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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

After a month of innovation, that work must go on

Government has shown its willingness to innovate, that effort must be matched by all of us at home

World Government Summit. Pawan Singh / The National
World Government Summit. Pawan Singh / The National

With Innovation Month at an end, it would be wrong to assume that this country’s ideas factory will grind to a halt for a few months. Far from it. The nation aims to be among the most innovative countries in the world by 2021 and the UAE demonstrates on a daily basis how it is willing to facilitate discussion on how to move the nation, the region and the world forward.

From leading the way on projects such as Hyperloop – the fast, future transportation system that promises to revolutionise mobility – to Government level initiatives, such as appointing a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence or staging regular brainstorming sessions to shape policy making, the UAE shows its willingness to think differently and strategically. As if to illustrate this point, Innovation Month initiatives were broadly and informally bookended by the World Government Summit in Dubai, an event designed to debate the challenges facing governments in the 21st Century, and the Ideas Weekend in Abu Dhabi, an event billed as part-forum, part-festival, that was staged to explore big ideas and innovations. At the forum, the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy told attendees that the leadership of the UAE had built an “extraordinary country” within a matter of decades. His remarks were a reminder to all of us that we can easily undersell how quickly this country has undertaken the journey from fledgling nation to global success story. Innovation fused with a determination to get things done underpins that effort. There is also a recognition that the post-oil, knowledge economy we aspire to requires many things, including a favourable commercial and entrepreneurial environment and an active and engaged society.

That sentiment was firmly underscored at the beginning of this month when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced a new initiative to fill school libraries with one million books to mark the beginning of the country’s Month of Reading. The drive is, naturally, aimed at inculcating a reading habit among young people, but at its heart is a recognition that a tolerant society can only take root with knowledge and understanding. In other words, innovation and big ideas begin at a very young age.

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