In this month’s episode of Marketplace Middle East, CNN’s Eleni Giokos, Jomana Karadsheh, and Hadas Gold look at how technology and cognitive cities are transforming the region. Giokos presents the show from the annual Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where global leaders gathered to discuss innovations and solutions to pressing problems.
The biggest names in technology and innovation have been making their presence known in Saudi Arabia, as they look to the Middle East as their next frontier for growth. Karadsheh reports on how the Kingdom is attracting businesses to the country, with the construction of the world’s first cognitive city, NEOM. Jonathan Bradley, CEO NEOM Tech and Digital Holding, explains the concept, “When we go to a cognitive city, we mean one that is predictive, that is proactive, in other words, eliminates friction from your life.”
Bradley also talks about why he thinks companies are investing in Saudi Arabia, “NEOM has gone from a vision and PowerPoint slides to entities that are executing, to customers that are buying our valued propositions. If you look around the world, why are [investors] coming to this area? They’re coming because 60% of Saudis are under the age of 35, the cloud penetration growth rate in this area is like 40% year over year. It’s a growth story.”
In Dubai, Giokos meets the UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence (AI) Omar Al Olama to discuss the country’s digital transformation. He speaks about how advances in technology will affect people in the coming years, “We are going to see human beings be able to do their jobs better. They’re going to have a lot more time on their hands, and they’re going to be a lot happier, that is the ultimate goal. Our goal as a government is to use all of these tools, whether it’s AI, blockchain, or any other technology to improve the human life in the UAE.”
Al Olama tells Giokos that he believes that technology and AI are a means to an end, with the goal being the happiness of people. He explains that this effect can spread outside the UAE as well, “The last fifteen years have proved that you can be a start-up nation, you can have enlightened leaders, you can set a vision that attracts people from 200 nationalities to come together, to live, work, and strive for a better future, and not just for the local economy, Dubai and the UAE today is a hub for the global economy around it.”
Finally, Gold visits Israeli company TytoCare, an on demand medical service that allows consumers to bring the doctor’s office to their home. The company’s modular smart device allows people to perform eight types of medical exam and share them with their health providers from anywhere, at any time.
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down most routine, in-person medical visits, Tytocare experienced exponential growth. CEO and co-founder Dedi Gilad explains the gap in the market that the company fulfils, “Where we are really getting the edge is on data analysis. Tyto is very strong. We created for the first time this, very basic, but [previously] inaccessible data. Those sound recordings of the heart, the lungs, the imaging of the ear, the throat, and so forth were not existing in a digital way anywhere.”
From cognitive cities to advances in healthcare, the programme sees how tech is transforming the Middle East and opening up new opportunities across the region.