We all know that our future is built today. Nonetheless, we know from history that it is very difficult and complex to predict the future. Significant trends can, however, be used as a helpful guide on this journey. One such significant trend that we are currently witnessing is what is coined “smart digital societies.” A smart digital society connects both people and objects; digitizes goods and services; enhances everybody and everything with useful and smart information; automates and complements; and facilitates human labor.
The trend toward a smart digital society is being realized with significant advances in key technological enablers and disruptive innovations in a plethora of telecommunications and computing areas. Some of these technologies and innovations include the Internet of Things (IoT) – where everything (people, objects, and infrastructure) is connected through smart devices and sensors, and where they communicate with each other using wireless and wired means and via the cloud. In addition, physical goods and data are being digitized, and as a result they become a source for information.
In particular, the broad use of electronic devices and the all-around generation of digital information are fundamentally changing the availability of real-time information, such as data from GPS devices, mobile phones and from social media. Such data collected from all sources is processed and analyzed, and useful information is extracted using “big data” analytics. The information extracted is being used to improve our daily lives, our businesses, our health, our environment, and create smart cities, etc. A lot of labor work is being automated using smart robots in manufacturing, surgeries, and hazardous situations, to name a few. Driverless cars are being manufactured and are being used in many cities.
One overreaching technology that is crucial to the success of all building blocks of a smart society is cybersecurity. Without cybersecurity, most of these advances will not be adopted and accepted as the risks would outweigh the advantages. That is why securing communication, data, and devices is an integral part of a smart digital society.
Qatar is building the strategy, capacity, and infrastructure to be at the forefront of digital societies as is detailed in the 2030 Qatar National Vision. Qatar’s governmental ministries; Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) and Qatar Foundation partner universities in Education City; Qatar Foundation Research and Development; and Qatar University are just a few examples that are contributing in tremendous ways toward making Qatar a smart digital society. Most of the Qatari government services and data are digitized through its e-government by providing the use of electronic communications devices, computers and the internet to provide better public services to its citizens, residents, and visitors.
Hamad Bin Khalifa University is contributing to Qatar as a smart digital society by providing education, research, and capacity-building. The MS degrees in cybersecurity and data science and engineering, delivered by the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) at HBKU, are a good example of this direction. Qatar Computing Research Institute and CSE are also conducting research in these areas that have significant impact in Qatar and beyond. Research and development in smart grids and smart urban water systems is another example of capacity-building being done in the College of Science and Engineering and Qatar Energy and Environment Institute, moving towards Qatar as a smart digital society.
The Qatar Genome Program (led by Qatar Biobank in collaboration with HBKU’s Qatar Biomedical research Institute, Hamad Medical Corporation and the Ministry of Public Health) with the aim of mapping the genome of the Qatari population, would enable the development of personalized healthcare in Qatar. The Qatar Mobility Innovation Center of Qatar University is developing and deploying smart mobility systems and services in Qatar in transportation, IoT, environment monitoring, etc. These examples are a clear illustration of the forward- looking vision and numerous endeavors that Qatar is pursuing to be one of the leading smart digital societies in the region and the world.