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Smart money In spite of its chaos, I genuinely enjoy GITEX Technology Week. It’s great to see familiar faces, it keeps us all active and is an event the Middle East can be proud of. See you all on 14th October. In other news, CNME and’s first ever Power of 4 Fourth Industrial Revolution Forum was a huge success, and explored how the GCC can look beyond the hype to make AI, Blockchain, IT automation and virtual reality a success. Turn to page 12 to find out what our expert speakers and panelists had to say for themselves. There’s something of a banking theme running through our October “In spite of issue. Whether that’s by accident or its chaos, I design is really anyone’s guess. genuinely On page 22, Tariq Al Usaimi, the enjoy GITEX newly appointed head of digital strategy at the Central Bank of Kuwait, tells us Technology why they’ll be spending big on analytics Week.” and AI in the near future. Following that, on page 26 we find out how Arab Jordan Investment Bank has become a regional early adopter of the aforementioned Blockchain, and has all but banished that pesky wait that inevitably comes when you send money overseas. On page 32 we find out how Estonia, a nation of just 1.3 million people, has set the standard for a digital government. Turn to page 38 and you’ll hear why Mashreq believes that in three years’ time, digital banks will be the default platform of choice for the masses when it comes to managing their hard-earned dosh. Page 58 has also got a lot going for it. We hear how IBM has built software that detects bias - much like humans, machines also jump to wrong conclusions - in AI.

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ISSUE 320 | OCTOBER 2018






Power of 4


ENEC: 4IR defined



CNME hosted its inaugural Power of 4 Fourth Industrial Revolution Forum last month, which saw discussions on AI, Blockchain, IT automation and VR that looked at the region’s next steps in the new age.



FOUNDER, CPI MEDIA GROUP Dominic De Sousa (1959-2015)

Saudi Business Machines CEO Essam Alshiha shares his plan for how the firm can contribute to Saudi Arabia’s widespread digital transformation.

50 UAE Central Bank

A speak at CNME’s Power of 4 Forum, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporatio’s director of ICT Alia Al Hammadi outlined her vision of digital transformation.

20 Huawei @ GITEX 2018

44 From Vision to reality

Huawei Enterprise Middle East’s regional vice president Alaa Elshimy shares the highlights of what to expect from the tech giant at GITEX Technology Week 2018.

Reem Alsuwaidi, the UAE Central Bank’s senior manager of IT architecture, services and financial control within the IT team, tells CNME about her role and career aspirations.

54 “IT security like health insurance”

On a recent visit to the Middle East, A10 CEO Lee Chen told James Dartnell why 5G poses a huge security risk, and why the firm is looking to enhance its operation in the region. Publication licensed by Dubai Production City, DCCA PO Box 13700 Dubai, UAE

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pple has launched its new iPhones – the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. The 5.8-inch iPhone XS and 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max feature Super Retina displays, a faster and improved dual camera system that offers “breakthrough” photo and video

features, the first 7-nanometer chip in a smartphone — the A12 Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine. They also packs faster Face ID, wider stereo sound, a new gold finish and introduces Dual SIM to iPhone. iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max build on the all-screen design of iPhone X and

feature the sharpest displays with the highest pixel density of any Apple device. Now offered in 5.8-inch and 6.5inch sizes, the Super Retina displays with a custom OLED design support Dolby Vision and HDR10 and have iOS system-wide color management. iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max offer a million-to-one contrast ratio while showing 60 percent greater dynamic range in HDR photos. iPhone XS Max delivers a more immersive experience with over 3 million pixels for videos, movies and games, offering the largest display ever in an iPhone in a footprint similar to iPhone 8 Plus. iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max will be available in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB capacity models in space gray, silver and a new gold finish starting at AED 4,229 and AED 4,649, respectively.

ELON MUSK TO STEP DOWN AS TESLA CHAIRMAN The US Securities and Exchange Commission has confirmed that carmaker Tesla and chief executive Elon Musk have agreed to pay $20 million each in fines after misleading investors over claims the company would go private. The settlement that will also see the billionaire step down as chairman after a tumultuous two months for the company. Musk will remain as chief executive under the settlement over tweets he posted on 7th August. The SEC alleged in a lawsuit that the tweets about financing for a goprivate plan he abandoned just weeks later had no basis in fact, and said the market chaos that ensued hurt investors. Musk is now required to step down as chairman of Tesla within 45 days, and he is not permitted to be 6


re-elected to the post for three years. Tesla is required to appoint two new independent directors to its board. The settlement saw the SEC pull back from its demand that Musk be barred from running Tesla, a sanction

that many investors said would be disastrous for the loss-making electric carmaker. The SEC charged Tesla with failing to have required disclosure controls and procedures for Musk’s tweets.



Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger


nstagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are leaving Facebook amid tensions with CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the directions of the photo-sharing app. The Instagram founders had been able to keep the brand and product independent since its acquisition in 2012. However, they are increasingly

becoming frustrated with an uptick in day-today involvement by Zuckerberg, who has become more reliant on Instagram in planning for Facebook’s future. For years, Systrom and Krieger were able to amicably resist certain Facebook product initiatives that they felt went against their vision, while leaning on Facebook for resources, infrastructure and engineering talent. “Kevin and Mike are extraordinary product leaders and Instagram reflects their combined creative talents,” Zuckerberg said in a


Sayed Hashish, Regional General Manager, Microsoft Gulf

Microsoft and Dubai-based BECO Capital have announced a strategic partnership aimed at revolutionising the regional entrepreneurial 8


ecosystem, as Microsoft becomes BECO’s exclusive technology partner. BECO is a regional venture capital firm focused on technology investments in MENA. It provides early-stage growth capital and handson operational support for technology companies in the MENA region. Microsoft’s partnership with BECO will centre on support for early-stage technology companies across Middle East and North Africa territories, giving those companies exposure to a targeted and curated audience of investors – as well as prominence among the larger ecosystem – throughout fiscal year 2019. “Microsoft’s credentials as a

statement. “I’ve learned a lot working with them for the past six years and have really enjoyed it.” Krieger and Systrom built Instagram and sold it to Facebook for $715 million six years ago. When the deal was announced, the company had only 13 employees and 30 million registered users. Now more than 1 billion people use the app monthly, and it is the main source of advertising revenue for Facebook outside the social network’s main news feed. A Bloomberg Intelligence analysis in June said Instagram is worth more than $100 billion. Instagram is on track to provide Facebook with $20 billion in revenue by 2020, about a quarter of Facebook’s total, Ken Sena, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, wrote to investors earlier this year.

start-up mentor are well established,“ said Sayed Hashish, Regional General Manager, Microsoft Gulf “In the MENA region, where we have a strong track record of contributing to GDP growth, we back innovators who have something new to offer in areas such as AI and the Internet of Things – technologies that better enable digital transformation, the power to engage customers empower employees, optimise operations and reinvent products and services. The level of positive response that we have seen from VCs and startups has significantly surpassed our expectations. BECO’s vision for the MENA technology sector is aligned with our own.” The strategic partnership between BECO and Microsoft will continue throughout 2018 and 2019, and will extend to BECO’s community events.



audi Telecom Company is launching its first-ever Fintech platform in the kingdom this month. According to local media, the platform is aimed at reaching out to the 6.4 million “unbanked” population in Saudi Arabia. After scanning a barcode at the

cashier and providing cash, customers can select a name from their contact list, press “send” and the money will be available within seconds in the individual’s own STC Pay account. STC senior vice president of enterprise Tarig Enaya said STC Pay will help customers transfer money


Uber Technologies is in early talks to buy food-delivery company Deliveroo for several billion dollars.

A bid for Londonbased Deliveroo, last valued at more than $2 billion, would mark a major attempt by Uber to dominate the fooddelivery business in Europe. An acquisition price is unknown. Any offer would need to be considerably above its latest valuation, according to people with direct knowledge of Deliveroo plans. Deliveroo is one of Europe’s biggest startups and last year raised about $480 million from investors

whenever they want. They can also immediately authenticate whether the money is received or not. “Our main aim behind entering this business is to connect people and address the unbanked community in Saudi Arabia that is in the millions.” STC Pay is a digital wallet application that allows customers to access basic financial services through their phone. Following successful trials, STC Pay and the company will hold demos of the solution at the upcoming GITEX Technology Week in this October. It will be available for download from the Apple Store or Google Play, and carry out transactions by visiting STC kiosks or authorised shops. Workers in the kingdom remitted about $37 billion to their home countries last year, according to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority.

including Fidelity Investments and T. Rowe Price Group Inc. The company competes directly with Uber Eats, Uber’s food delivery business. The talks could fall apart, in part because Deliveroo and its investors have been reluctant to relinquish independence, sources said. Although little-known in the crowded US market, which it has actively avoided, Deliveroo is ubiquitous in Europe’s capitals. The service is available in more than 200 cities on four continents. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has made the company’s fooddelivery business a top priority ahead of a planned initial public offering in the second half of 2019. The San Francisco-based company is weighing other acquisitions, too. It’s in talks with Middle Eastern ridesharing rival Careem. OCTOBER 2018





acebook has disclosed that hackers stole digital login codes allowing them to assume control over nearly 50 million user accounts in its worst security breach. The social media giant said it has yet to determine whether the attacker misused any accounts or stole private information. It also has not identified the attacker’s location or whether specific victims were targeted. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg described the incident as “really serious” in a conference call with reporters. His account was affected, along with that of chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, a spokeswoman said. US lawmakers said that the hack may boost calls for data privacy legislation. Reuters reported that Facebook’s latest vulnerability had existed since July 2017, but the company first

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

identified it last month after spotting a “fairly large” increase in use of its “view as” privacy feature on 16th September. “View as” allows users to verify their privacy settings by seeing what their own profile looks like to someone else. The flaw inadvertently gave the devices of “view as” users the wrong

digital code, which, like a browser cookie, keeps users signed in to a service across multiple visits. That code could allow the person using “view as” to post and browse from someone else’s Facebook account, potentially exposing private messages, photos and posts.

UAE BANK UNVEILS REGION’S FIRST SOUND-BASED PAYMENT TECH First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) has launched a new sound-based payment system through its digital wallet payit. The technology is the first of its kind in the region and one of the first integrated sound-based solutions in the world, according to FAB. FAB is set to launch its new payment solution during GITEX Shopper, which is taking place from 2nd to 6th October 2018, and customers can utilise this service for their purchases during the event. Customers can now use payit across many merchants in the UAE and make secure payments using their mobile phones by listening to sounds and clicking 10


“pay”. Payit offers customers a range of payment services through person-to-person, bill payments, money transfers, splitting the bills in addition to dedicated “payit offers” from many outlets. Sound-based payments can be made through electronic cash registers, points of sale (POS) machines, POD devices or even the mobile phones of merchants. The mode of payment utilises sound waves to enable smart device interaction, independent of the technical hardware. The interoperability allows for contactless payment and frictionless communication between devices for an omnichannel experience for payit users.



G has unveiled three robots designed for commercial use at hotels and shops. The robots will be able to serve refreshments, carry suitcases and assist with shopping. LG’s entire range of robots using AI are all trademarked under the “CLOi” brand umbrella – the same brand for all its robot products. Kevin Cha, president of LG Electronics Middle East and Africa, said, “LG has been involved with smart technology and robotics for many years. Our growing AI line and ongoing trials of intuitive robots are a testament to our commitment to create trustworthy and revolutionary technologies to help people all over the world. I look forward to seeing this technology being introduced to the Gulf region in the near future.” LG’s Hub Robot, equipped with Amazon Alexa’s voice recognition

technology and unveiled in 2017, is a device made to enhance families’ daily experiences by connecting to other smart appliances at home. The robot can accomplish household tasks such as turning on air conditioner or changing the dryer cycle. It will also act

as an adaptable personal assistant, being able to provide users with entertainment, able to play music, set alarms, create reminders and provide weather and traffic updates. It can also monitor the home once all members of the family have left the premises.


Dr. Meshan Alotaibi, assistant undersecretary of consumer affairs at the Ministry of Electricity and Water in Kuwait

Kuwait’s Ministry of Electricity and Water, in partnership with Zain and SAP, has started deploying a total of 800,000 electrical meters and 300,000 water meters to homes and organisations.

The smart meter sensors will transmit water and electricity data on Zain’s networks to the Ministry’s digital core. As a result, the Ministry, residents, and organisations will be able to access real-time utilities usage and billing data, running on the SAP HANA in-memory platform. “Kuwait’s residents expect to interact with their utilities providers as quickly and easily as any private sector company,” said Dr. Meshan Alotaibi, assistant undersecretary of consumer affairs at the Ministry of Electricity and Water in Kuwait. “By partnering with global technology companies, real-time utilities usage and billing will help our customers to save time and enhance our utilities maintenance and sustainability, all in line with Kuwait

National Development Plan’s smart government goals.” By running on a digital core, the Ministry can enable customers to pay bills online and via mobile apps, alert customers if their utilities usage spikes, and “gamify” the experience to encourage more sustainable utilities usage. The Ministry can also contact customers in case of utilities emergencies. “Digital energy networks and smart metres are transforming utilities providers around the world, with the Kuwait Ministry of Electricity and Water demonstrating leadership in developing next-generation energy infrastructure,” said Ahmed Al-Faifi, senior vice president and managing director, SAP Middle East North. OCTOBER 2018



Power of 4 Forum


CNME and hosted the first ever Power of 4 Fourth Industrial Revolution Forum in September, which saw compelling panel discussions on how the Middle East can look beyond the hype and make artificial intelligence, Blockchain, IT automation and virtual reality work for them in the new industrial age.


e are coming into an age where businesses are being reshaped and redefined by their relationship with technology. The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam to power production. The second used electricity to create mass production, while the third industrial revolution – the one that has defined technological innovation for the last 60 years – used IT and electronic products to automate production. Now, a Fourth Industrial Revolution, one that is defined by the blurring of physical and digital worlds – is upon us. Power of 4 aimed to build a platform for experts that can help to 12


deliver their first-hand experience on just how the huge promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can begin to be realised in this region’s hugely promising economies. Power of 4’s first panel discussion explored the trend that many people believe will not only define the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but will also reinvent our relationship with machines – artificial intelligence. Professional services firm PwC has forecast that artificial intelligence will contribute $96 billion and $135 billion a year to the economies of the UAE and Saudi Arabia respectively by 2030. The UAE has taken on an eyecatching role in AI’s narrative, having appointed the world’s first minister of state for artificial intelligence.

