How digital transformation can prove to be a catalyst for rebooting MEA economies
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How digital transformation can prove to be a catalyst for rebooting MEA economies

How digital transformation can prove to be a catalyst for rebooting MEA economies

Organisations will need to examine their business closely and give digital transformation a whole new meaning


Human ingenuity is resilient. As unprecedented economic challenges swept the globe, individuals, and organisations everywhere innovated their way onto a new path.

Of course, in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, many of us already had one foot in the digital realm. But it’s been astounding how necessity has accelerated that pace in the region. Projects in the planning phase were pushed into implementation in weeks.

Feasibility studies moved to production status in mere months. Out of necessity, years of progress was condensed to fit the first half of 2020. Remote working, distance learning, CX enhancements and more – we have been part of an incredible journey with our customers, partners, and communities across the Middle East and Africa, to adapt at every turn.

For example, the Egyptian Ministry of Education embarked on a journey to bring nearly 20 million students online. Arkas Logistics, in Turkey, ensured the continuity of its supply chain by leveraging AI solutions that digitised its operations. And to advance financial inclusion as well as boost the customer experience, Standard Bank, in South Africa, moved its critical workloads to the intelligent cloud, achieving agility, resilience and security. It is inspiring how regional organisations have responded to emerging challenges and planned their recovery journeys.

But there are more challenges ahead.

The IMF expects real GDP for the Middle East and Central Asia to fall by 4.7 per cent this year, with more vulnerable nations subjected to shrinkages of up to 13 per cent. The World bank cited the unemployment risk in the region and urged the prioritisation of job creation. And the skills gap that already existed pre crisis has widened, following a systemic shift in how we work.

The new normal calls on every organisation to reimagine its business, and its industry from the ground up. And as a key enabler of digital transformation, the intelligent cloud will play a definitive role on the journey ahead to reboot the enterprise. Not only will the technology enable the public sector to transform and optimise service delivery, but it will empower the private sector to innovate towards much-needed economic development and job creation.

For instance, in addition to addressing the infrastructure, scalability and compliance needs of customers, the cloud ecosystem in the Middle East and Africa is also set to creating jobs, as well as generate downstream revenue. An IDC report found that the cloud and Microsoft ecosystem is expected to generate over 520,000 jobs across the region by 2022. This will make a significant impact on the economy and support a faster recovery of the region.

As we take this journey of building the new normal together, organisations will need to examine their business closely and give digital transformation a whole new meaning, in the context of three core trends.

The first is our new world of ‘remote everywhere’ – from education to manufacturing, from retail to warehousing, from sales to customer support. Second is ‘simulate everything’ to enhance resilience – from predicting demands to troubleshooting crises. And third is, ‘automate everywhere’ to ensure a more agile response, while empowering workforces to spend more time driving innovation.

We can harness the power of the intelligent cloud to drive agility; we can adopt AI and intelligent business applications to unlock the value of data; we can build the secure modern workplace; and we can implement digital tools for better productivity. But skilling our workforce to ensure they make the most of these innovations, will be imperative by bringing more digital and technical skills to people worldwide.

We all have a responsibility to support inclusive digital transformation and economic recovery in the region, and the intelligent cloud is seen as a catalyst for growth. It unites data and applications in ways that drive better decisions; and employees are upskilled and reskilled as technology capabilities grow.

And the ability to remain agile while reinventing operations as cost-effectively as possible under daunting time constraints is what the cloud is meant to deliver. As such, a bright future could yet emerge from these challenging times.

Mohamed Mikou is the chief operating officer and chief marketing officer at Microsoft Middle East and Africa

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