How the UAE is Setting the Tone for Digital Transformation in the Arab World?

Published on May 05, 2022

The UAE, often referred to as the Silicon Valley of the Middle East due to its ambitious startups and number of technology companies, is becoming one of the first countries in the world to go fully digital.

It has always been one of the most rapidly growing economies in the Middle East, and it shows no signs of slowing down with the implementation of new technologies and business strategies by its public authorities.

In fact, UAE has been quick in adapting to digital transformation and adopting new technologies at breakneck speeds.

The Arab world has been lagging behind other regions regarding digital transformation, but the UAE’s steady progress and investment in technology could help change that.

The UAE’s success with e-governance

The United Arab Emirates has been a digital trailblazer since its founding. 

Even before mobile penetration was at 50% and internet penetration was higher than 80%, the UAE was deploying services such as visa applications, license renewals, etc., online. 

The fact that these services are available 24/7/365 is an integral part of the Dubai experience tourists have come to expect and rely on while visiting. 

The ADDA (Abu Dhabi Digital Authority) is in charge of establishing the UAE’s digital transformation strategy and investing in the digital economy. 

The government is actively embracing new technologies in order to improve transparency, efficiency, and the public experience. 

Many other Middle Eastern countries have already implemented digital IDs in one form or another, but the “UAE Pass” leads the region regarding its usefulness and security.

According to the 2020 UN’s EGDI (E-Government Development Index), the UAE was ranked 1st in the Arab and the GCC regions and 21st globally.

This index measures the readiness and capacity of public institutions to use information and communications technologies to deliver public services. 

Driving the nation’s digital economy

The United Arab Emirates has earned a reputation as one of the most tech-savvy countries in the world, and digital transformation continues to be high on its agenda. 

The UAE’s eagerness to become the leading force in digital transformation in the region has led it to adopt digitization across both government and private sectors. 

The recent move of the UAE government’s approval of its new Digital Economy Strategy, which aims to make the sector contribute 20%, will help fast-track those efforts.

The UAE wants all its citizens—whether they’re based at home or abroad—to be able to access government services digitally. 

To do so, it has created an entirely new ecosystem that encourages innovation, facilitates partnerships between government and private enterprises, encourages investment into technology companies, and ensures cybersecurity across both sectors.

Moreover, the UAE’s high-speed telecom infrastructure, combined with its early adoption of financial and distributed ledger technologies, is giving the country a head start in becoming a leader in the global digital economy.

The present and future of digitization in the Middle East

Arab nations, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, have made early investments in the 5G spectrum. 

These countries’ governments and regulators have recognized the need for investment-friendly terms in allocating the 5G spectrum. 

This has allowed these nations’ public authorities to be better able to offer their citizens fast digital services.

However, when it comes to focusing on the future, a data-driven government is key to achieving sustainable development by 2030. 

The United Arab Emirates is committed to advancing its position as a global business and tourism hub through technology and innovation. 

The Dubai Blockchain Strategy seeks to make Dubai a major point of reference for all organizations, connecting them with opportunities presented by these technologies. 

In particular, it will enable them to take full advantage of what blockchain technology has to offer and explore its vast potential. 

And hopefully, other countries will follow and build on UAE’s lead.


With an increase in the use of mobile devices, smart technology, and big data, it’s clear that digital transformation is a fundamental part of how public services will be delivered in the UAE.

This isn’t just a fad; it’s how companies can stand out from their competitors. 

And with more public-private partnerships being put into place, it’s clear that UAE is moving quickly on developing its infrastructure and becoming a digital leader within years instead of decades. 



About the Author

Mohammad J Sear is focused on bringing purpose to digital in government.

He has obtained his leadership training from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA and holds an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK.

After a successful 12+ years career in the UK government during the premiership of three Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair, Mohammad moved to the private sector and has now for 20+ years been advising government organizations in the UK, Middle East, Australasia and South Asia on strategic challenges and digital transformation.

He is currently working for Ernst & Young (EY) and leading the Digital Government practice efforts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and is also a Digital Government and Innovation lecturer at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, France.

As a thought-leader some of the articles he has authored include: “Digital is great but exclusion isn’t – make data work for driving better digital inclusion” published in Harvard Business Review, “Holistic Digital Government” published in the MIT Technology Review, “Want To Make Citizens Happy – Put Experience First” published in Forbes Middle East.

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FRIDAY, 30 JUNE 2022