However, the concept of AI is one that remains relatively immature in 2018, and one that the Middle East region is some way off from making a reality within the enterprise. Panelists were in general agreement – AI adoption will be sooner than previously estimated, and the adoption of new technology will be much faster during the coming years, with AI set to change the way we live. Morad Qutqut, CTO Hewlett Packard Enterprise Middle East, kicked the day’s panel discussions of by saying that AI had only gained momentum during the last six years. He argued that the snowball effect of corporations and governments digitising their services, combined with widespread smartphone usage

had caused a surge in data. This combination of data and the power of machine learning have helped AI to gain momentum in the last couple of years, he said. Samina Rizwan, Oracle’s senior director for business analytics and big data for the MEA region, said that the adoption of AI would be much faster than previously estimated. “It took 50 years for electricity to be fully implemented, and ten years for cellphones to be adopted,” she said. “But it just took five years for high levels of smartphone penetration. AI will follow the same pattern.” Citing Oracle research, she said that 50% of all data would soon sit on autonomous systems. Saeed Khan, AGC Networks’ vice president and head of sales for the Middle East supported this claim, saying change would be swift. “Jobs he says will be a casualty, but humans could adopt and acquire new skills based on future realities,” he said.” Celal Kavuklu, head of business solutions for the Middle East and Turkey at SAS points out, three major factors have influenced the growing relevance of AI during the past three years. “The most important element is data,” he said “Adding ready-made algorithms has made it much easier

The perception that Blockchain is a cure for all transparency related issues is not true.

for developers to customise and adopt AI, and, along with enhanced processing power, of present day computing systems AI adoption is now much faster.” Elie Abouatme, senior engagement manager at Akamai Technologies, said that the implementation of AI would be crucial for businesses as they try to enhance their productivity and win new customers. The next thought-provoking panel discussion explored how Blockchain can go from its current flawed state to being a hugely disruptive game-changer. The gripping rise and subsequent collapse of cryptocurrency prices has fixed the world’s gaze not only on the

possibility of how virtual coins will change the world’s economy, but on the technology that underpins these transactions. Without the need for third party services such as banks, who traditionally manage huge transactions, Blockchain’s possibilities are seemingly unlimited, and have led many to declare that it could be as disruptive as the Internet was in the 1990s. Adam Lalani, Tristar’s group head of IT and the man behind one of the region’s outstanding Blockchain success stories, said, “Finding the people with the right skillsets when it comes to Blockchain is a challenge. Also, the perception that Blockchain is a cure for all transparency related OCTOBER 2018



Power of 4 Forum

issues is not true. It is only as good as the data that is being entered into it.” Arthur Guest, CTO of Support Legal, said, “With Blockchain, we need to think of the information that is being entered into the ledger. If that data is incorrect then it will create new problems.” According to Arul Jose Vigin, senior IT manager of DIFC Courts, who have entered into a Blockchain partnership with Smart Dubai, said, “We also need to see which part of the use cases need more trust. Is it when the contract is being created or when it is being executed? We are working on these kinds of challenges.” The panelists also discussed the importance of being careful with whom ideas are shared about potential blockchain use cases. Guest said, “Sometimes vendors try to shake you down to get ideas off you. It is important to be conscious of with whom you share the ideas with and realise how guarded you need to be. Blockchain providers need to focus on the problem and not the solution.” The day’s third panel discussion focused on what could be achieved following the wholesale automation of IT systems. Hesham El Komy, regional vice president of Epicor said that automation is already in place wherever it can possibly be, and that the industries and production houses that can increase profitability and enhance their customer base through automation have already done so. He believes the next stage is equipping them with the power of AI. David Ashford, CIO of The Entertainer said the two-for-one digital voucher specialist has been trying to automate several tasks and has moved away from merely being a publisher to delivering food. “The data that we acquire from our client base is very crucial. It is this data that powers automation and eventually 14


Data powers automation and will eventually power the integration of artificial intelligence. the integration of artificial intelligence,” he said. Ahmad El Amadi, CISO of Dubai Municipality explained the process how relevant data was crucial for the effective implementation of AI. “The past and current revolutions have contributed towards automation,” he said. “We are becoming an automated society. The next revolution will enhance the ability of artificial intelligence and machine learning based on the data that is generated. It is very important that the data is correct and relevant.” Paulo Pereira, director of systems engineering for emerging markets and Europe at Nutanix pointed out that automation has not resulted in unemployment but has reoriented the job market, allowing people to equip themselves with different skillsets. “It’s too early to say how and what extent the job market will be affected. As it was before, it will make humans adopt to new conditions.” Ala Majaj, Partner at noted that automation is not a new phenomenon. “Time management used to be the task of HR, but today, the same task is done accomplished by machines,” says Ala, even as he cautioned that not everything can be automated though. “There are certain tasks that require human intervention and wisdom.” The final discussion of the day

homed in on how virtual reality could transform the enterprise. Panelists included Faisal Ali, group CIO, of Gargash Group; Ramit Harisinghani, VP and head of MEA, HTC Vive and Salman Yusuf, managing director, TAKELEAP. One of the key areas that the panel explored was VR’s potential and use cases in the enterprise, going beyond its current deployments in the entertainment and consumer spaces. Ali kickstarted the discussion by asking the audience to imagine different scenarios, explaining the differences between augmented reality, VR and mixed reality. Yusuf went on to explain success stories with VR deployments, one of which included creating a VRenabled pop-up store for Ikea to help increase footfall. According to Harisinghani, VR will dramatically improve customer experiences when it comes to e-commerce. Currently, the biggest portion of VR use cases is largely in the gaming segment, allowing gamers to have deep immersive experiences. “VR can play a significant role in the healthcare sector, for example, improving speech and recognition abilities for autistic patients,” he said. “Other examples include medical training, the ability for patients to interact with doctors around the globe and also for doctors to be trained by senior specialists.”


Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation

ENEC: 4IR DEFINED Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation’s director of IT, Alia Al Hammadi, kicked off the inaugural Power of 4 Fourth Industrial Revolution Forum by giving her take on what it takes to transition to the new age of manmachine collaboration.

Alia Al Hammadi, director of IT, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation




n many ways, Alia Al Hammadi holds a position that truly defines the essence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As IT director for Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, she not only has a handson role in optimising information and operational technology within her organisation, but also plays a key role in an industrial powerhouse that is set to be at the centre of the nation’s economic ambitions. The UAE has set a target of producing 6% of its 2050 energy needs through nuclear power, and once Abu Dhabi’s Barakah nuclear power facility is complete in 2020, it is expected to deliver up to a quarter of the UAE’s electricity needs, saving up to 21 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year. Barakah has been designed as one of the most technologically advanced nuclear reactors in the world, while technology also forms the backbone of the plant’s safety and security systems, ensuring its operators and inspectors will have the information they need to drive decision making. Al Hammadi, kicking off CNME’s first ever Power of 4 forum, discussed ENEC’s bid for digitalisation, and how to embrace Industry 4.0 technologies and processes in her keynote address. Armed with 15 years of experience in technology, Al Hammadi believes that the future is all about “thinking of different ways to meet new market opportunities”. She said, “At ENEC, we’ve examined, and continue to examine, how we can leverage technological advancements of the new industrial age. The Fourth Industrial Revolution can be described as the advent of ‘cyber-physical systems’ involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines. We’ve asked ourselves how we can leverage technological advancements and megatrends in IT.” Behind the scenes, according to Al Hammadi, ENEC has been working to identify its main business drivers

Once we agreed our internal needs, we explored what the Fourth Industrial Revolution and digital transformation meant to us.

and existing and future problems that it may face. The company created four key pillars that were crucial to its digitalisation – internal customer experience, internal processes, employee engagement and collaboration for optimisation with subsidiaries. “Once we agreed our internal needs, we explored what the Fourth Industrial Revolution and digital transformation mean to us,” Al Hammadi said. This investigation revealed a selection of values that were key to the firm. “Digital business means many things to different people there is no single correct definition,” she said. “To us, digital transformation lies in three key words. It’s about speed, in terms of time to market and how fast we promote our services to our internal employees. It’s about precision in terms of the data quality and accuracy, and agility, in terms of how fast we can adapt and adopt technology advancements and changes.

“Digital transformation is about creating the right mindset and the right culture. Artificial intelligence, blockchain and machine learning are not solutions, but tools with which we can attain this change,” she added. Al Hammadi explained how ENEC began its digital transformation programme 2015, where the firm began work with its “awareness” phase, and explored how it could instill the “right mindset and culture”. “This was not an easy ride, and we are still in continuation of awareness,” she said. From 2016-2017, ENEC focused on building “the right platform”, which would enable them to create value across different departments and systems, facilitating data exchange, the reusability of data and services across different systems. “During this period we focused on building our enterprise mobility strategy and platform,” she said. “We addressed business process automation for selected divisions, business processes analysis and simulation, business process monitoring for performance improvement, business and IT alignment and our enterprisewide integration platform.” Al Hammadi also shared experiences around some of the challenges that ENEC has faced in its digital transformation journey, including handling time to market and identifying the best strategic partners. For any organisation who is looking to embark on its own digital transformation path, Al Hammadi believes critical success factors should include, “failing and recovering fast, ensuring change is part of an organisation’s DNA, developing the right team and creating the right mindset, while also taking the time to identify strategic partnerships.” Concluding with a quote by Charles Darwin, Al Hammadi said, “It is not the strongest nor the most intelligent of the species that survives but the one that is most adaptable to change.” OCTOBER 2018


CNME would like to wish a huge thank you to our panelists at our first ever Power of 4 Fourth Industrial Revolution Forum, and a big thank you to our sponsors: AGC Networks, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company, Epicor, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Precedence and Redington.


Huawei Enterprise Middle East

‘INNOVATE FOR A DIGITAL MIDDLE EAST’ Alaa ElShimy, vice president and managing director of Huawei Enterprise Middle East, gives a preview of what GITEX Technology Week 2018 visitors can expect from the tech giant’s presence.


s ICT technologies develop rapidly and become integrated into more and more verticals, the digital economy is becoming the fastestgrowing, most innovative, and widestreaching economy. It is an important driver of global economic growth and recovery, playing a vital role in unleashing the potential of economic development, driving the transformation of traditional industries, fueling sustainable economic development, improving social management and services, and fostering innovation. New technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence, and smart cities are revolutionising how governments, businesses, and consumers interact with the world around them. Huawei is committed to helping our partners in the Middle East navigate the changing times. In the spirit of openness and sharing wisdom, we are hosting our third annual Innovation Day on the 20


sidelines of GITEX Technology Week 2018. Held under the theme, ‘Innovate for a digital Middle East’ the one-day event is a platform for luminaries and industry experts to gather and discuss how all can work together to embrace digital transformation and forge ahead on the road to an intelligent world. With the aim of promoting a 5G ecosystem in the Middle East region, we will start the day with a 5G Ecosystem Conference held under the theme ‘5G is Now, from eMBB to Digital Society.’ The second part of the event will focus on AI and smart cities, under the theme ‘Embrace digital transformation, the road to intelligent world’, where discussions, opinions, and sharing experiences will take place on how AI and smart cities are transforming and reshaping the world we live in. As the Middle East undergoes rapid digital transformation, the leadership is putting in place strategies to accommodate their digital agendas

in their national visions. As a leading global provider of information and communications technology infrastructure and smart devices, Huawei views the Middle East as a significant market where the company can contribute to the development of the ICT industry, bringing digital to every person, home and organisation for a fully connected, intelligent world. Huawei’s end-to-end portfolio of products, solutions and services are both competitive and secure. Through open collaboration with ecosystem partners, we create lasting value for our customers, working to empower people, enrich home life, and inspire innovation in organisations of all shapes and sizes in the Middle East region. Driven by customer-centric innovation and open partnerships, Huawei has established an endto-end ICT solutions portfolio that gives customers competitive advantages. Huawei is committed to bringing its global expertise and

