The UAE is the highest ranked Arab country in the UN’s Frontier Technology Readiness Index

The United Arab Emirates climbed five places to be ranked the best Arab country and 37th out of 166 countries in the latest UN Technology Index, which assesses countries’ readiness to adopt advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence with a focus on environmental innovation.

The UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy, was ranked in the “high” score group after previously being ranked in the “upper average” group in 2021, the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology said on Tuesday.

The Frontier Technologies Readiness Index 2023, published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, ranks countries based on the deployment of information and communication technologies, skills, research and development, industrial activity and access to finance.

“This report reflects the UAE’s position as a leader in the development and deployment of new transformative technologies to increase efficiency, reduce emissions and accelerate the energy transition,” said Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology.

“As a global hub for innovation and talent, we are pioneering cutting-edge technologies that not only support sustainable industrial development, but also contribute to the decarbonisation of other economic sectors.”

Spending on digital technology – including IT, telecommunications and emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, blockchain and robotics – in the UAE over the next three years is expected to reach $20 billion, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

The UAE is well positioned to double its digital economy’s contribution to gross domestic product to 19.4% from 9.7% over the next 10 years, the report said.

The UAE’s digital economy is expected to grow to more than $140 billion in 2031, up from nearly $38 billion currently, according to a report by the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy.

The UN report is “a testament not only to the ministry’s national industrial strategy, but also to the country’s Net Zero strategic initiative and its role as a hub for climate technology promotion,” Ms Al Amiri said.

The 17 frontier technologies covered in the report, such as AI, the Internet of Things and green hydrogen, currently represent a $1.5 trillion market that could grow to more than $9.5 trillion by 2030 — about three times the the current size of the Indian economy, Unctad said.

“But so far, developed economies have taken advantage of most opportunities, leaving developing economies behind,” it said.

The US, Sweden, Singapore, Switzerland and the Netherlands are the most prepared high-income economies.

China, the most ready developing country, is ranked 35th, followed by Brazil at 40th, India at 46th and South Africa at 56th.

China’s lower-than-expected position is mainly due to differences between urban and rural areas in internet coverage and broadband speed, the report said.

India, the world’s fifth largest economy, was the “biggest” performer, with the Philippines and Vietnam also among the top gainers.

India performs well in R&D and ICT because of the abundance of highly skilled and skilled human resources available at lower cost, Unctad said.

The Philippines and Vietnam rank highly in the industry, thanks to significant foreign direct investment in high-tech manufacturing, especially electronics, it added.

However, countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa are at risk of missing out on current technological opportunities due to their low willingness to adopt and adapt frontier technologies, the report said.

“Opportunities for green innovation are limited in time and can only be tapped through policy changes, without which the windows may close,” it said.

“Countries that seized the opportunities, such as Brazil and China, did so through strong responses that included government policies.”

Green technology exports from developed countries rose to $156 billion in 2021 from $60 billion in 2018, according to the report.

Meanwhile, developing country exports rose to $75 billion from $57 billion in the same period.

Updated: May 03, 2023, 2:23 p.m

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