GITEX 2019: Day 1 Highlights

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From courageous whistleblowers, Saudi Arabia’s transformation and Gen Z to AI award winners: GITEX 2019 opens

GITEX 2019 News Highlights – Day 1 – 6 October, 2019

The 39th edition of GITEX Technology Week and the 4th edition of GITEX Future Stars kicked off today with keynote sessions from internationally renowned whistleblower Tyler Shultz, who exposed fraud at blood-testing startup Theranos, game-changing technologies to benefit people of determination as well as major shifts in the international startup industry with the launch of the GITEX G2i Summit and the Supernova Challenge semi-finals.

RELATED: GITEX 2019: ‘Synergising the Mind and Technology Economy’

Tech firms must learn to recognise their problems and resolve ethical dilemmas: Theranos whistleblower Tyler Shultz

Making his GITEX debut, keynote speaker and Theranos whistleblower Tyler Shultz recapped his experience at the company that was once tipped to be the next big thing to come out of Silicon Valley. Drawn to the vision of founder Elizabeth Holmes, Shultz recalled instances where colleagues who raised concerns about the business were immediately fired. Theranos’ devices were meant to save lives, but instead put people’s health at risk.

MORE: Lessons from the Theranos Whistleblower

Theranos whistleblower Tyler Shultz
Theranos whistleblower Tyler Shultz

As he spent more time in the company, Shultz discovered numerous issues with the blood-testing technology and the failing promise of a grand ambition. Shultz confronted Theranos’s leadership about the various issues he foresaw, but was consistently brushed aside. Risking legal fees of up to $500,000, Shultz knew he was potentially jeopardising his career and future by going public against the well-funded startup. 

He highlighted the need for employees to demand transparency and said that whistleblowers will play an important role in the technology industry. The inability of businesses to recognise challenges will lead to more Theranos-like scenarios, he said. Employees must also be protected and encouraged to speak up as that will truly help businesses.

Shultz is now the subject of an internationally acclaimed documentary, “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.”

Rashid Centre for People of Determination unveils state-of-the-art comms platform for special needs education

At a special ceremony, Mariam Othman, chief executive officer of the Rashid Centre for People of Determination, launched a smart communications and collaboration platform for special needs institutions, co-developed with Avaya. 

The solution will help streamline communications between staff, students and parents and aims to improve learning experiences, enhance student safety and simplify the Centre’s administration. 

The platform aims to make remote learning and virtual classrooms a reality and features inbuilt fleet management which can track school buses in real-time, giving parents peace of mind while their children are being transported to and from the Centre.

“It has been our vision to use technology to elevate the quality of education and care that we provide to this inspiring segment of society. We thank Avaya who have partnered with us to design a truly unique solution that makes our vision a reality,” said Mrs. Othman.

Appealing to the technology industry to make ‘accessibility for all’ a guiding principle in solution design, Nidal Abou-Ltaif, president, Avaya International said, “Communication is at the core of the human experience and we believe it should be a fundamental right for any individual, irrespective of their abilities.”

Saudi Arabia’s Innovation Day highlights potential for world-class ecosystem of opportunity and startup support 

From a Kingdom of oil to a Kingdom of startups, the Saudi Arabia startup ecosystem is growing at a fast pace. This increase in opportunities for young Saudis is becoming clear through the number of increased deals, investments, investors and government entities powering the startup ecosystem. Saudi Arabia is proving to be a market that offers access to capital, talent and a stellar network of opportunity. 

RELATED: Saudi Arabia’s Tech Startup Scene: Nascent but Rapidly Evolving

During an in-depth panel discussion today, Dr. Nabeel Kishak, CEO Saudi Venture capital company (SVC) said that after just one year, the firm has approved 14 new VC funds totalling around $650 million. 

Nawaf Al Sahhaf, CEO Business Incubators and Accelerators Company (BIAC) said that according to a recently launched MAGNiTT report, the market is seeing an 80% increase year-on-year in startup ventures. 

RELATED: MENA Startup Funding At Record Levels

Esam Al Thukair, Vice Governor, Entrepreneurship, Monsha’at (SME General Authority) said that all initiatives that have been set in place are helping small businesses and startups to overcome the key obstacles of funding, regulation and access to market. 

Othman Aldahash, Vice President, Corporate Development, STC Group touched on the importance of startups relying on the latest technologies such as 5G, IoT and analytics to kick-start their journey. 