Huawei is committed to bringing its global expertise and latest innovations to the Middle East region. Alaa ElShimy, vice president and managing director of Huawei Enterprise Middle East

latest innovations to the Middle East region and creating maximum value for governments, telecom operators, enterprises and consumers. We are rapidly progressing on the digital agenda and entering the all-intelligent world. Our long-term enterprise strategy in the region is to build a digital ecosystem through which Huawei can help our Middle East channel partners meet their customers’ needs by bringing in the most cutting-edge artificial intelligence products and solutions, enhancing connectivity and improving user experience across different domains. Through joint innovation with our customers, partners, and peers, we hope to achieve growth across all industries, creating a robust win-win ecosystem for organisations throughout the region. As one of the largest ICT expos in the world and a gathering place for the Middle East’s government and industry leaders, GITEX is an ideal

opportunity for Huawei to showcase our innovative products and solutions which are being deployed across multiple vertical sectors. This year, our presence at GITEX will be building on the importance of AI as one of the future’s leading technologies. Our participating in GITEX is designed to help all businesses and organisations step over the threshold and stake their claim in the intelligent world. We will use GITEX as a platform to launch and showcase a range of exciting new products, with a particular focus on AI. These will include: • Huawei’s full-stack, all-scenario AI solutions • The FusionCloud 6.5, a nextgeneration enterprise-class full-stack intelligent private cloud solution • The FusionAtlas intelligent computing solutions: an AI enablement platform based on ‘One Cloud, One Lake and One Platform’ architecture to help enterprises

accelerate cloud migration and achieve digital transformation • For unified cloud communication, we will showcase EC3000, the latest integrated platform to facilitate enterprise video conference and cloud communication • In the field of wireless technology, we will showcase the latest eLTEDSA solutions, which overcomes the challenge of insufficient continuous dedicated spectrum resources around the world by using 4.5G technology to aggregate traditional VHF/UHF narrowband discrete spectrum into broadband spectrum resources To make the most of opportunities in this new world, all organisations need to embrace and activate intelligence through digital platforms that are open, agile and equipped with state-of-the-art AI capabilities. We look forward to seeing you there! OCTOBER 2018



Central Bank of Kuwait

Tariq Al Usaimi, head of digital strategy, Central Bank of Kuwait



WHY KUWAIT’S CENTRAL BANK WILL SPEND BIG ON TECH Tariq Al Usaimi, the newly appointed head of digital strategy for the Central Bank of Kuwait, has said that the organisation is set to make considerable investments in big data and analytics systems as well as “overhauling” the way it uses technology.


ariq Al Usaimi, formerly chief digital officer of National Bank of Kuwait and chief information officer for Kuwait Credit Bank, has been appointed to bring in widespread change that will boost the operational efficiency of the country’s financial institutions. Al Usaimi has been at the Central Bank of Kuwait since July, and is relishing the opportunity to transform the Central Bank’s approach to technology, and the way that the country’s financial institutions are powered by IT systems. The Central Bank of Kuwait’s (CBK) responsibilities range from setting and implementing monetary policies, to the regulation and supervision of banking activities. CBK is the main financial advisor and

banker to the Kuwaiti government, and began its operations in 1969. The organisation is now tasked with maintaining the stability of the Kuwaiti Dinar, and directing credit policy in a bid to contribute to the “social and

We’ll be making a huge investment in analytics and big data.

economic progress” of the country, and to enhance national income. “The Central Bank is the regulator responsible for implementing stable systems and financial policies,” Al Usaimi says. “It needs to control the economy in relation to inflation and ensure it does not overheat. We have multiple controls, and we require data that flows in to help make these decisions.” Al Usaimi is in no doubt that central banks across the world need to rethink their processes in the digital age. “It’s time for regulators to adapt,” he says. “Across the world, central banks will definitely become more empowered with the right information in a timely manner. The economic effects could be far-reaching, and allow for economies to be controlled in a more innovative and timely way. OCTOBER 2018



Central Bank of Kuwait

Regulators have been adopting technology, but in terms of analytics they have been slow. There are now the right tools on the market that really cater for central banks.” A key part of this transformation, Al Usaimi says, will be the support from the Central Bank’s leadership. “The governor of the Central Bank is very technically savvy and is determined to support initiatives and make sure they are pushed forward,” he says. Al Usaimi has worked with internal stakeholders to develop a strategy to “automate and overhaul” the Central Bank of Kuwait over the next three years. “The most important thing is to remain ahead of the curve,” he says. “You have to work in parallel with market trends to ensure that you remain innovative, and can do things differently. Dollars and cents are not your target when you’re in charge of digitalisation. But neither is it a role driven by bits and bytes.” His main task in the new role is formulating a strategy to digitalise the Central Bank. “It’s no longer feasible to do things manually at the Central Bank, to conduct evaluations in that way,” he says. “Systems need to be smart enough to cope with the digital age. It will be a drastic change. Investing in human capital is a number one priority. Having a figure in charge of digital strategy is a must in order to deliver change; it’s no longer a nice-to-have position. Every entity must have a CDO. It’s happening across the board in GCC countries. There now specific positions and departments for data, Fintech. You can no longer rely solely on previous organisational structures. Specialist departments must be created for this transformation or we will end up sticking with old skills and tactics.” At the core of this strategy will be systems that can help the Central Bank to gain a smoother, faster understanding of information. 24


Communication, information exchange and efficiency need to improve between banks and the Central Bank.

“We’ll be making a huge investment in analytics and big data,” he says. “We’re in the process of deploying analytics solutions, and will move away from paper assets. It will change our way of doing things to move forward. We need to analyse data thoroughly in order to make the right decisions. It’s the only way to have the best possible supervision of Kuwaiti financial institutions.” This investment in analytics will also affect a number of other core processes, including the ways that the Central Bank interacts with other entities. “CBK needs to take into account the privacy of account holders,” Al Usaimi says. “We need to ensure the anonymity of account holders, so data needs to be in a format that ensures that is the case, and that’s another key reason why we need the right big data and analytics platform. We also need big data to reduce expenses. Information affects interest rates, so we need to make sure we receive information from banks in a timely manner. The current process is not data-driven, so communication, information exchange

and efficiency need to improve between banks and the Central Bank.” Al Usaimi adds that artificial intelligence and Blockchain will be “key pillars” in the Central Bank’s future. “There will be a huge investment from us in AI,” he says. “In terms of Blockchain, there will be some applications and processes that will have use cases for it.” Other technologies will also play a key part in its new strategy. According to Al Usaimi, there are now about 60 Fintech firms in the country, 52 of them specialising in bill collection, while there are also five e-wallet specialists. “We need to accommodate the new influx of Fintech in the country, and how we can automate the supervision of the country’s financial institutions,” he says. “Kuwait has seen a recent Fintech phenomenon; it’s exploding.” Along with the rise of emerging technologies, Al Usaimi is a firm believer in the need to support Kuwait’s young people in the country’s bid to develop new skills in the digital age. “We need to connect with the youth to ensure they undertake the right kind of technology initiatives,” he says. “They’re very tech-savvy but need to be guided in order to make sure they make the most of their potential. The region’s population is growing, and is increasingly comprising young people. They are less and less interested in face-to-face communication, and that should be a key driver for digitalisation.” By the same token, Al Usaimi unequivocally believes that a digital organisation must practice what it preaches, and have digital natives at its core. “It’s not just a case of hiring them, but also the way you treat them,” he says. “The most important thing for the young generation today is being valued. Programmes that show that they are valued are important. That’s really the only way we can build a digital future.”








Arab Jordan Investment Bank

JORDANIAN BANK BECOMES REGIONAL BLOCKCHAIN LEADER Determined to deliver disruptive technologies to continually enhance its levels of customer service, Arab Jordan Investment Bank has successfully deployed a Blockchain-based platform for cross-border fund transfer that has cut costs and eliminated third parties.


ordan’s leading investment and commercial bank has become one of the Middle East’s Blockchain success stories after implementing an early adopter version of the Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service. The new service launched by the tech giant has now been made generally available, and has allowed Arab Jordan Investment Bank to make electronic fund transfers simpler by reducing cost, increasing efficiency and security levels and delivering a much-improved customer experience. IDC estimates that total spending on Blockchain in the Middle East and Africa will reach $307 million in 2021, with the public sector, financial services and distribution industries expected to emerge as the top three sectors that will adopt the technology. 26


IDC also suggests that crossborder payment and settlements, assets, goods and identity management will be the top three use cases of Blockchain in 2021. Arab Jordan Investment Bank CIO Ayman Qadoumi, along with the firm's chairman, board and top management, began to consider Blockchain “in early 2017”, and explored vendors that the firm could partner with to deliver a solution. An innovation-minded technology leader, Qadoumi has always been determined to think outside the box in order to enhance AJIB’s value proposition. “It’s important for those who want to maintain or increase their position in the market to be innovative and enhance their digital channels,” he says. “We always want to look for new solutions in order to do this. There’s now a whole new landscape in terms of

customer demand and requirements; their expectations have gone up a level. We need to offer them something different to ensure that we retain their loyalty, and that we’re beating our competitors. It’s so important to improve the customer experience and the efficiency of their journey.” Having evaluated use cases for how Blockchain could be successfully deployed with the biggest possible benefit across the bank, Qadoumi and AJIB decided that the process of cross-border funds transfer was ripe for disruption. Traditionally, the method of sending money between different banks and jurisdictions relies on third party intermediaries, who, by their very nature, ensure that the process is never instant. “This costs banks and customers more money and time, and transfers typically take 2-3 days,” Qadoumi says. “Blockchain can eliminate that that cost

and time, and makes the whole process more efficient.” Eager to get the ball rolling, Qadoumi began discussions with big tech players in order to find a partner that could help to fulfill AJIB’s Blockchain ambitions. “We contacted Oracle, who showed a lot of interest in our various use cases for Blockchain,” Qadoumi says. “They supported our plan and we decided to become an early adopter by opting for their platform.” AJIB set the wheels in motion on a POC for a Blockchain-based platform that could deliver cross-border bank transfers. AJIB’s initial use case would see the bank delivering fund transfers from its Amman headquarters to its Cyprus subsidiaries. AJIB worked with its partners, including core banking system provider ICSFS, to prepare a transfer environment between the two countries, and delivered the necessary middleware and integration layer between the Blockchain and AJIB’s core banking systems. After completing successful tests on the service, it now runs between AJIB’s headquarters in Amman and its Cyprus subsidiaries, but is yet to go public pending regulator approval. The firm plans to roll the system out to other banks and countries in the “near future” once approved. “For us, the main benefit of using Blockchain is reducing operational cost,” Qadoumi says. “It’s also increased efficiency and delivered real-time banking services to our customers, and has eliminated the costs of third parties. “Oracle’s Blockchain platform has helped us minimise the complexity of electronic fund transfers by increasing security levels and ultimately improving the overall customer experience,” Qadoumi says. “If you have a son or daughter in Cyprus and want to send them money, it would usually take 2-3 days to make that transfer, but by using Blockchain it’s now instant,” he says. “The impact on

Blockchain’s impact on the customer will be marked.

Arab Jordan Investment Bank CIO Ayman Qadoumi




Arab Jordan Investment Bank

We need to offer customers something different to ensure that we retain their loyalty, and that we’re beating our competitors.

the customer will be marked.” He adds that the technical features of the platform have made it easy for AJIB to develop other services around Blockchain. “The built-in features such as identity management and data encryption made it an ideal choice given our industry requirements and compliance needs,” he says. The REST APIs helped us and our partner to accelerate application development and integration with existing core services.” AJIB has now transformed the process of fund transfer, which is linked to smart contracts that can be used within Blockchain, Qadoumi is also satisfied with the increased levels of IT security that the changes will bring. “Security is one of our main concerns and challenges,” Qadoumi says. “Blockchain will give us higher levels of security, but compliance is also a major challenge. 28


The compliance component we use in our Blockchain platform is automated and integrated, so we’ve been able to meet the necessary standards.” Qadoumi adds that AJIB has also held productive discussions with Jordan’s Central Bank to find ways that the firm can match up to necessary national banking standards. “We’ve discussed this use case with the regulator, and we are in advanced discussions with them to continue in this area,” he says. “It’s a big change in terms of banking, which is a highly regulated environment. Any change must meet a lot of regulator requirements. We’ve managed to overcome this challenge by achieving their requirements where we can.” Looking ahead, Qadoumi believes there are a range of other disruptive technologies and trends that AJIB could incorporate in its continuous bid to be one of the Middle East’s most innovative

banks. “The Fintech space has become so broad, and we’re exploring a lot of these technologies to extend our digital transformation roadmap,” Qadoumi says. “We’ve also got AI and big data technologies in mind, with more services and use cases based on the Blockchain. Looking forward, I’m hoping we’ll be one of the most digitally transformed banks in the region.” The Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service has already been adopted by a number of global organisations, including CargoSmart, Certified Origins, Indian Oil, Intellipost, MTO, Neurosoft, Nigeria Customs, Sofbang, Solar Site Design and TradeFin. Oracle has made it a priority to offer an easier way to adopt blockchain and transform an enterprise with the industry’s “most comprehensive, autonomous and enterprise-grade” Blockchain cloud service. Oracle Autonomous Blockchain Cloud Service securely extends business processes and applications while enabling the business to process transactions much faster, according to the firm.


