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The Role Emirati Women Can (And Should) Play In The UAE's Digital Transformation Strategy "Technology is often viewed as 'a man's world,' but through my company, I hope we are changing that, and showing Emirati women that the UAE technology sector is a place where we belong."

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In the UAE and across the globe, digital transformation is a strategic policy imperative. The creation of smart government services, of artificial intelligence solutions, of cutting-edge data analytics and performance, and the enabling of future technologies is at the forefront of many government's economic priorities.

You will not be surprised to read that I agree. Data-driven, technology led solutions have the potential to transform people's lives for the better– not just for all us living in the UAE, but for people across the world.

The UAE government is clearly committed, with initiatives in place to unlock digital transformation including the Abu Dhabi Plan, Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, the UAE National Innovation Strategy and the UAE Artificial Intelligence Strategy. This forward thinking is a vital part of how we create a tech-entrepreneurship ecosystem to enable the UAE's digital progress, supporting startups to drive innovation and create groundbreaking infrastructure products that can completely disrupt markets.

As a female Emirati entrepreneur, however, I believe that digital transformation will require us to focus in another key area: how we ensure that Emirati women are central to the UAE's digital transformation strategy.

We all understand the importance of developing Emirati entrepreneurial talent when it comes to the long-term growth of our nation. Emirati entrepreneurs have a deeper understanding of the local market, will be based here for the long term, and will enable continued growth of the technology sector.

But there is reason to believe that female-led startups may be especially important. Businesses, owned by women grow further, faster. In the US, all businesses grew by 9% between 2014–2019. Female owned businesses grew by 21% in the same five-year period.

My business, SPL Co., is just one example of how Emirati female owned businesses offer great potential for the national technology sector, driving long-term and sustained technological change, and helping to craft the tech sector of the future– in turn, creating new opportunities for Emirati women to grow.

I began my company because I wanted to play my part in helping grow the UAE's knowledge economy and unlock the potential for digital transformation. Having completed a successful research project at the Emirates ICT Innovation Center (EBTIC, established by Etisalat, British Telecom, and Khalifa University, and supported by the ICT Fund) that is recognized internationally, and taken part in a program from startAD, the Abu Dhabi-based global accelerator, I understood the scale of demand for software transformation and modernization in current IT systems, and I was convinced that a business like mine could meet that need.

SPL Co. was founded to help UAE government entities and businesses overcome issues with their software by helping audit existing code and identify the parts to migrate to cloud infrastructure, using artificial intelligence software that my company developed. We help programmers assess their code's structure and quality, as well as automate fundamental steps of migrating code to the cloud, often helping organizations reduce the costs of modernizing their systems by up to 30%.

Technology is often viewed as "a man's world," but through my company, I hope we are changing that, and showing Emirati women that the UAE technology sector is a place where we belong. Already, at a national level, the UAE has created policies and regulations that encourage Emirati women to enter the technology sector, to start their own businesses, and grow them for the future.

The theme of this Emirati Women's Day is "Preparing for the Next Fifty Years: Women are the Support of the Nation." I urge all Emirati women who have the talent and a passion technology to consider how they can begin their own startup, helping to drive the UAE as a global leader in digital transformation for the next half-century, and beyond.

Related: The UAE's Empowerment Of Women Is An Example For The World To Follow

Salwa Mohamed Rashed Alzahmi

Founder and CEO, SPL Co.

Salwa Mohamed Rashed Alzahmi is the founder and CEO of SPL Co., a provider of software transformation and modernization in current IT systems. A UAE national, Salwa began her career after completing a successful research project at the Emirates ICT Innovation Center, helping her understand the scale of demand for software transformation in current IT systems, helping reduce organizational costs of system modernization by up to 30%. The company has both won and come as the finalists in a range of prestigious awards, including GTB Awards, the IET Awards, and the DevOps Excellence Award.
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