Digitization must be inclusive to augment with the human imperative

Steven Yi

Published: Updated:

While digital transformation is a universal concept, there is much that we can learn from countries at the forefront of this journey. Some Middle East nations are now global pioneers within the digital economy. This is in part a result of progressive policies and regulations, digital-savvy populations, and the rapid rollout of advanced infrastructure enabled with the latest technologies such as cloud, 5G and AI over recent years.

Fast forward to today and the region is clearly reaping the benefits.

Perhaps most importantly, this technology can extend human possibilities. It enables societies to evolve human capital to not fall behind in an increasingly connected world.

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Business leaders are now more assertive than ever in identifying how digitization can improve their competitive edge. One component of this is certainly having access to advanced tools and infrastructure which are now enabling a new era of connectivity. Beyond fast downloads and smooth video calls for consumers, the gigabit speeds and lower latency facilitated by 5G enables enterprise customers to apply intelligence and automation to their operations, leading to improved performance and lower costs.

Aside from these technological innovations, business outcomes increasingly hinge on what is referred to as the ‘human imperative.’ This imperative recognizes that technology must be rooted in the human experience.

Creating a human imperative ensures that technologies evolve in accordance with human values and needs.

But we need to accept technology has limitations. As the region pursues digital transformation, policymakers must be aware that the evolving infrastructure’s role is not to replace human capabilities, but to augment them.

A view of the skyline of downtown Dubai with Burj Khalifa, at sunset. (AFP)
A view of the skyline of downtown Dubai with Burj Khalifa, at sunset. (AFP)

Realizing the human imperative requires a sense of urgency, whether as individuals, teams, or entire organizations.
To inspire that, a good first step is often to carry out a comprehensive stakeholder analysis. Here, employees can be categorized based on their current digital capabilities and their appetite for change. Those who support a transformation are the ones you know are motivated and can be empowered. Those more hesitant to embrace change can be assigned to other positions, perhaps not taking on future leadership roles.

Thankfully, many people now understand the seismic shift underway in the modern economy. For example, we have all seen how digital businesses such as Uber, Airbnb, and WeChat have upended transport, hospitality, and finance business models. That alone is an incredible driver to embrace the inevitability of change.

For those who still need encouragement, swift action can translate into a sense of mission. The marketplace is dynamic, after all. Challenges crop up daily for businesses that are not digital-ready.

Employers can use these challenges as motivation to drive transformation within their workforce. While some organizations might prefer to conceal the true extent of external threats in order to paint a rosy picture to stakeholders, it has been proven that humans will often respond faster when faced with a sense of crisis.

In parallel, training is essential to prepare the workforce for their new roles, aligning them with the business’s wider digital transformation goals. It is worth mentioning that many businesses will struggle to solve the digital skills shortage on their own. Public Private Partnerships are essential to nurture the next generation of talent.

Another critical element is cyber security preparedness. Cyber threats constitute one of the most significant risks facing any enterprise. IT and non-IT personnel should therefore be sufficiently empowered to protect themselves and corporate assets from cybercriminals in a digital economy.

Organizational leaders must reward agents of change by creating positive incentives. This creates positive momentum for transformation. It also encourages others on the fence to change their stance on future change.

Incentives go far beyond remuneration. Today, they include showing people the impact of their work on the organization and the organization’s impact on society.

In the end, digitalization in the Middle East will continue to disrupt all aspects of our lives. But it doesn’t have to be a negative disruption. Organizations can remain alert to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

By putting the ‘human imperative’ of changing people at the forefront of policy, enterprises will find much greater success in their digital transformation over the coming year.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.