Come and meet the most promising software & hardware French companies in Hall 4 For more information, contact : Caroline GINOUX Project Manager Christelle PEYRAN Trade advisor Miryem OUKAS-MESSIDI Communication Manager





CITY UNIVERSITY COLLEGE AJMAN DELIVERS AGILE CAMPUS WITH HUAWEI City University College Ajman partnered with Huawei to integrate, upgrade, and scale its existing IT infrastructure to meet its current and future needs, and has been delighted with the results.


ity University College Ajman (CUCA) was opened in 2012, and is one of the city’s most prominent educational institutions. The university currently has 200 employees and 2,000 students, and also offers 15 programmes in Bachelors and Masters degrees. Earlier in April this year, the ruler of Ajman inaugurated a major milestone for the university – the opening of CUCA’s new state-of-the-art campus. The first phase of the campus, comprising a land area of 1 million



sq. ft., was completed in 2017 and opened doors to students in January for the spring semester. The new campus, which cost AED 200 million, has some of the most state-ofthe-art equipment from high tech classrooms to computers, media labs, a student centre, TV studio, library and sporting facilities. Objectives CUCA was in need of a strong ICT player who had the capability to

integrate, upgrade, and scale the existing IT infrastructure to meet the current and future needs of the university. Huawei presented their offerings to CUCA, and after reviewing several ICT players, CUCA decided to award the project to Huawei. Solution Huawei collaborated with CUCA and implemented their industryleading end-to-end Agile Education Campus solution as well as a number

of complimenting solutions such as campus agile switches with native access controller, agile controller, and eSight. Huawei’s Agile Education Campus is an industry-leading solution that is convergent, advanced, and easy to manage. The solution deployed across the new campus supports wired and wireless access and uses high-density access points for complete coverage. Intelligent fault detection and fault location capabilities significantly shorten network fault recovery time and simplify network management and service deployment. The solution also accommodates future network expansion requirements – something that CUCA was in need of. Additionally, the solution allows for the infrastructure to be easily built and programmed around the specific needs of the campus. IT managers maintaining the network are able to respond to requirements on-demand. In addition, the power of scalability enables future expansion plans. Results Some of the major advantages that have resulted include more unified and coordinated communication. The network now allows for seamless communication across different

We chose Huawei because of their approach, and strategy for the education industry. Imran Khan, President of City University College of Ajman departments in the same campus. Optimised operational costs - IT managers do not need to physically deal with each component of IT at different locations but enjoy a holistic view of the entire ICT infrastructure from a single pane. Consequently, this has drastically optimised OPEX as well as total cost of ownership. Comprehensive security was key.

Access to websites or social media platforms that may be considered inappropriate can now be monitored. With the help of next-gen firewalls, authentication systems, intrusion prevention systems, anti-virus and anti-spam software, Huawei allows access to secured communication and information without compromising the quality of the user experience. Customer testimonial “While the solution in itself is highly reliable, we chose Huawei because of their approach, and strategy for the education industry,” Imran Khan, president of City University College of Ajman, said. “We had several players to choose from; however when we took costs, timeline of delivery, and quality of service into account, Huawei seemed to be the ideal choice. “City University College of Ajman is responsible for delivering top standards of learning and education to a whole new generation. Thanks to Huawei’s global expertise, they understood our needs and their customised education solution properly addresses our requirements. We truly believe we have an ideal choice in choosing our ICT partner and we look forward to the next phases of our project.”




Digital Estonia

WHY ESTONIA IS THE WORLD’S MOST DIGITISED COUNTRY Estonia is an unlikely candidate for the world’s most tech-savvy nation. With a population of 1.3 million, the Baltic state began its digital journey over two decades ago and has established a platform where all government services are digitally processed. Siim Sikkut, the CIO of the government of Estonia, tells CNME how GCC countries can follow Estonia’s example.




-Estonia, in the making since 1997, has transformed the nation into a digital republic. After experimenting with various strategies, and gradually gaining the trust of its people, the country has achieved what other countries can only dream of. The success of e-Estonia is already visible. Estonia has deployed blockchain technology into its documentation process, allowed driverless technology to be easily tested and implemented, while all necessary services

including voting, healthcare, and even the country’s justice system are all digitised. Siim Sikkut has been the Estonian government’s CIO since March 2017, and previously worked as a digital policy adviser to the government for five years, where he was one of the founders of the e-residency programme and helped to author the Estonian Digital Agenda 2020. Sikkut was in Dubai recently speaking at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech MENA conference, and told Joseph George how the success of e-Estonia has been possible.

How did the Estonian government embark on this digital transformation? The journey was part of a conscious decision that our leadership took almost two decades ago. Our people wanted welfare benefits and our government wanted to keep taxes low. Achieving both with limited resources was a challenge. That’s when the government decided to experiment with ways to limit expenses. The internet was still taking off in the nineties.




Digital Estonia

Our leadership developed a strategy and responded politically and administratively, steering it with a top-down approach. It requires a great level of commitment to plan things, implement them and ensure that results are delivered. We need to realise that transformation is not so much about technology, but about changing people’s lives. How did the government manage initial public concern about these changes? Two key natural concerns were about the issue of privacy and security. We had to make sure that we had credible security and proper safeguards in order to secure the system. There was also an initial resistance to change. Handling this was crucial. Fundamental to the project’s success was our ability to provide solutions to existing problems, reassurances to the public and installing proper legislation.

It was important that people had access to their data but could also monitor who had accessed it.



e-Governance According to government data, 99% of public services are now available to citizens as e-services.     e-Tax   Around “95%” of all tax declarations in the country are filed electronically, and it takes three minutes to file tax returns online.    X-Road  X-Road allows the nation’s various public and private sector e-Service databases to link up. To ensure secure transfers, all outgoing data from X-Road is digitally signed and encrypted, and all incoming data is authenticated and logged. Allows data to be automatically exchanged between countries.     Digital ID  Today, every one of Estonia’s 1.3 million citizens has an ID card, which provides digital access to all e-services. The ID card’s chip carries embedded files, and uses 2048-bit public key encryption.   I-Voting  Estonia was the first nation in history to offer internet voting

in a nationwide election in 2005. During a designated pre-voting period, voters log on to the system using an ID-card or Mobile-ID, and cast their ballot. The voter’s identity is removed from the ballot before it reaches the National Electoral Commission for counting.   Blockchain  The Estonian government has been testing the Blockchain technology since 2008. Since 2012, blockchain has been in operational use in Estonia’s registries, such as national health, judicial, legislative, security and commercial code systems, with plans to extend its use to other spheres such as personal medicine, cyber security and data embassies.    e-Health  The e-Health Record project was initiated in 2008 and integrates data from different healthcare providers to create a common record that every patient can access online. Today, over 95% of the data generated by hospitals and doctors has been digitised, and is protected by blockchain.


Digital Estonia

We created different ways to make sure that concerns around security and data could be alleviated. It was important that people had access to their data but could also monitor who all had accessed it. For example, every citizen can log in and find out who last viewed their health record. These small measures go a long way in creating trust. Legislation plays a key role, especially in Estonia where there is a strong rule of law. We built up very strong data protection legislation. We created features within our legislation where people had the right to know. Again, that’s where the leadership plays a crucial role. There was a willingness to try out new things, even with issues that hadn’t been tried out before such as online voting. People around the world said we were crazy. It was the same when we went live with the offer of e-residency in 2014. Nobody had done this, but our government tried it out and today it is an active programme. Our willingness to experiment and take risks has been a key part of our success. How did you ensure you met targets and timelines? When we started off there was no digital data available, and data is crucial. The country did not have deep internet penetration and very few people had internet access. We started off by laying the fundamentals. We installed a system where users only had to input data once. We then built up shared platforms where all departments and all stakeholders, including the wider society, could use. The X-Road project - a secure data exchange - was a result of this initiative. It links individual servers through end-to-end encrypted pathways. Today, residents, public institutions, and private companies use 36


it by authenticating their e-ID. Privacy is of utmost importance, and while it allows access to authorised users, it lives locally. All other initiatives, such as e-governance, e-tax, I-voting, e-Health and e-Residency are based on this platform. How have these changes benefited the government and citizens? These digital platforms have played a major role in the development of other programmes. These are the building blocks for innovative strategies. That is where we have succeeded in making all our efforts easier, faster and cheaper. Today, citizens can do almost anything online when dealing with the government, except for getting married and selling real estate. Digital has become a natural feature of our daily life. We don’t have aggregate numbers to pinpoint the cost benefits. However, there are key indicators from every sector. Our tax administration is effective. There are no hospital queues. We have invested about 1-1.2% of our state budget into technological integration. How have you mitigate risks against these wholesale technological changes? Technology can always fail. The dangers are real. Something can crash and we can have availability issues. In 2007, Estonia was the first country to be attacked on a large scale. There was a series of service attacks that ensured that the websites were not available. But we never went down. On an hourly basis, we experience attempted cyberattacks. Our cybersecurity systems and frameworks were designed with threats in mind. We work closely with the private sector, as most of our critical services involve other providers, like banks,

telcos and utilities etc. If you manage the risks well, the benefits exceed costs. People are often suspicious of e-voting systems. Risks will always be there, but we can manage them. There are many people who thought we were crazy to introduce this system. We’ve created multiple options for voters to ensure that they vote according to their free will. A voter has a choice of either vote online or go to the booth at the last minute. In order to ensure that the voter is not coerced, we allowed the voter to re-vote online. What we cannot solve technologically, we can solve procedurally. There are several other countries that are exploring the possibility of e-voting. It’s an area where we cannot accept any risks.

We need to realise that transformation is not so much about technology, but about changing people’s lives. Can larger countries do what Estonia has done? The size of a country is an important factor. We just have less people to convince. It also depends on the complexity of governance, especially in a democratic setting. We have to make decisions to fasten the process. We were lucky. As a small place, we could take decisions faster. But it also depends on government decision-making. We had to help people, especially those who were not online. We also have done a lot of work internationally, in terms of building alliances where we can help each other in critical times. Experimentation is what I see as the way forward for other countries. I know it is easier said than done, but that’s the challenge. In Estonia, we are confident that we can manage risks at an

Siim Sikkut, CIO of the government of Estonia

acceptable level. It is important to have a credible rule of law for technology to be implemented. Legal constraints and effective implementation are key for this to succeed. People need to have trust. Without these elements, it is unimaginable. Which emerging technologies will have the biggest impact on society? Artificial intelligence makes perfect sense for us as we are always short of people. The more we can automate and rely on machines, we can free our resources to do better things. We were one of the first in

the world to adopt Blockchain back in the day. We use it for very specific purposes, especially for data integrity to ensure that the most fundamental data like health records do not get violated or tampered with without proper authorisation. With AI, the fear of joblessness is real. Existing technologies can put people out of jobs. There is a lot of thought that needs to go into reskilling the population based on future demand. It’s something I hope governments are thinking seriously about. We cannot live in a two-tier society. It has to be sustainable. OCTOBER 2018




A MATTER OF TIME Sridhar Iyer, head of Mashreq’s digital bank, Neo, explains why digital-first banks will take over from legacy ones in three years, and why understanding customers must become the industry's top priority.



Sridhar Iyer, head of Mashreq’s digital bank, Neo

It’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when.’” Sridhar Iyer, Mashreq’s head of its pureplay digital bank, Neo, is no doubt that a fundamental shift is due in the industry. “It will be two or three years before digital banks are the mainstream choice for customers. They will create new industries. If you look at customers today, it’s important to offer services at the time and place that they need them. It’s about how the customer behaves around the bank, and ways you can get partners into play.” Mashreq launched Neo in October of last year, and Iyer believes that in spite of its expected rise, it will not be a competitor to Mashreq’s traditional banking platform, but “complementary” to it. “We shouldn’t be looking at digital banks as competition to our legacy offering,” he says. “Neo is about making things simple and easy for transactions and cross-selling. Digital is a way of life. If you look at the way populations are behaving, everything is shifting to the app, and centres around the app’s use, from ordering a taxi to groceries. There’s no reason why people won’t do banking over the app. As we move forward, banking will be done in ways that are driven by lifestyle. That’s the thought process behind Neo. It’s not a proposition exclusively for millennials.” The UAE’s leading banks have been quick to act when it comes to launching digital-first or digital-only banking platforms for customers, and competition is now undoubtedly stiff for Neo. Emirates NBD and Commercial Bank of Dubai have launched their own pureplay digital banking platforms, while Dubai Holding has said it will invest AED 1 billion to launch its own digital bank. Iyer says Mashreq is seeing “25%” month-to-month OCTOBER 2018




increases in the number of customers using Neo, and believes those numbers are a sign that the bank has set out its stall in the emerging space. “I certainly don’t think the market’s saturated,” Iyer says. “The market for digital banking services is growing quite rapidly, so there’s space for all those players. I think our competitors are doing a good job. The numbers of customers they’re onboarding has been impressive. We will learn from them and vice versa.” Iyer goes on to add that Neo has a number of standout features, which he believes have the ability to differentiate it from its competitors. “Our product isn’t like that of our competition,” he says. “Through Neo, customers can use a variety of investment tools, including stock and forex trading. It’s a broader proposition. People use Neo for transfers and crossborder services, which will become part of their routine transactions. Cross-border services are inherent to customers in this country.” While Iyer acknowledges that the rate at which digital banking habits are adopted by people of different generations will differ, but the increasing rate of uptake is inevitable. “Some people will adapt sooner, and some will take a bit more time,” he says. “It’s the same with the internet, a lot of people were initially reluctant and had to take baby steps with certain propositions. That’s the way banking on apps will go. For some people it will start with small transactions, which will then shift to high value transactions such as forex.” Recent reports have shown that traditional bank tellers are now becoming higher paid in some countries, as banks begin to value the softer skills associated with human interaction. When Goldman Sachs launched its digital consumer bank, Marcus, it conducted a survey on customer 40


attitudes, which found that people prefer to find answers to their queries without assistance – until they are unable to do so. At that point, they immediately want help from a qualified banker. There’s a high tolerance for self-service until it fails, and then there’s no tolerance whatsoever. “Traditional branches will play a different role,” Iyer says. “Widespread branch transformation will be dramatic, and I believe branches will be repurposed to serve local neighbourhoods. Retail stores come in

It will be two or three years before digital banks are the mainstream choice for customers.

different shapes, and the same goes for banks. The skills needed for branches may change, but self-service branches will be more about technology.” As part of this marriage between physical and digital banks, and in a bid to deliver the best possible customer experience, Iyer is keen to learn from successful digital banking use cases from across the world. He is already impressed with the way that the Middle East region is serving its customer base. “I think in terms of customer acquisition and

on-boarding, the Middle East could learn from places like Europe,” he says. “But in terms of offering digital services, some of the best offerings in the world are based in this region. The breadth of functionalities is very good as are levels of customer uptake.” Iyer does not believe it matters that most existing digital banks do not operate exclusively on their own, separate IT infrastructures. “The question isn’t so much about whether they use legacy architecture,” he says. “It’s more about low unit costs. Looking at the huge base of customers we’ve onboarded, we need economies of scale. The question isn’t about whether we should have a separate or new system, but about delivering value for customers. We don’t believe in discussing how we can improve legacy processes – it’s about building new ones. In order to do that, you need agile partnerships with stakeholders. Mashreq has already implemented agile processes across the bank.” While Iyer believes that Mashreq needs “more investigation” before Blockchain will be adopted in the bank, he says that Mashreq is using artificial intelligence for certain processes, although perceptions around its technologies as a whole are often inaccurate. “Artificial intelligence has often been used loosely for things that don’t actually mean AI,” he says. “I don’t think that data at banks is used adequately. It needs to be used to power machine learning. Mashreq is using AI for risk prediction and formulation, and we’re an early adopter of that model.” He goes on to add that across the banking industry, more needs to be done to use data in order to truly understand what people want. “The ability to understand how customers think hasn’t been prioritised yet. Software and systems are so important to this proposition.”


