jobs.

The Line is the main project being implemented in the Neom region by the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. According to its creators, the future city will have neither streets nor traditional cars, will be controlled by AI and robotics and will minimize carbon dioxide emissions and, moreover, will not harm the ecosystem and ecology of the region. While many celebrate the beauty and audacity of this project, ideas of which can be found as far back as the 19th century, some experts question the environmental aspect of building such a giant, pointing out that only its construction can have an ambiguous impact on the nature of the area.

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