Google Official Cites UAE’s Digital Strengths at Abu Dhabi Lecture

  • 28 April 2015

The UAE’s leading position in IT advancement will enable the Arabian Gulf to thrive in the digital age, says Google’s regional head of government relations and public policy.

Susan Pointer said the country’s lead in taking up mobile technology would set it up for new opportunities, many of which would inspire tomorrow’s innovators and businesses.

“It has advanced ICT infrastructure and high internet and mobile penetration,” said Ms Pointer in a lecture at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi.

“It has investment capital, a multicultural and multilingual environment, innovation combined with an entrepreneurial spirit, as well as a rich cultural heritage and a modern arts and innovation base to share with the world.”

Ms Pointer, whose responsibility covers the Middle East, Asia, Russia and Africa, said the UAE Government had an ambitious vision to succeed in digital and knowledge economy.

“Around the world, governments are putting technology at the centre of their thinking, and I know that the UAE is no exception,” she said.

“I strongly believe that our generations have been presented with a historically unprecedented opportunity, tools and capacity to make a positive difference in the world.

“We’re holding in our hands that unique opportunity, one we should certainly not take for granted but we certainly should cherish, nurture and grasp. In this 2015 year of innovation, let us celebrate that possibility and harness that potential.” Ms Pointer’s lecture was entitled New Frontiers in Government, Innovation, Education and the Internet.

She also told of Google’s plans to expand in the country.

“We are looking at how to bring our expertise in terms of inspiring young people to take advantage of Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education, and give them a good basis to then explore whatever is their passion,” she said.

“It removes a fear of these subjects. A lot of the investment is really helping to show what is possible, to remove fear and inspire young people to experiment.”

She mentioned the innovation centre set up in Ras Al Khaimah, which provides robotics and introductory computer science classes. With 47,000 students and 2,500 teachers, the hub also provides teachers with lessons on how to integrate technology in the classroom.

“The UAE leadership has set out a very clear vision aiming to spark young people’s curiosity about science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” she said. “The Government has big plans to equip young people with 21st-century skills and develop this country’s knowledge economy, which is a wonderful base for securing all of these economic, societal and cultural benefits.”

Digital literacy is another area in which Google is expanding.

“We’re very conscious that the internet technologies bring about so many opportunities,” said Ms Pointer. “But we need to equip people, both young and old, to feel comfortable using online tools and have the availability of things like workshops to show them how to stay safe online, be respectful and flag issues of concern.”

She hoped such an initiative would be launched very soon.

“It is not just a knowledge of technology that is important, it is also a knowledge of how we use technology responsibly and equip young people with those skills,” she said. “That’s not something that will come just from Google but we need to partner with educational establishments, government authorities and others to take that work forward. We’re looking right now to accelerate this introduction in this region, so I hope to kick that off very soon.”