Finally, Ibrahem Alnasir, GM Digital Innovation Center, Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology highlighted how the Saudi Ministry of Communication and Information Technology believes in enablers for all sectors. “That is why we are focusing on digital innovation,” he said. “Our main objective is to link technologies with solutions. That’s why we try to focus on the access of these new technologies internationally and find the best way to localise them through the entrepreneurs and startups.”

Accenture Digital spotlights how Middle East execs are unprepared for mass disruption 

Highlighting the importance of remaining up to speed in an ever-evolving world, Accenture Digital’s Mike Sutcliff used his GITEX keynote to put the spotlight on the ways that personalisation has taken on a new level of importance in the customer experience. 

 Mike Sutcliff - Global Chief Executive - Accenture Digital (US).
Mike Sutcliff – Global Chief Executive – Accenture Digital (US).

Sutcliff focused his keynote on the ways that organisations are helping to shape the UAE’s transformation in the run up to Expo 2020, as well as how the wider Middle East region is applying and changing its attitude to digital tools. 

Accenture’s research shows that more than 80% of executives in the Middle East are anticipating further disruption in the coming two years as competitors come into the marketplace. More than 70% of those same executives, however, say they are not confident that they know what to do to be more competitive than the new entrants to the market. 

Sutcliff also highlighted the importance of doing things in real time, and how that will only be possible with the adoption of 5G. “Every year we try to bring some insight into what’s going on globally and how we see that emerging in the region, and how different companies are thinking about what the trends are, what the new tools and techniques might be and how they’re going to apply those to whatever their mission statement is.”

GITEX Hero Awards presented to Afiniti and WeWalk with more to come throughout the week

Over the course of GITEX Technology Week, 20 industry disruptors from 9 industry verticals will be recognised for outstanding achievement.

The first of the GITEX Hero Award for the ‘Best Use of AI in Enterprise’ was presented to Afiniti today. Afiniti has made a tremendous impact on the telecommunications industry, driving revenue for T-Mobile and 26,000 annual customers for AT&T. 

Chris Farmer, Chief Marketing Officer at Afiniti said, “GITEX is the leading space where technology and innovation are discussed in this region, it’s an area where we are starting to make strides in and so this is really exciting for us. This is our first year here, and so to be part of GITEX and getting involved with the awards has been an additional benefit. We are extremely happy to be here celebrating with everyone.” 

Chris Farmer - Chief Marketing Officer at Afiniti receiving the GITEX Hero Award from Josh Constine - Editor at Large at TechCrunch.
Chris Farmer – Chief Marketing Officer at Afiniti receiving the GITEX Hero Award from Josh Constine – Editor at Large at TechCrunch.

The second award for Social Enterprise (technology for good) was awarded to WeWalk, who beat other finalists such as Oman Tel, and Huawei. As the independence of the visually impaired is becoming increasingly dependent on the ability to access and use technology such as viewing online information, WeWalk provides a fully accessible and cohesive experience for the visually impaired, eliminating accessibility barriers through technology.

Gen Z has become an increasingly unpredictable consumer group that requires new thinking, experts agree at GITEX Future Stars

As attention spans become shorter, Gen Z experts agreed that it has become harder for businesses to sell products and services to an increasingly sophisticated consumer group that has grown more critical. 

Content and marketing campaigns that are not meaningful to them or appear “fake” will almost certainly result in them walking away, according to NXG stage speaker Connor Blakley, Chief Marketing Officer, Campus Agency. 

Acclaimed Gen Z expert dui, David (right) and Jonah (left) Stillman on the NXT Gen stage at GITEX Future Stars
Acclaimed Gen Z expert dui, David (right) and Jonah (left) Stillman on the NXT Gen stage at GITEX Future Stars

Brands today have started social good campaigns not just because they think it will make an impact, but because they know Gen Z consumers want to engage with companies that do good. Yet the experience needs to be genuine.”

In line with Blakley’s thinking, acclaimed generational expert and Gen X-er, David Stillman, and his son Jonah Stillman, who is part of generation Z, provided the NXG audience with unique insights into generational research, expectations of generation Z, potential sources of conflict and possible solutions. Photo caption: Acclaimed Gen Z expert duo, David (right) and Jonah (left) Stillman on the NXT Gen stage at GITEX Future Stars.

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