Stepping up to the plate

SAP’s Gergi Abboud highlights how the Middle East risen to the fore in terms of digital transformation

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Stepping up to the plate Gergi Abboud, managing director of the Gulf, North Africa, Levant, and Pakistan for SAP.
By  Gergi Abboud Published  October 9, 2016

Nationwide digital transformation takes courage. In the Middle East, visionary leaders have the plans in place — Kuwait Vision 2035, Oman 2020 Vision, and Qatar National Vision 2030 — to drive economic diversification and privatisation, and create robust employment for youth.

Never before has the region faced such urgency in digital transformation. The power of technology increasing, costs decreasing, tech-savvy youth clamouring for jobs. Real-time analytics is at the heart of all of digital transformation, especially in banking and finance, retail, sports, and education.

By localising global best practices through public-private partnerships, the Middle East is well-positioned to be global leaders in the digital economy.

Personal Loan Approvals in Five Minutes

It’s every couple’s dream own a home, to have their own place to raise a family and put down roots. In Kuwait, the Kuwait Credit Bank has made it easier than ever for Kuwaiti nationals to secure personal loans in homes, businesses, and marriage.

Using Big Data analytics, Kuwait Credit Bank has fully automated the loan application process. This was no easy task — Kuwait Credit Bank receives 400 loan applications a week, and had a massive backlog of 105,000 applications. And worse, these applications were on paper.

Linking up with government authorities, Kuwait Credit Bank now has all of an applicant’s personal information on the Kuwait civil ID’s smart chip. An approval process that once took two days is now done in less than five minutes.

Shopping and Supply Chain Cash In on Analytics

The GCC is one of the fastest-growing emerging markets for retail — thanks to a large population with disposable income, tech-savvy shoppers, and more malls opening. GCC retailers increasingly use analytics to enhance their operations and the customer experience.

One of Oman’s leading conglomerates, Al Khalili Group, faced an urgent needed to track more than 40,000 items and measure the productivity of more than 2,000 employees across 18 branches in Oman and the UAE. Using a range of Big Data and mobility technologies, Al Khalili Group has automated its auditing and employee reviews, and can now track its products, its supply chain, and people with real-time dashboards.

In Qatar, where driver’s licenses and vehicles are increasing by double-digit percentages, vehicle imports worth more than $2b per year, providing drivers with the right vehicles at the right time is paramount for Abdullah Abdulghani and Brothers Co. WLL (AAB).

By automating their supply chain on a single platform, AAB is providing customers with faster delivery of spare points, shorter queues, and easier and quicker invoices.

Real-Time Analytics Drive Peak Athlete Performance

Following the recent Rio Olympics, where Mutaz Barshim won Qatar’s first-ever Olympic silver medal, the global sporting spotlight is shining on Qatar, set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Aspire Academy, where Mutaz Barshim trained, has become the Middle East’s first national sports academy to sign with a global technology company, in line with its aims to become the world’s leading youth sports academy by 2020 and enhance national team competitiveness.

As part of the partnership with SAP, coaches, sport scientists, athletes, and management will be able to access real-time data on athlete performance, health, and operations across Aspire Academy’s network of clubs in Qatar, Belgium, and Spain.

Analysts can gauge top performers and line-ups, injury likelihood, predict opponent strategies, and optimise fan engagement - from directing traffic to exclusive content and retail offers. These kinds of solutions are already being used by teams and stadiums around the world, such as the German National Football Team, and FC Bayern Munich and its Allianz Arena.

In Oman, the Extreme Sailing Series is using real-time Big Data analytics to take the sailing experience to the next level — by crunching data from boat sensors and GPS tracking.

Using laser measurements, sailors can gain insights on wind and sea conditions in order to plan their optimum foiling heights. With viewing platforms often far from the rough seas, fans and media can use an Extreme Sailing Series mobile app to track the teams in real-time, and lead to richer analysis of team performance during races.

Upskilling Youth for Digital Economy Careers

More than ever, youth need the skills to succeed in the Digital Economy. In my discussions with youth across the region, they are no longer waiting for schools to change curriculum — they are taking education by the horn, and learning coding from scratch, and pushing schools and universities to develop connected classrooms and use cloud collaboration tools.

Supporting youth, the SAP Training and Development Institute has partnered with more than 130 University Alliance Partners to provide skills and training on technology theory and practical training for thousands of students, recent graduates, and unemployed youth. Using Middle East best practices, SAP is now localising the Institute’s practices to Brazil and Spain.

With the Middle East facing the worst refugee crisis in generations, UNHCR is teaming up with partners to launch Refugee Code Week this fall, which is set to train 10,000 refugees across the Middle East. By learning important coding skills across a 15-week program, refugees could help land jobs, improve the trade prospects for countries, and support innovation.

$2 Trillion Digital Economy Opportunity

Digital already represents more than 22% of the world’s digital economy, and the need to drive digital economy competitiveness has never been greater in the Middle East.

Thanks to far-reaching government initiatives, visionary private sector leaders, and strong ICT and educational infrastructure, the Middle East is ideally-placed to drive digital transformation.

With one recent industry report showing that digital skills and technology could add $2t in global economic activity by 2020, now is the time for Middle East countries to advance partnerships between the public, private, and academic sectors to set goals, develop KPIs and benchmarks, and develop young talent to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.

Gergi Abboud, managing director of the Gulf, North Africa, Levant, and Pakistan for SAP

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