By Dominik Treeck
This article first appeared on Atlantic Council on December 09, 2020.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) governments seeking to diversify their economies and position for growth are rightly focused on the importance of digitization. However, scale and sustainability require serious attention to associated risks. While digitization—both of private sector activities and of government services—has for some time been viewed as central to these efforts, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the process. At the same time, governments need to establish effective protections for the digital economy to gain scale and become sustainable.
Several GCC countries have ambitions to rise to the ranks of top global financial centers. In each case, the attraction and promotion of Financial Technology or FinTech is a critical or central component of their sector strategies. In addition to establishing tailored regulations—e.g. digital bank licenses—and dedicated environments—e.g. sandboxes—authorities provide technology infrastructure, support human capital development, orchestrate collaboration, and provide financing, among other measures. For instance, Abu Dhabi is the site of a large annual FinTech Festival. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia recently used the platform provided by its G20 Presidency to host a global TechSprint in cooperation with the Bank for International Settlements
In the GCC, as elsewhere in the world, the digital revolution is well on its way. Indeed, its importance is uniquely heightened by the critical role it plays across sectors to diversify and transform national economies. Not surprisingly, GCC governments are focused on measures that promote digitization on all fronts. They would do well to recognize that identification and proactive management of associated risks will contribute to ensuring benefits are broad-based, inclusive, and sustainable.
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