How GCC governments can lead the cloud revolution

Governments still have an important role to play in encouraging the adoption of cloud computing solutions to help to stimulate the knowledge economy, writes Ibrahim Youssry of Microsoft

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How GCC governments can lead the cloud revolution Youssry: Government can help to increase the uptake of cloud through legislation and other activities.
By  Ibrahim Youssry Published  December 5, 2016

Regarding cloud computing, it is not a question of if. It’s not even a question of when. It’s a question of now. Every government should have a pro-cloud computing policy framework in place to embrace this shift and encourage locally grown entrepreneurship, job growth and competitiveness. Governments must take the lead when it comes to the use of the public cloud and innovative technologies.

History shows that embracing world-class technology makes a huge difference for the economic prosperity and well-being of a country. With a legacy infrastructure gap, countries in Africa are set to benefit the most and will see the biggest uptake of cloud services across the world.

The following examples show just how powerful this technology can be for GCC countries:

Saudi Arabia has pledged $2 trillion to diversify its economy towards IT, with a significant portion to be invested in cloud technology. Faced with this new reality, many organisations in Saudi Arabia have already embarked on their own digital journeys as they bid to reap the considerable benefits that emerging information technologies have to offer.

The United Arab Emirates will see a gradual growth in IT spend from now until 2020, according to a report from BMI Research. A compound annual growth rate of 3.4% will inflate the sector to $5.3 billion by the end of this period, with service revenue taking $2.2 billion. An accompanying decline in hardware sales together with BMI’s prediction that SaaS will take an increasing share of software sales, strongly indicates a decisive shift to cloud for the country.

Given the potential of cloud and the focus on in the GCC on technology, there are several areas where government can to encourage and enable uptake:

Infrastructure: This is the first area in expanding affordable access to Internet connectivity and cloud computing. Innovations providing last-mile connectivity should be exploited, as should competition among local service providers, to increase availability and reduce costs. TV Whitespaces is a great example of a technology that expands wireless Internet access and cloud computing services to some of the most remote communities.

Skills: Governments must work to create more knowledge-based economies. The pathway to new technologies requires a parallel investment in skills development — having the requisite skills to participate in an increasingly digital society and to use smart devices and online services.

In schools, this requires promoting digital literacy and making sure teachers and students have access to technology and learning tools at low cost.

In the workplace, this requires lifelong learning with a focus on programmes and investments that promote up-skilling for the cloud, a more digital-ready workforce and a smooth shift to new jobs, as we transition to knowledge-based economies.

A balanced regulatory agenda: Regulations are essential to create a regulatory environment that promotes innovative and confident use of technology. A balance must be struck between the free flow of data and information, and privacy policies.

This means more formal and written cyber-security and privacy policies should be put in place, and countries should create interoperable frameworks for the free flow of information across borders. The processes for protecting intellectual property like obtaining trademarks need to be streamlined and made more accessible.

Government leading by example: Government leadership is perhaps the most important step in the transition to a knowledge economy. Every government has an opportunity to lead by example in embracing technology to provide services to citizens and improving productivity in the public sector. Companies can and should work in partnership with government to establish security principles, provide online safety education and commission studies to identify factors that increase online risks. Together, they can run national awareness and education campaigns, starting with younger citizens, so that everyone is aware of their rights and responsibilities with regard to online privacy and security.

Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. As such, we are optimistic about the future and the role technology can play. However, computing is not the end goal. Empowering people is, and public sector support is a vital enabler for us all.

Ibrahim Youssry is Public Sector Director, Microsoft Gulf.

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