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TOP OF THE CLASS Driven to deliver a hybrid cloud solution that could help to enhance its global reach, UAE education network Ankabut enlisted Huawei’s expertise.


nkabut is the United Arab Emirates’ advanced national research and education network, which offers academic institutions connectivity to other education networks around the world. Ankabut also connects schools and public institutions together across the UAE with an “effective” cost model. Ankabut represents the UAE across a range of global platforms, exhibitions, and forums. As an educational service provider, Ankabut has three major technological pillars – cloud, networks and connectivity, and managed data centres. In terms of its cloud use, Ankabut operates and connects to 80 different universities, with many more planned in the coming years. In networks and connectivity, Ankabut provides “dedicated, unconstrained” network connectivity for eligible research and educational institutions throughout the country. As an industry expert, Ankabut facilitates connectivity between countries where classes can be held in the UAE whilst being aired in real time across the world. In terms of managed services, Ankabut provides support to all aspects of IT, including network monitoring, security, backup, and disaster recovery services. 42


Organisations in the Middle East region are fast-tracking their transition to the cloud, since it is more efficient and cost effective. While Ankabut is an industry expert, its cloud infrastructure was outdated. It lacked a unified standardisation model, meaning integration between data centres was out of reach. Each of their existing cloud centres followed their own standards and operational specifics, meaning resource sharing and remote access were difficult. Additionally, Ankabut intends to provide cloud services from its premises to universities and schools that it manages, and simultaneously be able to seamlessly increase cloud capacity when needed. Solution In order to tackle these issues, Huawei recommended the Microsoft Azure Stack Hybrid Cloud Solution. This hybrid cloud service system comprises unified system, application architecture, service model, deployment profile, and operations and maintenance that deliver high levels of elasticity, agility, dynamic deployment, and cost-effectiveness. The solution provides a unified development and test system and empowers customers to elastically configure and deploy applications and services in the cloud.

Customer benefits • Unified architecture > Consistent user experience, seamless migration for applications, cloud resource sharing. • Simplified management > Integrated management software, providing full life cycle management with unified interface. • Leading performance > High capacity expansion, Huaweideveloped SSDs enable the industry’s highest performance. • Extend Azure on-premises with Azure Stack > Adopt consistent application development > Run Azure services on-premises > Improved operational excellence with purpose-built system > Enjoy cloud economics with payas-you-use model SOLUTION FEATURES • Huawei FusionServer 2288H V5 > The Huawei FusionServer 2288H V5 is a latest-generation 2U Intel Xeon dual-socket rack server. It provides flexible resource expansion capabilities as well as high computing performance. It is an ideal choice for virtualisation, Internet, big data, cloud computing, high-performance computing (HPC), and enterprise key applications.

• Huawei Cloud engine ToR switches > Huawei Cloud Engine 6800 series switches are next-generation 10G Ethernet switches designed for data centre and high end campus networks. The switches provide high-performance, high-density 10GE ports and low latency. The CE6800 hardware has an advanced architecture design with 40GE uplink ports and an industry-best 10GE access ports. • Huawei eSight management and monitoring software > eSight software is a unified network management system that provides a comprehensive view and management of all network and system resources, ensures network stability and improves O&M efficiency, In addition to unified management of devices from various vendors, topology management, fault management, performance management, a smart configuration tool, configuration file management and a simple network management protocol (SNMP) northbound interface, the eSight unified network management allows users to customise third party devices. • Expected results: > Infrastructure-as-a-Service > Azure Experience on premise > Connectivity to Azure > Speed development with consistent processes, DevOps tools, and open-source components > Common DevOps Experience Customer testimonial “We chose Huawei for a number of reasons,” said Fahem Al Nuaimi, CEO of Ankabut. “They are the only player in the region that was offering the exact hybrid cloud solution that we needed. As one of the highest spenders in research and development from around the world, Huawei has shown tremendous

Fahem Al Nuaimi, CEO of Ankabut

Huawei is the only player in the region that was offering the exact hybrid cloud solution that we needed.

amounts of innovation and creativity in their offerings. They are ahead of the game when it comes to constant upgrades of new technologies. For example, they are one of the few players in the region that supports identity defined networking. It’s not something widely seen in the market just yet. In addition to their timely delivery and execution of projects, what is key is that they have a strong focus on supporting education – which is our core area of business.” OCTOBER 2018




Saudi Business Machines


FROM VISION TO REALITY Essam Alshiha, CEO of Saudi Business Machines, tells CNME how the firm is positioned to support the Kingdom’s digital transformation and help to support the government’s ambitious Vision 2030 targets.


ive us some background on Saudi Business Machines. As Saudi Arabia’s leading provider of end-to-end enterprise information technology and telecommunications solutions, Saudi Business Machines (SBM) is the general marketing and services representative of IBM in the country, and a natural continuation of IBM’s long, rich history in the Kingdom. Today, SBM offers cutting-edge enterprise solutions across every industry, with an unrivaled portfolio of products and services in IBM systems and software, networking solutions, systems integration,

implementation, business recovery, cybersecurity and operations support. SBM offers tailored maintenance and support services for a vast range of IBM and nonIBM products. In addition to being Oracle’s Platinum Partner in Saudi Arabia , SBM is a Gold Partner to Cisco, SAP, and Microsoft in addition to various strategic partnerships with the key and major multinational IT vendors in the world. We are also, due to our continuing focus on quality, one of the first “ISO9001-2000 Certified” services organisations in Saudi Arabia, and have been since June 2001.

What kind of technologies and services do you provide and specialise in? SBM provides innovative endto-end enterprise solutions to all industries in Saudi Arabia. SBM offers services in operations support, networking, business recovery, systems integration, and implementation of the latest technologies and applications. We also offer tailored support and maintenance services for numerous IBM and non-IBM products. Our goal is to help with the overall economic growth of the Kingdom in the best way we possibly can. OCTOBER 2018



Saudi Business Machines

Why have you chosen to specialise in these areas? We understand the continuing growth of IT and the untapped potential it still has. IT is rightfully regarded as the future, as it can be and has been utilised in a number of sectors including education, health, military, communications, and more. This is what led us to specialise in areas related to operations support, systems integration, networking, and more, to help other business sectors embrace technology and be ready for the changing times. Give some examples of successful technology projects that you have delivered which demonstrate your expertise and solutions portfolio. One of the most recent success stories is at E.A. Juffali & Brothers, which demonstrates the power of IBM Mainframe (IBM Z) in innovating business processes. With SBM’s help, the organisation enjoyed seamless integration with IBM Z running SAP applications, allowing them to deliver impressive client experiences across the Middle East. We have also set up three (Tier 4) data centres and completed huge projects including CRM, ERP, integration, and billing. We have a diverse set of clients from different sectors like government, education, oil and gas, telecommunications, retail and banking. Which technologies do you believe will form the backbone of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 ambitions? With the present being the era of IoT, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is an impressive undertaking, and we are ready to offer our services in the required fields. The world around 46


us continues to see technological advancements at breakneck speeds and thus, technology, no doubt, will be one key drivers of the numerous changes mentioned in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Essentially, technologies that make digitisation possible are needed to meet the ambitions of the vision because digitisztion will have a central role in achieving the vision’s milestones related to diversifying the Kingdom’s economy, and developing public service sectors including health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism. Digitisation

Technology will be a key driver of the numerous changes mentioned in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

is the future, and we strive to be at the forefront of driving the change. At the same time, robots and AI will also play an essential role as more and more processes start to become digitised. With the world being more connected, big data and analytics will help to uncover information including hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends and

customer preferences that can help organisations make informed business decisions. For this reason, efficient cybersecurity and Blockchain will also be crucial to protect enterprises against unauthorised access to data centres and other computerised systems.

What part are you playing in Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation? We understand the needs for Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation and are working on being at the forefront of upcoming changes. We are already playing a role in digital transformation through the services we offer. For one, we provide advice to those companies looking to contribute to the country’s digital transformation. At the same time, our services like integration, as well as IBM software all work towards digital transformation and reaching the Vision’s goals for a better future. As a platform offering business-related advice as well, we know the importance of human capital in achieving the goals set forth by Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation. The Kingdom can’t be a major player in technological change (even those yet to come) without a task force that is able to meet challenges head-on. Manpower is an essential asset, and heavy investment in local talent is a must if we want to see Saudi Arabia being self-sufficient in the future. That is why SBM knows how to empower Saudi talents, giving them the tools, skills, and advice necessary for them to be prepared for the future and be the ones in charge. Digital transformation is essential, and SBM is playing its part in teaching local talents to help the Kingdom continue to be a major force on the global scale.

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What are the next technological steps that public and private organisations in Saudi Arabia must take in order to fulfill their digital transformation ambitions? While all of this does sound very interesting, organisations should understand that digital transformation requires time and commitment. It is important to understand the resources that are required to fulfill the digital transformation ambitions of public and private organisations. It needs time, commitment and passion to achieving set goals, as well as the financial capabilities to bring the desired changes to fruition. Also, most importantly, the need of manpower can’t be stressed enough. Organisations need welltrained employees to take on the responsibilities of doing the required work to achieve certain goals. To make Saudi Arabia selfsufficient, empowering local talent is critical. Investing in local talent not only gives locals employment but also shows the community that organisations see their potential and are here to offer them a platform to learn new skills and make their lives better. 48


To put it simply, the process can be divided into three stages; they first need to define their values and secure their investment. In the second stage, organisations must launch their digital transformation, starting with lighthouse projects and then slowly work on nurturing a digital culture. Finally, in the last stage of the digital transformation process, organisations must focus on scaling up and build their capabilities further. This also includes having trained manpower. SBM welcomes organisations that are in need of advice or certain services that we provide to help them become part of the digital transformation of the Kingdom. Do you think the Saudi government’s approach towards technology has changed in the recent years and will benefit the country? Absolutely The government now encourages the development of new and innovative technologies to assist in the country’s development. The Kingdom is serious about the Saudi Vision 2030 plan, and this is mirrored in how the government’s approach has changed. A number

We understand the needs for Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation and are working on being at the forefront of upcoming changes.

of projects are expected to be developed in the Kingdom by 2030 covering entertainment, education, health, military and other sectors. All of this is being done to lessen the dependency on oil, and with conviction, we are sure to see the milestones met. Such ambition will definitely benefit the country as the opportunities and innovations that are possible with technology are endless and SBM is able to offer their services when required.

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UAE Central Bank

THE ARCHITECT Reem Alsuwaidi, the UAE Central Bank’s senior manager of IT architecture, services and financial control within the IT team, tells CNME about her role and career aspirations.




ell us about your background. What projects are you currently working on? I have a master’s degree in computer science from Abu Dhabi University, and I’m currently studying for my PhD. At the Central Bank, we aim to provide the most effective and innovative technology solutions to enable the UAE to become one of the most advanced economies in the world. Technology is a key strategic enabler and is critical for maintaining the stability and performance of our economy. My career in enterprise architecture stems from my passion for computer science, maths and science. Enterprise architecture is the methodology by which an organisation achieves its objectives in the best possible way. It involves the alignment between data, applications, technology, and business processes. To achieve this, we make sure that our strategy is aligned with our objectives, using the right applications, storing and accessing the right data, while deployed on an optimum infrastructure to achieve the best results. It is like building a house – my job is to make sure that this house is designed in a way that will be optimum for the current and next generation with no unnecessary additional expense.

