UAEThe UAE (United Arab Emirates) could save over US$3B (AEDirham 11B) by implementing advanced blockchain technologies. This is the claim of a joint white paper by the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, UAE (C4IR UAE), the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) and the World Economic Forum.

Mirek Dusek, Head of Middle East and North Africa, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
Mirek Dusek, Head of Middle East and North Africa, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum

Mirek Dusek, Head of Middle East and North Africa, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum said: “The C4IR UAE stems from a long-standing collaboration between the UAE and the World Economic Forum. We are excited to launch this report, which represents a concrete example of how the C4IR UAE can drive leadership on inclusive deployment of blockchain.

“The principles developed in the report will empower not only UAE’s and the region’s business and government entities, but will also drive meaningful collaborations with other countries that are part of the World Economic Forum’s Fourth Industrial Revolution Network for greater economic and social impact.

The white paper

Entitled ‘Inclusive Deployment of Blockchain: Case Studies and Learning from the United Arab Emirates’, the whitepaper examines how the UAE’s current local and national blockchain strategies provide insights into governance challenges and opportunities. The findings examine core requirements across both technical and non-technical drivers of blockchain deployment success.

Sharing knowledge and best practices is one of the goals of the White Paper. It claims:

  • the exchange of knowledge should ensure consideration of unintended consequences; this matters if players are to realise the potential of blockchain
  • there is a consequent need to minimise risks.

The World Economic Forum, as a global multi-stakeholder community, is focusing on designing tools and resources to support organisations (whether governmental or private enterprises). It aspires to promote responsible blockchain deployment. The UAE plays a complementary role. Their sharing of real-life lessons and analysis of real projects is what they hope will enable others to take advantage of tested-and-tried practices.

The relevance of the UAE’s and Dubai’s blockchain strategies

The White Paper cites both the Dubai Blockchain Strategy (from 2016), and the Emirates Federal Blockchain Strategy (from 2018). Statistically, in addition to the cost savings, the estimate is that the UAE’s government can eliminate, each year:

  • 398M printed documents
  • 77M work hours.

This can happen through leveraging blockchain to process routine transactions. Currently, 80% of public and private sector entities have some use of blockchain.

Following the launch of the two strategies the UAE’s government took active measures to advance the adoption of blockchain technology nationwide. For example it created an industry for blockchain, as well as driving government introduction and stepping up international collaboration with interested stakeholders. The UAE has also hosted multiple blockchain implementations, conferences and other initiatives.

H.E. Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation
H.E. Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation

H.E. Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation said: “The UAE has long been a leader in the early implementation of emerging technologies, including blockchain, and is a vital contributor when developing governance and a systematic approach for new technologies.

“This report is a key collaboration between C4IR UAE and World Economic Forum showcasing efforts by public and private entities in the UAE  are deploying blockchain technology. Each of the findings have yielded new insights into the major challenges and success factors that organizations encounter when deploying this technology.

“These insights will also help us develop the correct governance for blockchain, based on the specific needs from those deploying the technology. We look forward to further sharing details at the upcoming World Economic Forum, Annual Meeting 2020 at Davos later this month.

Seven case studies and a survey

The white paper documents seven case studies, from:

  • Emirates NBD
  • DP World
  • Emirates Airlines
  • Etisalat Digital
  • Abu Dhabi Digital Authority
  • Ministry of Health and Prevention
  • Smart Dubai.

The first four are private sector initiatives. The latter three come from public sector entities.

Furthermore, the C4IR UAE surveyed over 100 stakeholders from more than 60 governmental and non-governmental entities across the UAE. All are actively exploring or implementing blockchain. The purpose was to understand:

  • the current deployment phases
  • the relevant challenges
  • key success factors.

The main findings include revealing that 80% of government entities believ the most important factor is identification of applicable blockchain solutions early on. For larger organizations, the key success factors link to:

  • the definition of projects’ scope
  • clear identification of roles and responsibilities.

The public sector also saw education and alignment with stakeholders as being pressing, and ongoing, challenges. In contrast, for the private sector the key concern was regulatory uncertainty.

Enterprise Times: what does this mean

The research demonstrates, at least in the UAE, that the main challenges to blockchain deployment are:

  • tied to the operational and regulatory environment
  • less to do with technology factors.

Government entities, corporations and service providers are consistent in expressing concerns about getting blockchain projects off the ground with challenges involving:

  • identifying the right applications of blockchain
  • ensuring proper education and awareness of the stakeholders involved
  • bringing on-board stakeholders with an appropriate governance model.

The point is also made that resolving the main challenges must come from the UAE government:

  • playing a leading role in encouraging the embrace of blockchain (and other emerging technologies)
  • emphasising the value of innovation in “advancing society”.

This is a ‘message that other governments, perhaps especially in Europe, might profit from learning.


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