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A Defining Moment for IoT and Digitization

December 9, 2015 - 20 Comments

In the next few years we will reflect on the third annual Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF) this week and realize that 2015 was the inflection point for the Internet of Things (IoT) and digitization. Leaders from around the world convened in Dubai this week, all witnessed real solutions that are now fundamentally changing the way we will live and do business. It’s a dramatic change that will touch everyone.

Digital transformation – the connection of cities, companies, and countries to the Internet – has emerged as the most transformative means to ignite sustainable growth and improve society. Those countries and companies that get ahead and embrace the digital transformation will uncover limitless possibilities to drive innovation, growth and jobs of the future.

However, only 1 in 4 leaders* say they are being sufficiently proactive about digitization. And while 75% of businesses will become digital by 2020, only 30% of digitization efforts will be successful. The number one reason companies don’t succeed? They fail to innovate or reinvent. Those that don’t will be left behind.

It is fitting that this defining moment in the future of digitization is taking place here, in the Middle East. My discussions with its leaders on the future of the digital and the global landscape have only strengthened my admiration for their visionary approach but also the speed of change that comes through aligning all government smart initiatives together under one smart-city ambition.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision for Dubai to be the ‘Smartest City in the World by 2017’ is well under way. Sensors embedded throughout the city will connect everything from utilities to urban transportation, from entertainment to energy, and from policing to politics. All of it developed to improve the lives of citizens, reduce energy consumption and to capture the potential added value of US$ 4.87 billion (AED 17.9 billion) by 2019.

Meanwhile across the rest of the Middle East, Qatar has focused its attention on implementing its ‘Smart City’ plan. Qatar unveiled its National Vision 2030 to turn Qatar into a country that listens, learns, and responds to its citizen’s daily needs, making an impact in every field: education, healthcare, energy, security, and transportation.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has also invested in Smart Cities. The country has devoted billions of dollars to build four new ‘Economic Cities’ in order to diversify and move GDP away from its overdependence on the hydrocarbon sector. The Kingdom’s Economic Cities are expected to support the creation of a knowledge economy — one that will provide KSA’s younger population with the 21st century skills required to drive the country’s vision for a truly diversified economy.

These examples and investments will not only transform how people engage with their governments and each other, but also marks the beginning of a truly digital Middle East that will create new jobs, foster innovation and help ensure global competitiveness.

Digitization is dramatically changing the world. It will affect all of our lives, and no individual, company or country will escape its impact. Partnering with Middle East business and government leaders, for example, has shown that they are embracing this opportunity and stand at the forefront of this exciting new chapter where the information age has passed and the digital age is the future.

This new phase of the Internet will bring many opportunities to revolutionize the world, as we know it, as long as leaders are ready to embrace it.

*Cisco Digital Vortex: 941 leaders, 12 countries

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  1. I really do hope leaders will be ready to embrace it

  2. It now 2016…Let go full speed ahead.

  3. Interesting challenges ahead for many countries. It will take careful planning and learning from those who already have achieved their goals.

  4. I really do hope leaders will be ready to embrace it. Innovation is only the beginning…

  5. A good invitation to the rest of the world to embrace the same, the Technology nothing else:)

  6. Through IoT and digitization, real-time data and analytics is transforming businesses. Our Economist Intelligence Unit study provides fascinating insights.

  7. It’s great that you are getting thoughts from this post as well as from our discussion made

  8. Hi John!

    Thank you, many already presenting an interest article!

  9. Hats Off Mr. Chambers, you Rock!

    I believe Cisco will be number one company that leads digitization across the Middle East. not only KSA, Qatar & UAE countries will be part of the transformation, I strongly believe that the rest of the Gulf Countries will also follow the same pattern.

    Besides Sales & Marketing, We nee to focus on knowledge transfer & Awareness. this can’t be achieved without proper skill set.

    Ultimately, Leaders will have to innovate or they will be left behind.

  10. While the likes of Sheikh Mohammed, King Salman and Sheikh Tamim invest immensely in their nations, as many of us will concur, it takes a great deal more than money, technology and the threat of a digital vortex to transform a business – let alone a city or nation.

    As David Deans eluded to in the first comment to your post John, mindset is what will continue to hinder the progress of these nations. Mindset that is underpinned by a culture that will not change overnight. Mindset that the likes of Cisco needs to shoulder the responsibility for influencing, in addition to supplying the technology.

    From some Saudi companies “not being ready to employ women” to leadership and management styles that would not be tolerated in most global organisations such as Cisco, a lot needs to change. And these changes are far more fundamental than any technology.

    While the nations you mentioned are a source of revenue for consultants like me and corporations such as Cisco, we must not turn a blind-eye to the critical success factors that must mature a great deal, before the true potential of these cash-rich nations can be realised through digitisation.

  11. The key is in “aligning all government smart initiatives together under one smart-city ambition”. More governments should do so.

  12. Great views and insights about moving to digital age but is this responsibility only of government to enable this move or how individuals can make difference will also be important. Internet is a great leveller, in country like India people needs to be made part of this transformation then it will be very rapid and who better than Ciso to drive this Good Luck!

  13. Thank many already presenting an interest article, I am pleased to visit your web site. wish you success always! visit me Eye Care Softgel

  14. As has been implied above, the higher levels and benefits of digitization can best be realized on a broad, international scale when the reliable (and relatively fast) connection of individuals within cities, companies, and countries to the Internet are in fact broadly achieved. Still a lot of ‘heavy lifting’ to be done in this regard. Full digitization can help paint the picture of a promising and positive future. Eager to participate.

  15. This is great John. so how do I join the Cisco team….
    I need to play my part to get my region up to speed with these changes… Creating sustainable economies outside of the “Dependence on the hydrocarbon sector” would become a global issue at some point maybe sooner than later.
    I’m all ready to go.

    Informative stuff here…

  16. “Digitization is dramatically changing the world. It will affect all of our lives, and no individual, company or country will escape its impact.”. We’re either on this train or on the platform – there’s no inbetween option. One really clever and innovative IOT project I’m assisting some mates ‘down under’ in New Zeland centres on the symbiotic relationship between Wearable Technology, Artificial Intelligence and Diabetes prevention. This early stage start-up is by people who have been in the eBiz/APP space for 20+years, got the T-shirt, got the rejections (because they were always ahead of the curve), but are now approaching their convergence of skill-set; timing; marktplace acceptance; and compelling need. They are

  17. Hi John,

    Interesting perspective. Digitization as an essential component is absolutely non-negotiable, given the speed at which peoples’ lives are evolving.

    While you mention about the admirable steps taken by Middle-East countries, there are some fundamental geographical challenges in digital pervasiveness, for example, India, where availability of reliable (forget fast) Internet is still a far cry. I believe Cisco should work and make impact in enabling to deliver reliable Internet connectivity and once that is done, the digitization of societies will be easier, faster and evolutionary.

    Generally, good luck to Cisco for helping in re-inventing the world.


  18. You said “And while 75% of businesses will become digital by 2020, only 30% of digitization efforts will be successful.” — Perhaps the leaders of these nations that you mention should consider how gender equality, or the lack thereof, could impact the results of their smart city projects. My point: how does a nation stand at the forefront of progress when the culture views women differently than men?

    • David, stats you should know:

      1) Women comprise 60% of engineering students in universities in the Middle East, compared with 30 percent in the U.S. and Europe, according to UNESCO.

      2) In the UAE, there are more women in senior leadership roles in the government than in the US and UK combined

      3) There are many stereotypes of the region that would be shattered if you actually traveled to the Gulf and saw what was happening as John has