Why did you choose to work at the Central Bank of the UAE? I decided to work at CBUAE to make a difference to the country. CBUAE is one of the UAE’s top institutions that aims to foster growth, innovation and stability and enable the UAE to become a regional and global financial centre. I come from a banking background and I aim to implement efficiency

initiatives that could really benefit the financial sector. Working at CBUAE is great for many reasons, but the most important one for me is the people. At the end of the day, it’s a place where I spend eight hours or more a day, so working with people that I can communicate with is essential not only for my professional goals but also for my well being and emotional goals. It is very important to work in a healthy and motivational environment and in that respect CBUAE is like a family. Have you introduced any new initiatives at work or tried to encourage new ways of working? I have introduced a couple of architectural, procedural and technological initiatives which have led to

Reem Alsuwaidi, the UAE Central Bank’s senior manager of IT architecture




UAE Central Bank

secure performance enhancements in several areas of the financial sector. I believe one area in which I have had a big impact is people capacity building. Even if you have the best applications in the world, you cannot run them unless you have people with the right skills to do so and you need to have highly effective levels of communication between teams. I have spent a lot of time building competency levels, introducing effective communication principles and team building. What are the main challenges you have faced during your career and how have you overcome them? One of the main challenges I faced in my professional life is being an Emirati woman in a sector typically dominated by men. Another challenge has been being a working mother while trying to complete my masters and PhD. I have managed to overcome these challenges and obstacles by having a very supportive family who have assisted me all the way. What advice would you give to the next generation of Emirati women? It’s so important that you’re happy with what you’re doing. For example, I am currently doing my PhD in bioinformatics, which is a different field from enterprise architecture. However, I chose this subject because of my passion for learning about new and innovative subjects. The key is to make connections so that you can successfully apply what you have learned in your studies at work. My advice is to always expand your knowledge and find ways that you can apply that knowledge in other areas of your life. Always try to learn something new every day and apply it to whatever you’re doing. 52


Technology is a key strategic enabler and is critical for maintaining the stability and performance of our economy.

Tell us about the Central Bank’s initiatives to develop UAE youths and nationals, and how they have benefited you? CBUAE proactively invests in talent, training and capacity building for new and existing employees. At the Central Bank I was perceived as a talent with a high caliber, and so I was able to become engaged in multiple programs that have really added to my skillset. Who has most influenced you and contributed to your career development? One of my managers in a previous role supported my professional development, especially as an Emirati woman giving me lots of exposure and responsibility early on. This included support in terms of coaching, as well as communicating directly with international vendors to enhance and manage complicated live systems. From the beginning, a lot of trust and expectation was put on me and I knew I had to rise to the challenge. This allowed me to develop my technical capabilities

quickly and to a very high standard, something which will stay with me for life. What was the last book you read? ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell. I love how the author goes through all the statistics to draw out a valid scientific analysis for outliers. If you were to write an autobiography what would the title be and why? “The happy element”. Because I am in control of my own happiness, I am the “the happy element”. I believe that we put up barriers in our minds that are based on assumptions about our communities or people we know, and these have a negative impact on our progress. Usually, Emirati women will refrain from taking certain actions because they are fearful of the reaction they will get from the community or their family. Families and communities are now more supportive than people think, and my advice is to refrain from creating those barriers and to always surround yourself with positive people.


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A10 Networks CEO Lee Chen

A10 Networks CEO Lee Chen



A10 CEO: IT SECURITY LIKE HEALTH INSURANCE A10 Networks CEO Lee Chen recently visited the Middle East to gain a better understanding of local customer needs, and told CNME why regional investment will be a major priority going forward.

L This region is moving to the next phase of digitalisation, and critical infrastructure is key in that shift.

ee Chen has been on a global tour that has taken in South East Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and is keen to ensure he can understand the nuances of each market that A10 services across the world. “My visit to the Middle East is largely to help to introduce A10, and so that we can have face-to-face meetings that help us to listen to customers in order to get a better understanding of them,” he says. A10, the application delivery controller and DDoS prevention specialist, has seen increased demand for its services following a number of high-profile global cyber-attacks, and Chen says the firm is bidding to understand local customers’ concerns. “The key objective is to listen to customers who entrust us with protecting their

business. We want to invest more in this region as a result of what we’ve learned on this visit. We’re looking to build strong a foundation here. We’ve seen a lot of growth over the last two years, so we plan to prioritise what customers want. To be successful, you need to treat your customers as key partners in order to create a winwin situation.” It’s clear from the way Chen speaks of the Middle East that he has been charmed by its huge level of ambition. He says that one of the key takeaways from his visit has been understanding the influence of the GCC’s governments in setting the agenda for technological change. “I’ve learned a lot about the region’s expectations,” he says. “It’s important that we have a local voice to provide the right types of professional services. In the US, the enterprise OCTOBER 2018



A10 Networks CEO Lee Chen

private sector tends to drive innovation, whereas in the Middle East it’s the opposite - governments are dominant pushing change. This region is moving to the next phase of digitalisation, and critical infrastructure is playing a key role in that shift.” Chen is clearly mindful that A10 deploys the necessary skills and resources in the region to ensure that the firm can do justice to a market that shows increasing promise. “We want to build a local voice and foundation,” he says. “Although the Middle East region may be lacking in terms of having the right skills, it’s very ambitious. It’s crucial that we build a strong technical support centre for quicker response times. Chen is keen to emulate A10’s technical support centre in California, which has set the tone for the way it helps to ensure customer satisfaction. “We don’t necessarily want to duplicate what we’ve got in California, but having something similar in the Middle East would be good.” The next big trend in IT security, according to Chen, will be the global roll out of commercial 5G networks. He believes the ensuing complexity and breadth of services that will be launched as a result will inevitably create opportunities for cybercrime. “Tomorrow is about 5G,” he says. “The world is moving to it. It opens up windows for a lot more for attacks. Protecting 5G networks effectively will be a major concern. Right now, everything is fine and dandy, but there will be a lot of issues going forward. With 5G, there will be more types of applications, and with everything moving to the cloud and the proliferation of IoT and bigger bandwidth, attacks will be taking place on a wider scale.” 56


In the US, the private sector tends to drive innovation, whereas in the Middle East it’s the opposite. While damaging, large-scale cyberattacks on critical infrastructure have increasingly begun to crop up in recent years, Chen believes no measures go far enough to ensure levels of defence are adequate enough to combat malicious actors intent on taking down necessary public services. “You can never say that you’ve invested sufficiently in cybersecurity,” he said. “I don’t believe the problem is a lack of awareness, but about how you effectively protect critical infrastructure assets with the right type of protection.” Chen believes that security vendors have a crucial role to play as partners to enterprises and governments, providing necessary skills that are in short supply in-house. “Security isn’t about finding a cure-all solution, but employing a trusted partner that means you aren’t settling for less,” he says. “We see security like health insurance - you need to put an appropriate budget into security. When

customers pick a vendor, they have to look at ease of use and the ability to automate. We’re convinced that more than 95% of customers don’t have the expertise to handle all sorts of technical issues. They need behavioural analysis. They need a platform and vendor they can grow with. Almost all of our customers select A10 with the intention of only using one solution, and they end up expanding into multiple solutions. We offer a platform that’s scalable, high-performing, and is all API-driven. Our solutions easily hook into third parties. We’re the only DDoS vendor powering the Microsoft Cloud.” Chen adds that “serverless security and analytics” will be some of A10’s biggest initiatives going forward. “It’s about understanding that if you have no visibility over your network, you have no control,” he says. “Customers need to leverage their data effectively. You need to have policies in places to protect applications, and a multi-layer approach to protect your network. There’s no one solution for all, and someone could breach you at any level.” He adds that he believes the firm has taken a different approach to its competitors. “I look at F5, and we’re moving more to security, 5G and analytics. Our solutions are more multicloud, and our platform is very open.” Cryptocurrency “has its mystiques” according to Chen, and are a trend that could be exploited by cybercriminals, he says. “They tend to be less transparent, and they don’t share information,” he says. “The way they operate could create significant issues. Crypto exchanges are an easy target for DDoS attacks, and if you bring down an exchange that can have far-reaching consequences. North Korea’s attack on a South Korean exchange earlier this year cost almost $16 million, and that shows how easily damage can be inflicted.”



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HOW IBM IS AIMING TO ERADICATE “DATA BIAS” FROM AI Much like human beings, AI is inherently biased in the way it interprets information. IBM believes it has found at a way to ensure data is trustworthy and transparent.



Most AI models are more like black boxes. Data goes into the black box, and even data scientists struggle to explain how they reach conclusions.” IBM’s artificial intelligence leader Tarek Saeed believes Big Blue now has the answer to some of AI’s most confusing aspects. “We’ve provided an ability to explain why a model comes up with results,” he says. “This is critical for different industries.” IBM has introduced technology that provides increased transparency into AI – a software service that automatically detects bias and explains how AI makes decisions as they are being made, which runs on the IBM Cloud. The “fully automated” software service explains decisionmaking and detects bias in AI models at runtime, capturing potentially unfair outcomes as they occur. Importantly, it also automatically recommends data to add to the model to help mitigate any bias it has detected. Saeed works with the worldwide team at IBM to help progress ideas from global research to the Middle East, as well as working with the firm’s

local practice that helps clients to build roadmaps and POCs around AI. “IBM started focusing on AI research in 2006,” he says. “We looked at its first application through Watson in healthcare, and we commercialised it in 2014. Even then. we faced challenges, and at that stage, people were not

really talking about AI. Applying this new technology wasn’t something that had been done before.” However, these early challenges proved to be an important learning experience. “The main benefit that we got from that is that we learned a lot quickly, and it gave

IBM’s artificial intelligence leader Tarek Saeed





us the opportunity to improve our AI capabilities, and that has given us a big advantage,” Saeed says. “It’s not just about technology – implementing and maintaining AI in a sustainable fashion is as big a challenge.” IBM’s new Trust and Transparency capabilities work with models built from a variety of machine learning frameworks and AI-build environments such as Watson, Tensorflow, SparkML, AWS SageMaker, and AzureML, enabling the monitoring of decision factors of “any business workflow”. “The biggest challenge with AI and machine learning is detecting things like bias and ensuring that outcomes and results from different models are not biased,” Saeed says. “Data inherently has bias. For example, when you try to apply for bank loan, data focuses on factors like age groups. A customer may not be part of a desirable loan group. It could also focus on minorities. The trick is to have technology, tooling or capabilities to address these flaws.” Explanations within Trust and Transparency show which factors have weighted AI-driven decisions in one direction as opposed to another, as well as the confidence in the recommendation, and the factors behind that confidence. The records of the model’s accuracy, performance and fairness, and the lineage of the AI systems, are traced and recalled for customer service, regulatory or compliance reasons. The developments come on the back of new research by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, which has revealed that while 82% of enterprises and 93% of “high-performing enterprises” are considering AI deployments, 60% 60


fear liability issues and 63% lack the in-house talent to confidently manage the technology. According to the Value AI 2018 Report, there is a significant shift underway in how business leaders look at AI’s potential to drive business value and revenue growth. CEO’s interviewed in the study believe the greatest value in AI adoption to be in IT, information security, innovation, customer service, and risk management.

Data goes into the black box, and even data scientists struggle to explain how they reach conclusions.

Saeed believes there are already several clear use cases for the Trust and Transparency technology, and healthcare is one such industry where he believes transparency around AIdriven decisions will be essential. “If AI is used to help give a doctor advice, the doctor needs to explain how the diagnosis has been reached,” he says. “You need to be able to check the viability of models and predictions as they are being deployed.” He also cites the way that IBM has used AI in attempting to predict outcomes of crime, but again, this has encountered issues with trust. “We’ve done this in some US precincts, but

the data bias focuses more on areas with minorities,” he says. “Bias is embedded in society and we want to remove that. We need the tools, technology and capabilities to ensure we actively address that. Otherwise, bias will remain in the data.” According to Saeed, given AI’s relative immaturity in the enterprise, it is important to ensure that the appropriate support services are on offer to ensure its successful delivery. That thinking is also a contributing factor in the firm’s decision to create tools for the open source community that can help to accelerate the pace of AI development. “Most organisations are looking to move from the AI experimentation to deployment phase,” Saeed says. “IBM foresees a lot of challenges when they reach this stage.” IBM’s research division will release an AI bias detection and mitigation toolkit into the open source community. The AI Fairness 360 toolkit – a library of algorithms, code and tutorials aims to give academics, researchers, and data scientists the tools and knowledge to integrate bias detection as they build and deploy machine learning models. While other open-source resources have focused solely on checking for bias in training data, the AI Fairness 360 toolkit will help check for and mitigate bias in AI models. Beyond the issues of trust and transparency, Saeed believes there are two major issues that must be resolved with AI. “Data and its readiness for AI is the main issue,” he says. “AI is like a car – data is its gas. Data is a challenge, both in its quality and completeness. Organisations now have the opportunity to initiate a data transformation. The other challenge is talent. It’s about upskilling young people to understand and use the technology.”

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“OUR GCC DATA CENTRES ARE A BIG DEAL” Gergi Abboud, senior vice president and general manager, SAP Middle East south believes the firm is now in a position to dominate regional public cloud.

