Regional organizations have a long way to go, if they are to fully leverage the benefits of IT, says a Dubai-based IT expert.
Speaking on the sidelines of this year’s GITEX IT exhibition, Dr. Iyad Rahwan, Senior Lecturer in Informatics at The British University in Dubai (BUiD), the Middle East’s leading research-based postgraduate university, said that regional organizations would greatly benefit from dedicated IT Research and Development (R&D) teams. Yet, very few regional organisations have dedicated R&D staff.
“R&D is important since it significantly improves the ability of regional companies to compete globally by offering novel IT products and services,” said Dr. Rahwan.
Currently, it is believed that many services-based companies in the Middle East depend on the same vendors from around the world to provide them with IT solutions and technologies. Essentially, this limits the ability of a company to differentiate itself from competitors, since many competitors can procure the same IT solutions and provide comparable services.
“This complete reliance on existing technologies also severely limits the competitiveness of Middle East-based IT companies internationally,” added Dr. Rahwan.
“After all, the massive industry of Web search, as initiated by Google, started in a Stanford University laboratory and emerged from the work of a couple of graduate students. Similar examples abound in the IT industry. Yet, we have not seen a single internationally-competitive major IT services provider emerge from the region.”
Dr. Rawhan also believes another under-estimated function of R&D teams is that they provide the organisation with the ability to respond quickly to the development of new technologies. “For example, if your company employs a team of scientists who attend the latest academic conference on Web search or Web advertising technologies, your will be much more likely to lead the introduction of these technologies into the market. This is why major successful players like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and IBM all have R&D laboratories.”
“The Middle East should take note from countries like Singapore and Ireland, where government bodies are providing substantial funding to universities and industry start-ups for research in advanced IT solutions. these countries have revolutionised their IT industries through such schemes; regionally, Qatar seems to be following this approach and I am certain it will reap benefits in the future,” Rahwan concluded.BUiD offers two advanced Master programmes in IT jointly with the University of Edinburgh (number one in the field in the UK). The MSc in IT covers advanced emerging technologies in topics like Semantic Web standards and tools, data mining, machine learning, knowledge management, and Artificial Intelligence. The MSc in IT Management combines some of those IT courses with project management skills, to produce IT managers able to introduce innovation into their organizations.