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Faces to watch: Game-changers in the regional tech industry

Faces to watch: Game-changers in the regional tech industry

As organisations across the private and public spectrum in the GCC march ahead with digital and technology-centric transformations, we highlight the regional game-changers and stalwarts that are leading the charge

Disruptive technologies are shifting the way we live, and the Middle East region is thriving with companies and astute leadership ushering in a digital era.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

With digital transformation becoming a requisite for public and private sector entities across the region, the regional market has seen a plethora of providers offering comprehensive solutions

Gonzalo Usandizaga
Vice president and general manager, Emerging Markets, Micro Focus

One company that has been flexible with its approach to offering digital transformation solutions is UK-based Micro Focus, with the company rapidly growing its presence across the Middle East. Heading the company’s interests across emerging markets – covering the Middle East and Africa is Gonzalo Usandizaga, who has been in the role since 2017, after Micro Focus’ merger with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Usandizaga, an IT veteran, held several senior roles in HP since 2008, prior to which he worked with US-based Vignette, IBM and Software AG.

Khaled Al Melhi
CEO, Injazat Data Systems

A prime example of the UAE’s homegrown expertise, Injazat, fully owned by Abu Dhabi investment arm Mubadala, is rapidly growing its reach in the region, offering services across the digital transformation journey. Last month the company also opened a Cyber Fusion Centre in Abu Dhabi to expand its cyber security services. Leading the firm is Khaled Al Melhi, who was appointed CEO in 2017. Melhi, who previously held the role of Injazat’s chairman, also served as the CEO of mapping and geospatial services company Bayanat, a subsidiary of the Emirates Defence Industries Company

Mark Ackerman
Senior director – Middle East and Africa, ServiceNow

Managing employee health and workplace safety has become the top priority for organisations regionally due to the Covid-19 pandemic. One company taking a lead in this aspect, to ensure smooth workflow organisation, is US-based ServiceNow.

Appointed as the company’s regional head in 2015, Ackerman is driving the company’s growth and has built a strong regional customer base, with clients across aviation, banking and finance, transport, and oil and gas sectors.

Ackerman, who has been in the Middle East since 2007, has a background in enterprise service management.

Sahem Azzam
Vice president – Middle East and Africa, Orange Business Services

In June, global tech company Orange Business Services announced the opening of its second UAE office in Abu Dhabi, as it looks to expand its presence in the region.

The company, which currently supports public sector authorities with smart city management services, is headed in the region by Sahem Azzam, who manages the team from the Dubai headquarters.

Appointed to the role a year ago, Azzam has held several sales and marketing management roles across the ICT industry and was previously working with Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

CYBER SECURITY

In 2019, the GCC was reportedly subject to over 5.5 million malware attacks. The need to safeguard data, intellectual property and personal information is being
met with a renewed sense of urgency.

These four individuals are leading the charge.

Emile Abou Saleh
Regional leader, Middle East, Turkey and Africa, Proofpoint

The region is in dire need of cybersecurity protection – a recent study commissioned by Proofpoint revealed that as many as 82 per cent of organisations surveyed in the UAE said they had faced at least one cyberattack in 2019.

Abou Saleh began his over 18-year-career as a programmer before working at some of the world’s biggest cybersecurity firms including McAfee and Forcepoint.

That his firm reportedly reinvests up to 20 per cent of its revenues back into R&D keeps him and his team one step ahead of the cybercriminals.

Garth Braithwaite
General manager, Middle East, Southern Africa and Russia, Gigamon

A work-from-home model has stress tested the IT departments of most big companies who have to not only manage the daily hygiene of their networks, but also adequately safeguard it against threats.

Helping with the latter is Braithwaite’s team at Gigamon. Over a 20-year career, he has learnt to deftly analyse risks, spot opportunities and coordinate between multi-functional and cross-cultural teams to help clients arm themselves for a rapidly altering post-Covid-19 reality.

Moataz Bin Ali
President, Middle East and North Africa, Trend Micro

“Despite the prevalent ideals of digital transformation, legacy systems with outdated operating systems and unpatched vulnerabilities are still a reality,” cautioned Bin Ali recently.

Bin Ali, who previously worked at IBM, SAP and Microsoft, has aligned the Japanese cybersecurity firm’s objectives to that of Saudi Vision 2030 and UAE Vision 2021 and is offering customers in the region end-to-end hybrid cloud protection.

It allows those who use a mix of local data centres and public cloud services a security cover across all touchpoints.

Brandon Bekker
Senior vice president, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Mimecast

Bekker, who joined data and email security specialist Mimecast in 2007, has been particularly focused on growing the British cybersecurity’s business across verticals ranging from healthcare and retail to financial services as well as the public sector.

Heading up the MENA business since 2013, he opened a Mimecast office in Dubai in 2016 and has reportedly been instrumental in growing its business by 75 per cent in the region.

He is also a board member at Contactable, a digital identity solutions company.

GOVERNMENT

The public sector is leading the push towards technology adoption in the region, with many governments setting ambitious digitisation targets.

Here are some of the leaders spearheading that agenda.

Omar bin Sultan Al Olama
Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Teleworking Applications, UAE

To leverage the contribution of artificial intelligence (AI) and curate a knowledge-based economy, the UAE appointed Omar bin Sultan Al Olama as the world’s first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence.

Olama is also the deputy managing director of Dubai Future Foundation. Backed by his diverse experience across banking, telecommunications, private enterprises and government, Olama also contributed to preparing the UAE’s Fourth Industrial Revolution strategy.

The UAE also established the world’s first graduate level, research-based AI university to enable advancements in this space.

Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr
Director general, Smart Dubai Office

As regional economies usher in an era of transformative digital technologies, spearheading the initiative in Dubai was Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr.

She headed the entity tasked with Dubai’s city-wide smart transformation till earlier this month.

Butti is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Councils, The Fourth Industrial Revolution’s smart cities readiness index team, and the World Happiness Council. She led the creation of the global Smart City Index in cooperation with ITU and the UN.

On her watch, Smart Dubai Office also hosted the first robot receptionist – Farah – in the Middle East.

[Editor’s note – she has now left the role]

Mohammed Ali AlQaed
CEO, Information and eGovernment Authority, Bahrain

Mohammed Ali AlQaed was handed over the reins of Bahrain’s Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA), following the merger of the Central Information Organisation with the eGovernment Authority.

AlQaed, who was previously CEO of the eGovernment Authority, is now tasked with spearheading the kingdom’s digital agenda.

Last month, the official confirmed that the use of AI and big data – mainly through Bahrain’s BeAware app – has played a major role in the country’s fight against Covid-19 and helped the kingdom “save precious time” in dealing with the pandemic.

Dr. Esam Al-Wagait
Director, National Information Centre, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in becoming a regional technology hub and one of the people driving that transformation is Dr Esam Al-Wagait, who serves as the director of the National Information Centre (NIC).

The NIC provides the Presidency of State Security and Ministry of Interior with technologies and technical support. The erstwhile CEO of Saudi Arabia’s National Digitisation Unit, Al-Wagait also worked as a deputy minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while his academic stints include serving as the dean at King Saud University.

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