Gergi Abboud, senior vice president and general manager, SAP Middle East south




AP’s regional head has heaped praise on the company for becoming the first global technology company to boast data centres in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and said that the German firm’s board has made the Middle East a high-priority market. Gergi Abboud, senior vice president and general manager, SAP Middle East south, told tahawultech. com that the firm now believes it has carved out an opportunity to capitalise on the region’s appetite for public cloud. In May, SAP became the first global technology company to go live with a public cloud data centre in Saudi Arabia, as part of a four-year SAR 285 million Saudi investment plan. That data centre is part of the wider Digital Hub, which includes an open platform supporting entrepreneurship and co-innovation with customers. Three months later, SAP announced the opening of its first cloud data centre in the UAE, as part of its five-year, $200 million investment plan for the UAE. The move put the firm among the first multinational technology companies to open a cloud data centre in the country. The facilities will allow UAE organisations to subscribe to SAP’s cloud solutions across 25 industries. SAP’s Cloud Platform is now live to support customers, together with its Ariba procurement software, C/4 HANA customer relationship suite, HANA in-memory platform, S/4HANA real-time suite, as well as the SuccessFactors human resources management system. “We’re the first and only business applications firm with a cloud data centre in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and we’re very proud of this investment,” he said. “It’s a big deal for us and our clients, and is the first time that they’ll have the opportunity to choose between not compromising

data sovereignty or data speed. We believe that we’ll be a major change agent in this market, in bringing public cloud to the region, and that public cloud will be the future of the region, and will deliver automation with intelligence embedded in applications. “It’s much more practical to build your business on cloud rather than using your own private data centre. They now have the option to host their data in-country.” In the Middle East and North Africa, more than 60% of all companies, and about 75% of digital leaders, will invest in the cloud until 2019, according to a recent SAP and Oxford Economics Digital Transformation Executive Study. Abboud could not pinpoint any single factor as to why SAP’s bluechip competitors had already stalled on plans to launch regional data centres. “Launching data centres is complex, and I don’t have insight on why our competitors might delay their execution,” he said. “SAP’s global teams have supported us to overcome hurdles to make our public cloud meet the global standards of our operation.” Abboud is in no doubt that SAP’s most senior figures have made the

We’re the first and only business applications firm with a cloud data centre in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Middle East a priority region for the firm, and that their involvement was crucial in enabling the data centres to go live. “The region is already visible to our board,” he said. “Our global CFO is the sponsor of our local data centres in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and our CEO Bill McDermott spoke at this year’s World Government Summit and regularly visits the Middle East. They’ve been very supportive at a global level to what we’ve asked locally, and more so than global leadership teams in other tech companies. It shows that they not only see potential here, but also the appetite for innovation and governments that want to leverage technology as an enabler to jumpstart and diversify their economies.” SAP has been confirmed as a premier partner for Expo 2020 Dubai, which will see the organisations coinnovate to build real-time technology platforms to analyse visitor trends. Abboud believes the emirate has all the necessary assets to ensure the exhibition trumps those of previous years. “Expo’s success will be based on the ability to leverage the ecosystem of Dubai’s infrastructure, with public and private sector collaboration,” he said. “It’s not just about delivering showcases. It also needs the whole country, from airlines to government and hospitality, to put their efforts into strong collaboration for the event to become a unique experience for visitors.” SAP will be exhibiting at GITEX Technology Week 2018 under the theme ‘intelligent enterprise in local cloud’, and Abboud believes this ties in well with its recent regional announcements. “We believe we’ve invested in the right acquisitions, and have reached a point where we’re ready to enable companies across industries to accelerate their cloud transformation and become an intelligent enterprise.” OCTOBER 2018




BRIDGING THE GAP Xavi Anglada, managing director, Accenture Digital Lead in the Middle East told CNME how the firm is looking to tie up a range of partnerships that can help to increase AI adoption.


onsulting firm Accenture is partnering with clients through joint ventures to help them adopt AI into their business, having spent over $3.4 billion during the past three years in acquisitions, as it aims to boost its digital and cloud services. Xavi Anglada, managing director - Accenture Digital Lead in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey said large businesses in the region are ready to adopt AI, and Accenture has been partnering with them to accelerate their journey. Anglada said they have been working with some regional government entities, large banks and with oil and gas companies. “The challenges of AI implementation have got us involved to work with our clients in a new way,” Xavi Anglada, he said. “We don’t see managing director, ourselves as a consulting Accenture Digital Lead company any longer. At 64


times it is a revenue sharing model. We see ourselves as a partner in this journey. We help them adopt new trends, we share risks and we share benefits as well.” Accenture implemented AI internally some time ago, and as Anglada pointed out, did so without sacrificing many jobs. “Five years ago, Accenture Digital was just 5% of our business. Today, it has grown to over 50% of our overall business. We have seen the advent of AI during the past two years. Today AI, specifically for us, is the alpha trend. “The way we evolved AI in Accenture is the same way we did it with cloud. Instead of bridging and learning, we actually implemented it onsite. It was not a shortcut. It was a painstaking process. We had to put a lot of investment in, but it has helped us learn how to implement AI in our business and organisation.” According to Anglada, regionally, AI’s implementation is a top-down approach where the agenda is set by

the government. “The governments here want to bring better citizen experiences at a lower cost,” he said. In 2016, Accenture announced its intelligent automation platform, Accenture myWizard, which combined its industry and technology assets and business knowledge across 40 industries with artificial intelligence at its core. According to him, though many companies speak about AI, not everyone understands the nuances of its implementation. “We hear many examples and presentations, but many of them have not even done the basics like data integrity, data cleansing, data veracity and testing. This is critical. AI will grow on the basis of the right data. If we

Many organisations have not even done the basics of AI like data integrity, data cleansing, data veracity and testing.

have biased, wrong or partial data we will get partial AI, which could go on to influence a lot of decisions,” he warns. At Accenture, the key task is to help clients set the road map “to make sure they do not put the carriage before the horse,” he says. Commenting on the future of the workforce in an AI-driven environment, he said Anglada said that training and managing robots could emerge as be a key task. “When we implemented AI into large BPOs in India, we implemented thousands of robots to optimise these processes,” he said. “Thousands of jobs could have been made redundant. Instead of firing them, we decided to reskill them. A lot of them today are working on training robots.”






Elie Abouatme, senior engagement manager at Akamai Middle East and a panelist at CNME’s Power of 4 Forum, gives his take on why artificial intelligence has some way to go before becoming a widespread phenomenon in the region.


hat do you believe the Middle East must do in order to take artificial intelligence from hype to reality? The first thing the region needs to do is host more events and exhibitions to promote how you can translate buzzwords into reality. It’s important to sponsor and help educate the youth in schools and universities and professionals in organisations. If you’ve been working for 10-15 years, you’re supposed to know what AI is, but if you take 100 executives, you’d probably get 100 different answers. It need workshops in order to share ideas, and eventually, translate knowledge into value. Is the concept of AI misinterpreted by the masses? Most people haven’t heard about AI from a university book, but through the media, so that contributes to a lot of people’s’ misunderstanding. Most of the time, people talk very 66


Elie Abouatme, senior engagement manager at Akamai Middle East

If you take 100 executives, you’d probably get 100 different answers about AI.

broadly about AI and how it will affect businesses and governments. You rarely see practical examples of how AI will translate into daily our lives. It’s become a bit vague. In future, AI will become the de facto way we deal with machines. Computing, for example, has become cloud. Most applications we use day to day are sitting in the cloud. Are advanced analytics tools often mistaken for AI? Today, what you see in the market relates more to analytics, and this contributes to the limited understanding of AI at the moment. The concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is about generating something new.

Is PwC’s prediction that AI will add $96 billion a year to the UAE’s economy by 2030 even vaguely realistic? I think it’s possible, but I’d be interested to see how they got to that figure. Is it too good to be true? If you look at big industrial cities or countries like China, you’ll see a vast increase in AI implementations, and they could see double digit GDP growth if they introduce AI and make factories work 10, 20 or 50 times faster. It could exponentially increase productivity. How do you see AI benefiting business operations? What comes to mind is how the future of HR will be, the process of going through resumes and understanding

if candidates will be good for jobs. Another example is measuring KPI’s for employees and salespeople. If you need to manually input what’s been done, people sometimes forget certain things. AI, as part of a CRM or ERP system, can help employees to understand how KPI’s are working. Another case is lead generation, in-bound marketing and social selling. I can think of a lot of ways that AI can benefit salespeople. Solutions that can make introductions to potential leads are a huge advantage. They can crunch data and make an introduction on your behalf. There are tools today that do more than chatbots. They can expedite the first response time because this helps a lot with conversion rates.





David Tobias, CEO, VoucherSkout

ON THE LOOKOUT VoucherSkout CEO and founder David Tobias believes his firm has cracked the delivery of Dubai two-for-one deals. The firm has integrated exclusively with Samsung Pay to offer a new way for consumers to save cash when dining out.




ow does voucherskout work? Why’s your model better? We charge between AED 5-25 for food and dining vouchers. The price variation is a function of potential savings between vouchers. A brunch for two people that would cost AED 900 becomes 450, then you pay AED 25 to redeem the voucher in the outlet. From a consumer point of view, they profit from us on their first usage. We don’t see ourselves

Whether you use the app or not, it costs nothing.

as a deals company, but more of a technology platform. What advantages does your platform offer over your competition? From a consumer point of view, we’re almost unique. Whether you use the app or not, it costs nothing. Vouchers are there, it’s down to consumer choice, and they’re only charged when they enter their pin with a merchant.

It’s a model that lends itself to the tourist market, because an annual subscription doesn’t necessarily make sense if you’re only visited a place for five days. Our model encourages consumers to order more. It’s unlike the daily deal model, where a user has a pre-purchased voucher. Customer’s don’t always want to pay more than what they’ve bought in a one-off purchase. It also doesn’t give merchants the opportunity to upsell. Do you believe that merchants that collaborate with third party apps often end up with next to no benefit? We’ve tried to redress the balance more favourably to merchants. We believe a lot of platforms are quite expensive for them. Deliveroo charges 35% to its merchant partners. Is that sustainable for merchants? Some companies have complained that Deliveroo and other food delivery platforms are creating competing businesses for themselves by capturing behavioural data. There’s a selfmotivated long term goal there. You’ve integrated your platform with Samsung Pay. Samsung reached out to us in March 2017. They’d been looking for a platform that could have API integration into third party apps and a pay as you go model. The advantage of pay as you go is that we don’t have to re-sign our customer base every year, and don’t have to sell on renewing, they’re already there. Samsung

liked that, and thought it fitted well into their user base. There’s no annual commitment and it gives greater flexibility to users. A version of our app is being pre-installed at the factory level, so we’re a new feature of Samsung pay. I think Samsung see an opportunity to create additional value to their customer base, and hopefully make them more loyal. It’s a means of monetising their reach. There’s a good degree of longevity to our agreement with Samsung. They’re keen to use the integration, which has taken eight months. We’ve integrated with their back end in their South Korea headquarters, and have launched the partnership in Dubai. It’s the first market where Samsung has done anything like this with Samsung Pay. How many merchants do you currently work with, and how do you plan to get more on board? We currently have over 250 outlets, and we’re growing considerably. One of the biggest challenges is to have a significant audience. To get that audience, you need the best merchants. Partnerships like our one with Samsung are key. We’re scaling one side of the equation in terms of our merchant network. Over the last few months, we now have a pipeline of close to 300 merchants that should be coming on board. The process takes time, but the enthusiasm is definitely there. It becomes self-fulfilling better merchants attract more good merchants. OCTOBER 2018




13 SURPRISING USES FOR EMOTION AI Gartner’s research vice president Annette Zimmermann highlights 13 ways that emotion artificial intelligence helps companies improve to customer experience and unlock cost savings.


he concept of emotional artificial intelligence conjures up visions of humanoid robots in customer service roles, such as the lifelike ‘receptionist’ now welcoming guests at a Tokyo hotel. A number of companies have added emotion recognition to their personal assistant robots so they too can have more humanlike interactions. But humanoid robotics is just one of many potential uses for emotion AI technology. Tech giants, as well as smaller startups, have been investing in emotion AI for over a decade, using either computer vision or voice analysis to recognise human emotions. Many of these companies started with a focus on market research, analysing and capturing human emotions in response to a product or TV commercial. Commercial deployments are 70


slowly emerging in virtual personal assistants (VPAs), cars, call centres, robotics and smart devices. Gartner predicts that by 2022, 10% of personal devices will have emotion AI capabilities, either ondevice or via cloud services, up from less than 1% in 2018. We will continue to find many new and exciting uses for emotion AI technology over the coming year. However, smaller providers will need to focus their efforts on a limited number of applications and industries, instead of trying to be everything to everyone. NEW USES In the past two years, emotion AI vendors have moved into completely new areas and industries, helping organisations to create a better customer experience and unlock real cost savings. These uses include:

Public service - partnerships between emotion AI technology vendors and surveillance camera providers have emerged. Cameras in the United Arabic Emirates can detect people’s facial expressions and understand the general mood of the population. This project was initiated by the country’s Ministry of Happiness. Video gaming - using computer vision, the games console/video game detects emotions via facial expressions during the game and adapts to them. Medical diagnosis - software can help doctors with the diagnosis of diseases such as depression and dementia by using voice analysis. Education - learning software prototypes have been developed to adapt to kids’ emotions. When the child shows frustration because a task is too difficult or too simple,

Insurance companies use voice analysis to detect whether a customer is telling the truth when submitting a claim. Annette Zimmermann, research vice president, Gartner

the program adapts the task so it becomes less or more challenging. Another learning system helps autistic children recognise other people’s emotions. Employee safety - based on Gartner client inquiries, demand for employee safety solutions are on the rise. Emotion AI can help to analyse the stress and anxiety levels of employees who have very demanding jobs such as first responders. Patient care - a ‘nurse bot’ not only reminds older patients on longterm medical programs to take their medication, but also converses with them every day to monitor the their overall wellbeing. Car safety - automotive vendors can use computer vision technology to monitor the driver’s emotional state. An extreme emotional state or drowsiness could trigger an alert for the driver.

