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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Why the future of this world is reserved for the UAE

Abdullah Ali Ameri, 14, programs a robot at the Higher Colleges of Technology Men's College in Abu Dhabi designed to encourage more youngsters into a career in the sciences. Silvia Razgova / The National
Abdullah Ali Ameri, 14, programs a robot at the Higher Colleges of Technology Men's College in Abu Dhabi designed to encourage more youngsters into a career in the sciences. Silvia Razgova / The National

The UAE will never accept being just an observer to development, especially in the fields of science and technology. The country meticulously plans and maps its way.

The UAE is fully aware that to ensure a leading position in the world, it should be more creative, innovative and productive. Such achievements do not come out of the blue, but instead are a result of planning, determination, ambition and willpower, in addition to having highly qualified human capital equipped with skills and capabilities to compete in the field of progress.

When Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, launched the National Innovation Strategy in October 2014 and declared 2015 to be the Year of Innovation, he reflected on the correlation between innovation and the future and existence itself, which characterises the insightful vision of our wise leadership.

Within this context, the National Innovation Strategy has been launched in order to ensure that the UAE ranks among the most innovative countries of the world in the coming years. Hence, a comprehensive strategy in an institutional framework has been adopted to ensure the implementation and the achievement of the country’s goals. Such endeavours are an integral part of UAE Vision 2021.

Innovation and creativity can never be achieved without providing an excellent and modern education system, establishing adequate infrastructure and institutions, encouraging all social sectors to contribute to innovative efforts and promoting creative people and fostering their ideas and skills.

This also requires the transformation of the prevailing national culture. Accordingly, the UAE has taken major steps to improve education, promote scientific research and prioritise innovation at all national institutions.

It is believed that the promotion of education will make it possible to celebrate the moment that the last barrel of oil is exported in 50 years’ time, as stated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, in a speech he delivered in 2015.

Innovation is the main source of wealth and income in the age of a knowledge-based, rather than a resource-based, economy. A country that possesses creative ideas and is capable of transforming them into reality will retain wealth, strength and influence over its surrounding area and the world regardless of its size, demography or geography.

Secondly, innovation has no limits. It is actually an endless line stretching towards the horizon. Some countries have made great steps ahead of us along this pathway, yet there is always enough space for those who possess the will to excel and adopt the means to reach the predefined goal because progress is not an exclusive preserve of a certain state or a group of states, but is available to whoever conscientiously and knowledgeably works and plans for it.

Thirdly, innovation is not a luxury, but rather it is the backbone of life, and those who are not engaged in the innovation process in the coming years will condemn themselves to obsolescence in the margins of history.

In February 2014, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said that countries are faced with a simple choice: either to “innovate, or become irrelevant”, adding that “65 per cent of children in primary school will grow up to work in jobs that do not exist today” and “47 per cent of job categories are at high risk of ceasing to exist because they can be automated”.

The world has already gone through three industrial revolutions. The first was based on the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century. The second, which began in the late 19th century and continued until the First World War, was related to the development of electricity and manufacturing and the third, which began in the late 20th century, was triggered by information technology and computerisation. Nowadays, the world is heading towards the fourth industrial revolution, revolving around artificial intelligence and all the related advancements in the field of robotics, 3D printing and the likes.

The UAE seeks, through its ambitious innovation strategies, to lead the region in the preparation phase to enter this fourth industrial revolution, which is likely to witness major shifts. In this context, during proceedings at Global Future Councils in November 2016 in Dubai, the UAE declared that the country was about to establish the world’s first council for the fourth industrial revolution. This reflects the leading role the country plays in this regard, as well as the country’s readiness to embrace the new global technological and scientific developments, relying on tangible actions, plans and self-esteem rather than empty slogans.

Many in the Arab world talk about the importance of knowledge and Arab underdevelopment in the field of technology, discussing the reasons behind such a situation and even suggesting solutions for emancipation from the shackles of this abject condition. Few, however, translate words into actions.

In this regard, the region can extract lessons from the UAE, which is strongly committed to fully engaging in the field of innovation and creativity as a source of inspiration for Arab countries.

Many underdeveloped countries have moved up the progress ladder thanks to the special attention accorded to science and knowledge, while Arabs lagged behind because of their neglect of knowledge and scientific research. Now, it is high time Arabs realised that the future path, status and even the existence of their nations essentially depends on science, innovation and creativity, rather than relapsing into the past and identifying with delusional plans propagated by forces of political Islam. The future of the world is exclusively reserved for creative nations.

Dr Jamal Sanad Al Suwaidi is the director general of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research

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