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KHALEEJ TIMES, Sunday, Jan 19, 2020 | Jamadi Al Awwal 24, 1441

How UAE can save over Dh11B by adopting blockchain technologies

Emirates: The UAE can save over Dh11 billion through implementing advanced blockchain technologies, according to a new report.

In addition to the cost savings, the UAE government can eliminate 398 million printed documents and 77 million work hours per year through leveraging blockchain to process routine transactions, said a whitepaper released by the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution UAE (C4IR UAE), said the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) and the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

Currently, 80 per cent of public and private sector entities are already using the technology.

"The UAE has long been a leader in the early implementation of emerging technologies, including blockchain, and is a vital contributor when developing governance and a systematic approach for new technologies," said Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of the foundation.

Following the launch of the Dubai Blockchain Strategy in 2016 and the Emirates Blockchain Strategy in 2018, the UAE government has taken active measures in advancing the technology nationwide through creating an industry for blockchain, driving government adoption and stepping up international collaboration with interested stakeholders. Since then, the country has hosted a multitude of blockchain implementations, conferences and other initiatives.

The UAE government, as a part of its digital transformation efforts, decided to capitalise on blockchain to transform government transactions on the federal level, 50 per cent of which will be conducted using blockchain by 2021.

The study found that when it comes to implementing blockchain, the two main challenges for government, corporate and service providers are difficulty in bringing together the required stakeholders and educating and creating awareness among stakeholders. However, the core challenge in blockchain implementation remain in the operational and regulatory sphere rather than on the technical side.

Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, said the UAE has long been a leader in the early implementation of emerging technologies.

"The use of blockchain technology in the public and private sectors has been no different. Spearheaded by the launch of the Dubai Blockchain Strategy and the Emirates Federal Blockchain Strategy, the UAE government has taken active steps towards advancing the technology nationwide through industry creation, government adoption and international collaboration," he said.

"Since then, the country has played host to a multitude of blockchain implementations, conferences and other initiatives. Each of these has yielded new insights into the major challenges and success factors encountered when deploying blockchain technology, now shared for the first time in this paper," the minister said.

Seven case studies have been documented to provide shared experiences in understanding fundamental challenges and success factors in deploying blockchain.

Case studies

Among the case studies, global ports operator DP World's goals are twofold. First, collaborate with UAE entities for two selected use cases - enable registration, licences and memberships of new traders on a single platform and digitise exit/entry certificates required at ports. Second, it aims to create a permissioned blockchain for beneficiary cargo owners and their trade-logistics business partners to promote data sharing and process integration.

Dubai's largest bank, Emirates NBD, has decided to use blockchain to tackle the sizeable challenge of cheque fraud.

"Fraudsters apply sophisticated printing technologies to simulate cheques, such as counterfeiting and forgery, as well as fraudulent alteration, which causes financial, reputational and legal risks. As the group issues close to one million cheques every month, representing 30 per cent of total UAE clearing volumes, it is more likely to be susceptible to fraud. Hence, blockchain was explored as a mechanism to counter this risk," the study said.

Through applying a QR code on every page of a new cheque book and applying blockchain as a tamper-proof verification layer, the bank aimed to tackle cheque fraud. It will help scale and secure over 10 million cheques cleared monthly over branches for more than 50 banks; launch e-cheque instrument to potentially save 1.2 billion pages annually; and expand the service to digitise other documents.
Mirek Dusek, head of tge Middle East and North Africa and member of the executive committee at the World Economic Forum, said the C4IR UAE stems from a long-standing collaboration between the UAE and the World Economic Forum.

"We are excited to launch this report, which represents a concrete example of how the C4IR UAE can drive leadership on inclusive deployment of blockchain. The principles developed in the report will empower not only UAE's and the region's business and government entities, but will also drive meaningful collaborations with other countries that are part of the World Economic Forum's Fourth Industrial Revolution Network for greater economic and social impact."

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