A visit to the United Arab Emirates can never be restricted to the recreational; one glance at the towering symbols of rapid development in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai highlight the progress of development.
The latest quantum shift gripping the region, that is increasingly embodied in the UAE, is innovation. Being harnessed at the government level, new and wide-ranging initiatives are gaining attention.
The resounding soundbite from the recent Global Summit Agenda was the call from the chairman of the World Economic Forum for the UAE's innovation agenda to be replicated globally. The recent launch of the UAE National Innovation Strategy represents the importance the leadership of the UAE has placed on this issue.
On a fact-finding mission to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, representing a new powerhouse for innovation, the Prince Salman Center for Innovative Government based in Saudi Arabia, the zeitgeist of innovation is all to clear.
In the hurry to develop and to meet the needs of a growing and young population, it must be stressed that successful innovation requires a solid academic foundation. The center lays huge emphasis on hosting regular forums to debate solutions to key policy issues as well as commissioning rigorous academic research.
Smart and innovative government requires data, lots of it. Securing the correct institutional framework is not enough. For a transformational development of government service provision to take place, studies must be conducted to locate not only where the need for updated services is most acute but also to ensure that the solutions are lasting and self-innovating and malleable.
Having met the key executive bodies in the UAE and attending the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, it is clear that the region is brimming with bright thinking and cutting edge solutions, "it is emerging as a development hub," as Queen Rania of Jordan opened the summit with.
This is important as though increasingly the world's leading thinkers and captains of industry pass through the Gulf, the region is developing its own thinking. The onus is on regional entities to harness the latest ideas at home and abroad, making the most of their strategic position as a focus point for new thinking.
Being a hub for new ideas is not alien to the region, it should be viewed rather as a reclamation of a long tradition of Arab thinking and research. The level of development that the Gulf states have achieved in a lifetime is exceptional.
It is now up to them to embrace innovation as their own, just as Arab courts of old used to attract the best thinkers and academics, today's organisations should innovate using the best from their exposure abroad and the unique experience of development at home.
To use a quote used while researching the history of government innovation in the region, "the important thing is to benefit from institutions, not only to build them," the late King Fasial Bin Abdulaziz.
Innovation is there to make our own.
Zaid M. Belbagi is head of strategic communications at the Prince Salman Center for Innovative Government. He is a government communications expert with experience in providing strategic advice in the Gulf. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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