Autonomous cars - in the future, the interior of autonomous cars will have many sensors, including cameras and microphones, to monitor what is happening and to understand how users view the driving experience. Fraud detection - insurance companies use voice analysis to detect whether a customer is telling the truth when submitting a claim. According to independent surveys, up to 30% of users have admitted to lying to their car insurance company in order to gain coverage. Recruiting - software is used during job interviews to understand the credibility of a candidate. Call centre intelligent routing - an angry customer can be detected from the beginning and can be routed to a well-trained agent who can also monitor in real-time how the conversation is going and adjust.

Connected home - a VPAenabled speaker can recognise the mood of the person interacting with it and respond accordingly. Retail - retailers have started looking into installing computer vision emotion AI technology in stores to capture demographic information and visitors’ mood and reactions. However, barriers to adoption remain. A recent Gartner consumer survey revealed that there are still considerable trust issues around emotion AI technologies; that is, users feel less comfortable with emotion AI via camera capture compared to voice analysis. Providers need to convince us that our emotion data is safeguarded and only used in an anonymised way to train other systems by implementing transparent data management policies. OCTOBER 2018




WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MULTI-CLOUD IMPLEMENTATIONS Johnny Karam, regional vice president for the emerging region, Veritas, advises Middle East


loud offers businesses multiple benefits – including agility, ease-of-use, and timeto-provision. It’s no surprise that over half (56%) of organisations today operate with a cloud-first strategy, according to our Truth in Cloud study. IT spending on cloud technologies, including public cloud providers, is expected to rise from 12% in 2017 to 18% within the next two years, and this trend is set to continue as more organisations plan to increase the workloads they have across multiple cloud platforms. Organisations are also realising the benefits of selecting multiple cloud platforms for their workloads, in order to improve resilience, data security and workload management. Nearly six in ten businesses (58%) that currently use one cloud provider are planning to expand their portfolio across multiple platforms. Organisations must pay close attention to selecting cloud service providers (CSPs) that are right for their business and their specific IT requirements. They must also ensure they understand exactly who holds responsibility for their data in the cloud. 72


Johnny Karam, regional vice president for the emerging region, Veritas, advises Middle East organisations to carefully evaluate their data management strategies before moving to the cloud. DON’T BE CAUGHT OUT BY MISCONCEPTIONS Worryingly, many organisations believe responsibility for managing data in the cloud lies with their CSPs. In fact, the majority (83%) of businesses believe that their CSPs take care of data protection in the cloud. Furthermore, more than two-thirds (69%) expect their cloud provider to take full responsibility for data privacy and regulatory compliance of the data held on their platform, with three-quarters (75%) of businesses even saying they would leave their cloud provider as a result of data privacy non-compliance. Yet cloud service provider contracts usually place data management responsibility onto the service user. With the EU General Data Protection Regulation now in force, businesses can’t afford to mishandle their data, regardless of whether it is stored on their own private servers or hosted on a third-party cloud platform. Our research also reveals dangerous misconceptions around the responsibility for cloud outages, with six in ten (60%) respondents admitting they have not fully evaluated the cost of a cloud outage to their business and are therefore ill-prepared to deal with one. While CSPs offer service-

level objectives on infrastructure availability, it’s ultimately the service user’s responsibility to ensure that their critical business applications remain resilient in the event of an infrastructure outage and that data is protected against loss or corruption. The information a company holds is its most valuable asset and businesses must have full visibility into their data and be accountable for protecting it. Not only will this will help avoid the risks of non-compliance or loss of revenue through downtime, but it can also help organisations to glean better insights from their data to improve customer experiences, manage costs, improve research and development, and build brand loyalty. With more companies embracing a cloud-first mentality and introducing multi-cloud approaches into their organisations, the need to navigate complexities in the cloud world is critical. As with on-premises environments, companies should consider all aspects of data management as they journey to the cloud, from data protection, regulatory compliance and workload portability to business continuity and storage optimisation. Only then will businesses truly reap the benefits of a multi-cloud strategy.



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BLOCKCHAIN: A SOLUTION LOOKING FOR A PROBLEM Joe Baguley, vice president and chief technology officer, EMEA, VMware, believes Blockchain represents a formidable technology and trend on many fronts, but is still a way off reaching its potential.


n business, the latest silver bullet is constantly just around the corner. There’s always something new being hyped and dismissed soon after. The past few years has seen hype around the likes of cloud computing, the importance of millennials and social media. The cycle is always the same: initial buzz and excitement building to a crescendo, and then the tipping point – either the bubble bursts, and it fades into relative obscurity, or it gains acceptance, becoming part of standard behaviour. 74


One concept currently enjoying its ascendancy in the hype cycle is Blockchain. While most people have heard of Blockchain, it’s likely that few of those could accurately explain what it is. Fortune defined it as ‘a way to structure data, and the foundation of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin…[It] consists of concatenated blocks of transactions… to share a digital ledger across a network of computers without need for a central authority.’ That still sounds a little opaque; making it simpler, it’s easiest to think of Blockchain as a database.

A solution in search of a problem All this excitement over a database seems a little bizarre. We already have any number of databases from any number of providers, all working away supposedly storing and filing the masses of data that businesses accumulate. The problem with these traditional databases is that it’s challenging from a legal perspective to prove that what’s in a database has always been there and that it’s the right thing that should be there. It’s very difficult for anyone to say what’s

in such and such a database right now is correct, honest, true and has not been tampered or messed with by anyone else. With Blockchain, once a piece of data is placed on it, it can’t be edited without everyone with access to that blockchain knowing. That’s because the data, or block, that’s been placed on it, is actually made up of every block that was placed before it, and it becomes part of every block that goes after it. It’s what’s known as immutable, and it’s one of the reasons Blockchain is enjoying its moment in the sun. Another reason is that Blockchain is essentially unhackable, a major selling point in a world where it’s a case of when, not if, a business must deal with an attempted cyber-attack. It achieves this by being based on the concept of using distributed ledgers. That means there’s no pivotal point to attack, so no way of leveraging the connected nature of normal networks that cyber breaches rely on for scale. Yes, in theory, a blockchain could be hacked, but to do so you’re talking about hacking practically every computer involved, which simply isn’t feasible. So, it’s secure, it can’t be changed without everyone seeing it, and it’s transparent, so any party to a blockchain can see where each piece of data was created, when, and by whom. It can do multiple things, but it feels like a solution in search of a problem. It doesn’t have one killer application that can change everything. Mobiles allowed people Joe Baguley, vice president to speak on the phone and chief technology officer, EMEA, VMware





wherever they were, signal permitting. Cloud computing frees businesses from having to physically house their IT. Blockchain doesn’t yet fix that one critical business problem. That’s not to say the potential uses aren’t significant – from supply chain to finance, any sector which requires, and struggles, with trust and provenance of data should be an opportunity for blockchain-based technologies. From diamonds to shipping There certainly are enough use cases and proof of concepts out there, in several sectors, to suggest that sooner or later something will stick, in doing so helping Blockchain to shift from hype to wider acceptance. In the supply chain alone, there are a variety of initiatives trying to use Blockchain to make the whole process more efficient and transparent – from De Beers creating a platform to register tamper-proof and permanent digital records for diamonds, to Walmart 76


looking to improve food safety and product traceability with a number of different pilots, to a whole host of businesses, from start-ups to established operators, aiming to improve the process of shipping. From a legal perspective, Blockchain is being used in what’s known as smart contracts. These

Blockchain doesn’t have one killer application that can change everything.

are digital contracts that are not only unchangeable, but automatically enable contractual terms once conditions are met, whether it’s through the exchange of property (be it a house or car) or the releasing of funds (for instance, when a certain amount of work has been delivered). Arguably the most famous use case of blockchain is cryptocurrency, Bitcoin being the most prominent example. While the volatility of Bitcoin’s value might be putting some off from using it as a method of distributing or receiving payment, there are other, more fundamental issues with currencies based on distributed ledger technology. For starters, each transaction using a cryptocurrency needs to wait to be coded into a block and then replicated to every other owner of that particular currency. For one like Bitcoin, that means having to replicate across a significant number of people, right across the world. In terms of time, you could be looking at anywhere between one and thirty

In some instances, Blockchain is going to be a perfect fit where a distributed, replicated, unchangeable database is required.

hours, making it unsuited, currently, for any sort of retail transaction. The sheer amount of energy required to produce Bitcoin can also be an obstacle. Right now, the amount of electricity required to fuel the compute power to produce a Bitcoin is worth about the same as that Bitcoin – put more tangibly, at the end of May 2018, over 6 million US households or the whole of Switzerland could be powered by the amount of electricity used by Bitcoin. Overcoming limitations to unlock true potential So, currently, this exposes the limitations of the technology. As a society we are used to fast transactions – I tell you I have uploaded the data, or I pay you for my coffee with my credit card, and you know instantly whether that is the case. What good is a currency system if I must wait a day before I know if I’ve received payment, or if the data has been added to the system? Modern life and modern business aren’t built like that.

How do businesses get around that? Well, technology will catch up. Public Blockchains will get around transaction speed challenges – they must, otherwise the concept will be redundant. Yet the idea of immutable, transparent and unhackable data is too good for businesses to wait for it to mature. The uses highlighted above all linked parties that could well be independent, even if they are interdependent – De Beers with diamond suppliers, dealers, mine and retailers, Walmart with food producers, logistics companies, distribution centres and so on. There’s another use, however, which stays true to the aspirations of Blockchain, but which circumvents the challenges of having to connect with every other member of the chain – private, or internal, Blockchains. Deployed by large organisations for the exclusive use of themselves and trusted partners, they don’t require the proof of work that the likes of a Bitcoin do, and the chain can automatically identify and

replicate across existing company networks, yet it still ensures that data is immutable, transparent and, most importantly, unhackable. As businesses see their applications spread out, they’re going to need distributed database solutions at increasingly disparate points of the network or in their application infrastructure. In some instances, Blockchain is going to be a perfect fit where a distributed, replicated, unchangeable database is required. For instance, collecting data from IoT sensors being used for AI consumption at the edge and then pushing the results back to the middle. This will need to be carefully integrated into existing systems and will require organisations to be able to manage a private Blockchain, but it demonstrates the potential deployment of Blockchain concepts in large-scale organisations. The right use for a system of trust There’s no doubt that, when deployed properly, Blockchain can help solve some of the challenges currently afflicting certain sectors today. That said, it’s not appropriate for all uses, or even all databases, and it does have limitations that are, at present, incompatible with the way business operates today. However, being immutable, transparent and unhackable, it can help build a system of trust between multiple independent parties – critical in improving the efficiencies and provenance of supply chains, for example. Yet it is within large-scale organisations that Blockchains can have real impact. By supporting the storing and sharing of critical data as businesses’ own networks become decentralised, Blockchain may have found the problem it can solve and help it make the jump from hype to standard behaviour. OCTOBER 2018



Glesni Holland


he latest departure of founders from a Facebookowned company has sparked criticism of CEO Mark Zuckerberg once more. When Facebook acquired Instagram back in 2012 for roughly $1 billion, he vowed to let the network operate independently. At the time, he stated that he believed the two services provided “different experiences that complement each other,” but in order for this to be done well, the social media giant needed to allow Instagram to build on its strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook. However, it seems Zuckerberg has since had a change of heart. When Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger announced their resignation last month, the pair revealed they wanted to “explore their creativity again,” following reports of Facebook increasingly exercising its influence over Instagram in recent weeks after its own growth had slowed. It goes without saying that as Instagram’s parent company, Facebook is well within its rights to do this. And despite rows with other Facebook-owned apps in recent years, such as WhatsApp - leading to the departure of its founder Jan Koum earlier this year, one could argue that Zuckerberg does in fact give much more autonomy than most acquiring companies do. However, if the increasingly overbearing and financially demanding behaviours of Facebook’s higher management of late are true, they could ultimately ruin what made Instagram so unique and popular to begin with. 78


Sources claim that Facebook’s recent product updates – which include pulling back on promoting Instagram within the Facebook app, in addition to the internal arguments that were rumoured to follow the launch of IGTV, Instagram’s new video feature, amid concerns that it would cannibalise Facebook’s own video outlet, suggest that all is not well between the two networks. Facebook is – without a doubt – in a large way responsible for Instagram’s success. When the pair came together in 2012, Instagram relied on Facebook for resources and infrastructure in order for it to have enough backbone to support its user growth. However, it could be argued that Facebook now relies on Instagram for its longevity. Its recent beatings from politicians, journalists and the general public have sent its shares into turmoil on numerous occasions already this year, and the latest data breach scandal has seen its compliance measures catapulted into the limelight once more. On the flip side, Bloomberg predicted that the photoand video-sharing site is worth more than $100 billion this summer, and claimed that it could account for 16 percent of Facebook’s revenue in the next year. But now that Systrom and Krieger are out of the picture, is there any reason for Zuckerberg to keep the network running as a subsidiary, instead of as a direct department under Facebook? Will this spell the end of Instagram as we know it?

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