GCC E-Performance Index 2023 highlights exceptional digital prowess of Gulf countries

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries ranked high on the GCC E-performance index, showing exceptional performance in digitalisation across the region. Orient Planet Research, in collaboration with Abdul Kader Al Kamli, Information and Communications technology (ICT) Expert and Independent Researcher, released the GCC E-Performance Index 2023, an assessment that amalgamates key global indicators to measure digital performance of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. This index assesses data from five prominent global benchmarks, including the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI), Network Readiness Index (NRI), Government AI Readiness Index (GAR), Global Innovation Index (GII) and UN E-Government Development Index (EGDI).

The ICT sector in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is poised for substantial expansion and advancement in the coming years. The outlook for the sector in the region appears optimistic, propelled by various factors such as digital transformation, smart city initiatives, cybersecurity measures, innovation, cloud computing, e-commerce, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. The commitment of governments in the region to diversify their economies, coupled with the increasing tech-savviness of the population, creates a conducive environment for continued growth. This commitment, combined with the innovative technologies, sets the stage for a dynamic and thriving ICT landscape in the GCC countries.

One prominent trend is the increasing focus on digitalisation and smart cities. Governments across the GCC region, such as those in the UAE and KSA, are heavily investing in smart infrastructure, utilising advanced technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data analytics, to enhance urban living, streamline services and improve overall efficiency. This push towards smart cities is expected to revolutionise various industries, including healthcare, transportation and energy, creating a more connected and technologically advanced environment.

Another key trend in the GCC region’s ICT sector is the growing importance of cybersecurity. As the region becomes more digitally interconnected, the risk of cyber threats and attacks rises. Governments and businesses are recognising the need to invest in robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard sensitive data and critical infrastructure. This includes the adoption of advanced cybersecurity technologies, the development of skilled cybersecurity professionals and the implementation of comprehensive strategies to detect and respond to cyber threats. The emphasis on cybersecurity is essential to maintaining trust in digital transactions, protecting national security and sustaining the growth of the digital economy in the region.

The third significant trend in the future of the ICT sector in the GCC region is the rise of 5G technology. The deployment of 5G networks is gaining momentum, offering faster and more reliable connectivity. This technology is expected to catalyse innovations such as augmented reality, virtual reality and the Internet of Things on an unprecedented scale. With increased bandwidth and low latency, 5G will play a crucial role in supporting smart applications, autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies. Governments and the telecom sector are investing heavily in the development and deployment of 5G infrastructure, anticipating its transformative impact on various sectors, including healthcare, education and manufacturing. Overall, these trends collectively shape a dynamic and promising future for the ICT sector in the GCC region.

Dr Nidal Abou Zaki, Managing Director, Orient Planet Group, said: “The GCC countries showed exceptional performance in digitalisation efforts with countries ranking extremely well in the GCC E-Performance Index 2023. Countries in the region have achieved significant growth, especially in the ICT sector, owing to the rise in 5G technology, which has facilitated faster and reliable connectivity. Furthermore, the increasing significance of cybersecurity has also driven government and private organisations to implement vital measures to ensure data security, as the region is getting more digitally connected.”

He added: “As the ICT sector is positioned to bring about substantial growth and transformation in the region, we can witness upcoming trends such as rapid digitalisation and establishment of smart cities. There has been a significant rise in investments in advanced technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data analytics. Leveraging such technologies can enhance urban living, while smart cities, in this regard, have the potential to revolutionise various industries, ranging from healthcare to the energy sector. Such developments across the region can contribute towards building a more sustainable and technologically developed economy.”

Abdul Kader Al Kamli, ICT expert and Independent Researcher, said: “The GCC E-Performance Index measures the position of GCC countries in five key global indices, especially focussing on the growth of the ICT sector and efforts in driving digitalisation. The GCC countries have fared extremely well in the index; with the UAE leading in all five indices. The GCC region has been consistently committed to fostering digitalisation, which is evident in its efforts to invest heavily in the development and deployment of 5G infrastructure.”

Al Kamli added: “The UAE has ranked first in all indices followed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. These countries have been making tremendous efforts in boosting their digital performance and technological capabilities through various initiatives and increased investments in the ICT sector. There has been an increased emphasis on the key role of science and technology, RDI capacity building and establishing an enhanced NIS system across the region. Furthermore, the advent of 5G technology and the efforts of the governments to embrace and deploy it shows a great potential for growth in the upcoming year.”

The GCC E-Performance Index for 2023, calculated by averaging the scores on the five international indicators, recorded the UAE securing the top spot with an average of 65.43 points. Following closely behind is Saudi Arabia with an average rating of 58.34 points and Qatar with 55.22 points. Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait also recorded significant growth in the GCC E-Performance Index, achieving an average rating of 52.46, 52.05, 49.15 points, respectively.

Saudi Arabia excels in the research and development pillar, ranking first in the Arab world and 20th globally. The UAE follows closely, ranking second in the Arab world and 34th globally in the same pillar. These rankings showcase the region’s commitment to fostering innovation and technological advancement.

The GTCI 2022 evaluates countries’ capacities to foster, attract and retain talent, featuring 175 cities across 133 countries across all income groups. According to the report, the UAE excels in talent attraction, driven by its outstanding employment policies.

This 2022 edition of NRI, focussed on the younger generations, or ‘digital natives’, and their role in shaping the world as it moves towards a more digital age. The report analyses the readiness of 131 countries based on their performances in four core pillars: Technology, People, Governance and Impact. The UAE demonstrates strength in all pillars, particularly excelling in the people category.

GAR 2022 gauges the integration of AI in enhancing public services, evaluating countries based on 39 indicators spanning government, technology and data and infrastructure sector. This year’s edition ranked 181 countries on their government’s readiness to implement AI in the delivery of public services to citizens.

The GII 2023 scrutinises innovation performance of 132 countries, tracking global innovation trends in seven categories: institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, market sophistication, business sophistication, knowledge and technology outputs, and creative outputs, totalling 80 indicators. In this edition, the UAE performed better than high-income group averages in business sophistication, market sophistication, human capital and research, infrastructure and institutions.

Finally, the EGDI ranks 193 UN member countries assessing how a country is using information technology to enhance access and inclusion of people. The report measures three important dimensions of e-government – provision of online services, telecommunication connectivity and human capacity. Dubai secured the fifth position worldwide and first in the Arab world, which was determined by analysing 86 indicators.

In terms of other indices, the Frontier Technologies Readiness Index 2022 by UNCTAD ranks 166 countries based on technology and innovation capabilities. The UAE leads the Arab world, ranking 37th globally, followed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar.