Here are the technologies being deployed for the UAE's missions to the Moon and Mars
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Here are the technologies being deployed for the UAE’s missions to the Moon and Mars

Here are the technologies being deployed for the UAE’s missions to the Moon and Mars

IT services and systems play a major role in problem-solving, decision making, and smart automation, which is a key objective of the space industry, says Abdulla Ahli, director – IT department, Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

Tell us about yourself and what drove you to pursue a career in IT?
I hold a bachelor’s degree in IT from HCT (Higher Colleges of Technology, Dubai) and have a Master’s degree in Business Management from University of Technology, Sydney. I started my career as a system administrator in DP World-Sydney, and worked with them for seven years, including three years working as an international assignee in their port in Australia. In 2012, I moved to Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), as the head of IT.

How are you helping shape MBRSC’s tech strategy?
By leading the digital transformation across the organisation and automating all processes leading to this strategy and participating in creating new business solutions. IT services and systems play a major role in problem-solving, decision making, smart automation, and innovative resources of the centre, which is a key objective of space and R&D industries. In the space industry, the main initiatives are moving towards offering open access to big data from space projects and researches. Therefore, firms started adopting digital technologies such as high-performance computing and artificial intelligence to increase these opportunities of reaching the maximum benefits for society which gives IT a major job of implementing the best engineered solutions to achieve that objective. We are also working together with our R&D, and operations team ensuring 100 per cent support 24/7/365 days.

Which are some of the cutting-edge technologies being deployed for key projects such as the Mars Mission as well as the Emirates Lunar Mission?
When handling space images and data, it needs to be quickly processed as it is in GBs (gigabytes) and TBs (terabytes) when it arrives at our ground station. We have one of the best processing systems installed with software to provide the fastest response. We have also established the data science portal of the Emirates Mars Mission to help all our stakeholders. Moreover, we are building a unified SIEM solution and monitoring tool for the cybersecurity section. We have also implemented a smart ERP solution that helps smooth transactions for all departments and keeps our engineers focused on their core tasks responsibilities. It goes without saying that we have reached the Dubai government paperless strategy ahead of time at MBRSC.

How is MBRSC ensuring that it has a next generation of highly skilled Emirati employees to lead its tech divisions?
Our organisation is one of the key governmental entities that represents Emirati employee capabilities and innovation, which continuously encourages employees to achieve long-term objectives and initiatives, while providing continuous on job training programmes and required knowledge sharing with key players in the space industry globally. Moreover, it believes in raising the younger generation’s knowledge and skills in the country about R&D and space projects. This is done by providing programmes, workshops, and camps, starting from the schools level to universities.

How has the role of CIO changed in recent years?
The CIO role has changed from managing the delivery of technologies to being the co-creator of business solutions. Looking at our organisation right now, the demand for new projects and initiatives has increased drastically, especially with the success of the Emirates Mars Mission project, and the success of our emerging vision in a wide range of projects and upcoming initiatives. MBRSC was leading in a lot of key areas, which increased the reputation of the centre as being one of the major organisations under the spotlight. During this period, the information technology department was introduced to the challenge of digital transformation emerging with the speed of growth to provide and enhance all the business models in the Centre, while supporting the vision into the future.

How can they build the skills needed to implement emerging technologies?
The challenge of being an IT in MBRSC is being in the space industry environment which has different approaches and challenges for implementing any technology since we do need to combine governmental processes with space project processes. Therefore, the approach of developing the skills of IT involves understanding space project models and getting involved in training programmes related to that in order to provide the best solutions. We have partnered with various organisations to ensure we know about emerging technologies well in advance and we have always been early adopters of them. I am always eager to nominate my team members for training and certifications; attendance at seminars and professional trainings are key to knowing the emerging technologies and creating proof of concept once we can align it to our environment and business requirements.

What new innovations can we look forward to from MBRSC?
We are working in all possible areas that will benefit humanity. We continue to help various organisations in land mapping, government entities, and the scientific community to find answers when they look at the sky. One of the areas we are focusing on in our IT lab is building an interactive solution using gamification methodology and AI technology to communicate with students. Collaboration is key to achieving our objective of developing the UAE’s space science sector and preparing new generations of Emirati engineers, experts and researchers.

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