My 2nd trip to GITEX (Gulf Information Technology Exhibition) came to an end last Friday.

While I was very keen to come back to Singapore, a place I call home, but I left more optimistic about UAE being better at their tech development, especially on Artificial Intelligence. Why so? I attended their Minister of Economy briefing and although they started with motherhood statements, they are quite detailed in the steps they want to take. What do they want to do?

1) Ease of Doing Business

They are going to keep a constant review on companies law, allowing 100% foreign ownership. They are looking to set up technology hubs in the different Emirates such as Hub71 and AREA 2071 (this should sound familiar to my Singapore audience). Improve ports and airports, together with telecom network and infrastructure, and strengthen the anti-money laundering law. And of course, not forgetting the family office, creating programs to support their growth.

2) Human Capital

The UAE government is revamping their residency regime. Two types of visa, without income floor from what I've heard. Golden Visa for Investors, Entrepreneurs, Scientists, Highly skilled workers, etc. Green visa for Digital Nomad.

3) Digital Transformation

Similar to Singapore, they have a roadmap called "The Fifty Economic Plan" (This I'm going to explore further), "The Emirates BlockChain Strategy", "Green Growth Strategy", "Fourth Industrial Revolution" and a National AI Program till 2031 (This I'm going to explore further as well).4) New Markets Signing CEPA with countries like India, Indonesia, Israel and in discussion with Turkey, Colombia, Georgia and Cambodia. I am writing this down just a note and of course comparing it with what Singapore is doing because I really hope Singapore will progress! At least in the AI landscape, as I've mentioned I am more optimistic with UAE than Singapore. UAE has a lot of money, through their natural resources, and can attract talents easily with it while Singapore has to adopt the strategy of training their locals.

What does this all mean?

1) Singapore has to get their training and education in technology "correct", setting up training programs where its graduate is highly demanded by the companies. Apologies, but the current training regime is just full of "mapping" and looking at them, while there are good ones but most of them cut too finely and pretty obviously done by consultants who talk and write rather than being in the thick of the action. Current training landscape is full of trainers who are not practitioners and give knowledge and skill that can be found by Google. Not forgetting it seems like everything is just Machine Learning and Python programming, when what we need more of right now is digital/data literacy.

To do our training correctly, here is what I proposed. Good trainers that are practitioners are hard to find and they are in the constant struggle of choosing between well-paying job that let them practice, and low paying teaching jobs offered by polytechnics and universities. We need to change this.

Start by setting up a high threshold on who can become trainers, they need to be practitioners with commercial projects implementation under their belt. Nationalise the payment framework, meaning how much to pay these instructors. Once they are determined to be able to teach well and can share more than the technical knowledge available online, they should be paid worth their salt. My suggestion is take the 70th percentile of tech workers pay.

Stop the current "mapping" exercise now! Have a panel of experts instead. Again be very selective of the panelist, they must either be practitioners or hiring managers that have substantial teams under them, and their companies they are working in, is making money, not losing investors money. Losing money is easier than making money!

With these two in mind, SG will have better control over the content and instructor, ensuring they are up-to-date and demanded by industry.

2) Continue to attract companies that can provide tech jobs to support the South East Asia region. Singapore cannot focus on Singapore market alone. If we do, our talents' value provision will be limited given how small the Singapore market is. This will require our local to have a better world view, to understand the culture and political system of other countries. Larger value provision means higher salary and limit poaching by other countries of our talents.

3) We need an ecosystem to support innovation and growth, together with knowledge transfer as well, transfer to talent and companies. This I do see but can increase the "bandwidth" by increasing the R&D budget of companies. We will need to update our tax codes to support such activities in the private sector.These are what I think and write of for now, and I strongly believe SG can be another great AI Hub The biggest challenge is developing the local talent pool (local & qualified foreign) and expanding into other markets.

Like to hear others thoughts and what they see in other countries. I also hope to increase my world view and since countries are opening up, it presents the learning opportunities once again.

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