The UAE has become the world’s most connected country with a top-notch digital economy, the Emirates Media Agency has reported. The claim is based on a report by the country’s Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TRDA), which said that 99 percent of the population were connected to the internet.
TDRA Director General Majed Sultan Al Mesmar said the report “reflects the digital landscape in the UAE overall and in particular the high level of adopting digital solutions whether in everyday life or government/public services.”
The country was “forging ahead according to the ‘We the UAE 2031’ vision and the directives of our wise leadership to keep digital transformation as an indispensable choice and an economic necessity in light of rapid changes in the world,” he said.
The report, titled “Digital UAE — Factsheet,” found that people were using the internet for a variety of purposes including social networking, work, research, education, entertainment and shopping.
It said download speeds on smartphones reached 161.15 Mbps in 2022, while the figure hit 207.41 Mbps for fixed lines.
— Maqsood (@maqsood_boota) May 7, 2018
The report said that the Unified Digital Platform, which provides public access to information on government services, received more than 30 million visits last year, while the number of registered users of the UAE Pass digital identity app rose significantly to 5 million.
It found that the country had 10 million active social media accounts in 2022, representing 105.5 percent of the population or 106.6 percent of all internet users. These numbers support an earlier report by proxy provider Proxyrack, which named the UAE as the world’s social media capital.
— Donado (@donadosays) October 15, 2017
People in the country spent an average of 2.3 hours per day on social media in 2022, the TDRA report said, while app downloads rose 16 percent year on year to 569 million.
The number of websites registered in the UAE rose by over 46,000 in the year to more than 300,000, while the value of spending on app purchases grew by 25 percent in the period.
What is digital economy?
International Monetary Fund says that digitalisation has penetrated many activities, and, indeed, almost the entire economy could be included in the ‘digital economy’ broadly defined. While the term ‘digital sector’ refers to a concrete perimeter of economic activities, the term ‘digital economy’ is often used to indicate that digitalisation (e.g., the use of Internet) has spread across all sectors of the economy, from agriculture to warehousing.
— Digital Marketing Remote CMO Roy (@RoyCMO) April 26, 2017
Deloitte network, which provides consultancy and advisory services, defines digital economy as the economic activity that results from billions of everyday online connections among people, businesses, devices, data, and processes. The backbone of the digital economy is hyperconnectivity which means growing interconnectedness of people, organisations, and machines that results from the Internet, mobile technology and the internet of things (IoT).
The UAE’s digital economy
The strategic plans of the national economy are mainly based on the digital economy, as it contributes to creating real opportunities for foreign direct investment. Digital economy in the UAE is being implemented through the adoption of the UAE Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution as one of its aims is to enhance economic security by adopting digital economy and blockchain technologies in financial transactions and service.
— Ghaidaa Hetou غيداء هيتو (@istrategic1) February 12, 2015
UAE Digital Economy Strategy
Launched in April 2022, the ‘UAE Digital Economy Strategy’ aims to double the contribution of the digital economy to the UAE’s gross domestic product (GDP) from 9.7 per cent as of April 2022 to 19.4 per cent within 10 years. It also seeks to enhance the position of the UAE as a hub for digital economy in the region and globally.
The UAE’s leadership was early to recognize the need to drive access to universal connectivity and extend digital opportunities to all. Being one of the first movers in the deployment of high-speed, high bandwidth 5G infrastructure has enabled individuals and organizations across the UAE to tap into the modern digital economy.
According to the study, UAE is the most connected country in the world, with a score of 7.53 out of 10. UAE also has the most significant number of internet users and Facebook users, but it also has the costliest internet service, with monthly rates of over $100.#uae pic.twitter.com/hhMcG7kwy3
— intech visionary (@IntechVisionary) May 9, 2023
According to a recent Ericsson Consumerlab study, UAE consumers are among the early adopters of 5G. Almost half of consumers in UAE intend to sign up for 5G subscription in 2023. Twenty percent already have a 5G ready device and based on the readiness on the phone and attitudes towards 5G, we expect about 8 million to sign up for 5G subscription in 2023.
Today, UAE telecom operators are not only making 5G ubiquitous throughout the country, but they are also improving the energy efficiency of their networks to provide sustainable networks as we become ever more reliant on connectivity in our everyday lives.
Ericsson’s recent partnership with e& by etisalat to improve network energy efficiency through the deployment of the latest Ericsson Radio System portfolio across the service provider’s network is one such example.
Beyond building energy efficient networks, we also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with e& by Etisalat to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption through such initiatives as the product ‘Take-Back Program’ to drive responsible disposal and recycling of e-waste across the Group’s network.
Local skills development
Organizations across the UAE have been quick to acknowledge that even the world’s most advanced digital infrastructure is only of value when people can leverage it. Over the past year, the UAE has again reaffirmed its position at the forefront of digital skills development. At the youth level, various UAE schools have already brought in lessons in blockchain, artificial intelligence, and other emerging tech fields to prepare them for the future job market.
The country has identified coding as a critical skill for the development of the digital economy and is encouraging students to enhance their programming capabilities through hackathons and schemes like the recently launched “UAE Codes” Day that attracted over 200 participants from 50 different schools across the country.
Last year Ericsson ran the “Together Apart” Hackathon, under the patronage of the UAE’s Ministry of Economy, with young participants from all over the UAE to stimulate ideas and innovations that address challenges across healthcare, sustainable environment, and education.
Initiatives such as the Ericsson Graduate Program in the UAE now offer Emirati talent career development opportunities involving cutting-edge technologies such as 5G, IoT, and cloud. With a mission to ensure the nation thrives in the digital economy, we have also made it a core part of our UAE strategy to hire, nourish and foster local talents and grant them the opportunity to work with leading technologies.
Earlier this year, the UAE launched a 10-year strategy to increase the industrial sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP from the current 133BAED to 300BAED. Dubbed ‘Operation 300bn’ the strategy aims to position the UAE as a global industrial hub and improve the country’s ranking in the Competitive Industrial Performance Index.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is one of the main pillars of ‘Operation 300bn’ and it aims to accelerate digital transformation across the industrial sector. Real-time collaboration enabled by 5G, robotics, artificial intelligence, digital twin technology, powered by renewable energy sources, will be critical to realizing the promise of the 4IR.
Onward to the digital economy of the future
Through these three lenses, it is clear how the UAE prepares to further develop one of the world’s most resilient digital economies. Innovative policies and associated investments behind inclusive connectivity, sustainability, skills development, and industrial digitization will contribute toward propelling the UAE into the ranks of the world’s leading countries.
As we look to the next 50 years, the nation will no doubt continue to benefit from connectivity as the digital infrastructure foundation underpinning her journey to become the best country in the world and a knowledge-driven nation.
Impact of growth of digital economy
UAE news agency WAM reported that the UAE has accomplished significant achievements during its transition to a digital economy since 2013. These accomplishments have helped to reinforce the competitiveness of the UAE’s national economy, according to indexes published by international organisations, including the World Economic Forum, which ranked the UAE as the leading Arab and regional e-commerce centre in 2017.
The UAE’s digital economy contributes 4.3 percent to the GDP, with expectations that this rate will significantly increase in the future. On the retail front, eCommerce in the UAE is growing rapidly and is playing a major role in expanding sales, while traditional retail sales in the country are slowing down.
The country is expected to further reinforce its position in the digital economy, supported by factors that include developments to eCommerce, improvements to the information technology infrastructure, the increased spread of Internet services, the use of smartphones and the expansion of electronic payment systems, as well as significant government support for digital transformation.