Innovation won’t work behind closed borders – how the United Arab Emirates (UAE) can race to the future

We live in a world where it can be reasonably argued that global relations have never been better. Today, we are more connected, through the use of Internet and through globalization, than ever before in the history of humankind. As a society as a whole – despite rising levels of inequality that must be resolved – we are richer and better off than at any other time. We can span the globe in a matter of hours, we can be connected through our mobile phones to anywhere in the world, we can work anywhere at any time. The global economy has grown; countries have raised and expanded their middle class. In some places extreme property has been almost eradicated. The world today is in a new renaissance. Therefore, our businesses, our entrepreneurs, our universities are the new “botteghe”: the places of innovation were students can surpass the masters.

The UAE strides confidently along the path to the bright future it seeks to achieve for itself and its population, as ambitious plans and strategies aim to place it at the heart of global transformation in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The goal for the UAE is to win the race, between advanced and emerging countries, to harness the power of science and knowledge as the most important drivers for development, progress and prosperity now and in the foreseeable future. In this article we will focus on an important aspect related to the success of the 4IR in a country and its ambition to lead the world in all fields of development and progress. It is an area closely associated with societal development as the UAE society needs to get prepared for the age of the 4IR and AI.

The societal development is reflected in efforts to enhance the abilities of all members of society so that they become effective in realizing comprehensive development goals. In this way, society can be transformed into one that enjoys higher standards of living. It is of course an ongoing process, especially in dynamic societies, that is a continuous pursuit for excellence, as they look toward the future. It is also a comprehensive process in the sense that it is not limited to only a particular group or a small number of people, but involves all members of society. The process of cultivating human resources and nurturing capacities and skills to serve the goals of society is the very essence of societal development. This process in our opinion is the ultimate goal of any society striving for progress and modernity.

Human resources are the instrument with which the UAE realized its grand civilizational transformation, from a traditional nation to one of the world’s most modern societies with a rich and successful development experience that is unsurpassed in the Middle East and many parts of the globe. Continuing in this vein, realizing the UAE’s ambitious goals to lead development regionally and globally in the era of the 4IR and AI requires continued efforts to nurture human capital. It is crucial to achieve societal development as it helps to prepare citizens to master the manifestations and implications of the knowledge revolution, allowing the UAE to lead the way in this historic evolution. In this respect, a number of issues can be raised, which we believe are vital for achieving societal development and preparing the UAE society for the era of the 4IR and AI.

First, education in our opinion is the most important factor. It is the instrument of change in society, preparing its members to progress to a more advanced developed and civilized level. All pioneering development experiences in the world show that the development of education was the main driver of society’s transformation. This was the case in the Malaysian experience with Mahathir Mohammad, and in Singapore with Lee Kuan Yew. This proofs, that the leadership must give a higher priority to education in order to prepare for the 4IR. However, we should admit that there is for now there is a considerable gap between the wise leadership’s ambitions and the reality of the education system on the ground. We do not believe that currently any university and school system could graduate academically and technologically qualified generations capable of keeping abreast of, adapting to or leading the 4IR. This is one of our main reasons by getting involved through Inventive Ventures in the development of a skill and knowledge online platform “” which can in our opinion reduce such an existing gap.

The education system in the UAE despite development efforts requires a comprehensive “revolution” to modernize the current curricula, methods of instruction and its mechanisms in order to identify innovative and creative students. Even today, most education systems still focus on producing generations that seems unsuitable for the labor market and its employment opportunities. Several international reports indicate that more than half of today’s jobs will disappear in the near future, replaced with new roles associated with the knowledge – based economy, AI and Information Technology. This means a significant percentage of today’s students could add to the numbers of unemployed in the future. The world’s education system in most of the countries still depend, one way or another, on traditional methods of instructive and rote learning, which will not equip the next generation with the skills necessary for the 4IR. The new era instead calls for critical thinking, innovation, creativity and the ability to propose solutions, as just some of the attributes vital for success.

Second, society’s attitude toward the status and role of a woman in public life has a significant part to play. It is important to note, that negative attitudes towards empowering woman in development and employment are already changing. Woman in the UAE have become a key part of development at all stages and in areas of national effort.

Third, promoting a culture of innovation and creativity in society is crucial in facing the future. Families for example bear a substantial responsibility in our opinion for cultivating creative and innovative thinking, as well as identifying and developing the talents of their children. They also play an important role in directing them towards educational paths that meet the requirements of the 4IR. Business should also shoulder a significant responsibility for fostering a culture of innovation. They can accomplish this by nurturing the skills of innovative and talented people, implementing creative ideas that deliver innovations to benefit society and by hiring expert, creative and innovative personnel from all over the world to make use of their ideas and expertise, as happens in advanced countries.

Fourth, national identity is vital in the era of the 4IR. A key challenge in the era of knowledge, open skies and advanced technology comes as barriers between nations dissipate and foreign influences exert a greater sway on local societies. Therefore, national identity has become vulnerable to external influences, exacerbated further by the 4IR and AI. As national identity are the protective shield, and the strongest bond among people and the parts of society that serve to enhance internal cohesion, it is necessary to support efforts to bolster national identity, loyalty and allegiance to the leadership. This is particularly important among the youth who are vulnerable to outside influences, especially from negative forces and extremist groups.

All of this should go hand in hand with the drive to ready society for the requirements of the 4IR. This means maintaining the true social values of a society, such as cooperation, tolerance, generosity, bravery and altruism, as well as its many other long-standing values.

The role of society, in terms of its components and people, is essential to any cultural shift of a country. The UAE society has always supported an embraced effort of its leadership to achieve comprehensive development, as they strive to make a success of any effort, action or pursuit that takes society from development to advancement. It is society that contributes to accomplishing the UAE’s aspiration for entering into and leading the transformations to come in the era of the 4IR.

Together, Towards, Tomorrow – because you care about your future