This year has seen the Middle East region host one of the world’s biggest sporting events for the first time, when the FIFA World Cup arrived in Qatar in November.
Not only did the oil-rich nation face massive construction challenges, with stadiums and other physical infrastructure needed to host such a large and prestigious event, but it also had to be ready for inevitable cyber attacks.
Cyber security features heavily in this yearly review, with analysis of projects in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.
Hosting major sporting events might be something countries in the Middle East aspire to do more often as they diversify their economies and reduce their reliance on oil revenues. This top 10 also features articles about some of the new industries being created in the region, the huge sums being invested, as well as some of the challenges being faced.
Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 Middle East IT stories of 2022.
Qatar hosts the FIFA World Cup this year – the first time the event has been staged in the Arab world. Cyber security experts in the country predicted that ticketing, hotel bookings and restaurant reservations would be faked by hackers to capture personal data from people travelling to Qatar.
Also, phishing and social engineering was expected to be used to steal personal and financial information from anyone using the internet to get information about the tournament.
Saudi Arabia’s job market is largely shaped by the push for “Saudization”, a colloquial term for a movement that is officially called “nationalisation”.
Part of this push is a set of regulations called Nitaqat, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, and requires organisations operating in Saudi Arabia to maintain certain percentages of Saudi nationals in their workforce.
A group of Google workers and Palestinian rights activists are calling on the tech giant to end its involvement in the secretive Project Nimbus cloud computing contract, which involves the provision of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to the Israeli government.
Calls for Google to end its involvement in the contract follow claims made by Ariel Koren, a product marketing manager at Google for Education since 2015 and member of the Alphabet Workers Union, that she was pressured into resigning as retaliation for her vocal opposition to the deal.
A survey has revealed that UAE residents believe 3D printing technology will become widespread in the country, and expect it to have the most positive impact on society.
The online survey of more than 1,000 UAE citizens, carried out by YouGov, asked them for their opinions on 16 emerging technologies. According to YouGov: “Data shows that of all the 16 listed technologies, UAE residents have most likely heard a lot about – or have some awareness of – cryptocurrency, virtual reality, self-driving cars and 3D printing.”
The distinction between protecting information technology and protecting operational technology (OT) became very clear in 2010, when the Iranian nuclear enrichment facility Natanz was attacked by Stuxnet malware.
OT includes programmable logic controllers, intelligent electronic devices, human-machine interfaces and remote terminal units that allow humans to operate and run an industrial facility using computer systems.
In a region that is experiencing an unprecedented increase in cyber security threats, the UAE is taking actions that are already paying off.
The increase in threats is described in the State of the market report 2021 and the State of the market report 2022 – annual reports published by Help AG. These studies focus exclusively on digital security in the Middle East, highlighting the top threats and the sectors most impacted, and providing advice on where companies should invest their resources.
In September 2021, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health announced that it would create a drone delivery system to be used to deliver medical supplies – medicine, blood units, vaccines and samples – between laboratories, pharmacies and blood banks across the city.
The first version of the system will be based on a network of 40 different stations that drones fly in and out of. Over time, the number of stations is expected to grow.
Middle East-based IT leaders expect IT budgets for 2022 to be equal to, or above, pre-pandemic levels, with security spending expected to take the biggest share.
According to this year’s TechTarget/Computer Weekly annual IT Priorities survey, 63% of IT decision-makers in the Middle East region are planning to increase their IT budgets by 5% or more in 2022.
Accenture is to head up a consortium to develop and support a national payments infrastructure in the UAE that will enable next-generation payments.
Alongside suppliers G42 and SIA, the digital payments arm of Nexi Group, Accenture was selected by the Central Bank of the UAE to build and operate the UAE’s National Instant Payment Platform over the next five years.
Saudi Arabia is investing $6.4bn in the digital technologies of the future and the tech startups that will harness them.
The announcement was made during a major new tech event, known as LEAP, in the Saudi capital Riyadh.