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The World Government Summit - 11 February 2019: A new paper from PwC, dubbed “The Future of Quantum Computing in the Middle East”and released in conjunction with Dubai’s World Government Summit, assesses the potential impact of quantum computing, detailing expected opportunities and specific risks.

Regional innovation and upskilling for the future:

The Gulf region is investing heavily in AI as a competitive sector and the rise of quantum computing will support this ambition tremendously. Sizeable opportunities exist for the real-time AI sector in the region, at a level that is unprecedented.

According to PwC research, quantum computing investment should be a feature of all national strategic agendas but this is particularly the case in the Middle East, where research budgets are relatively modest yet the rewards of early investment could be considerable. The potential benefits fit with the region’s long-term economic plans, and the necessity to stay ahead of new threats to national security.

Maintaining, sourcing and developing relevant skills is a global issue, but one that is especially acute in the Middle East. As the region strives for recognition in high-tech, finance and fintech, government agencies and businesses need to ensure they have access to a local talent pool.

As Gulf countries increase their efforts to attract global technology talent, they must be able to demonstrate that local ambitions and projects will offer a challenging, motivating and competitive environment – focused on upcoming technologies and with a determination to lead in the field.

Commenting on the paper, Simone Vernacchia, Partner and Digital Cybersecurity, Resilience and Infrastructure Leader at PwC Middle East notes:

“Quantum computing is moving into mainstream commercial use over the next few years, representing a mammoth new age of technology. This dramatic shift will affect both how and how quickly computers are able to solve increasingly complex problems. Quantum computers are able to perform complex calculations at 100 million times the speed of current computers: the associated leap in processing power will vastly accelerate scientific advances and transform knowledge economies. Put simply, when quantum computing is combined with other advanced technologies – big data analytics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing – the potential to accelerate innovation in almost any field of knowledge is beyond anything conceivable today.”

Vernacchia added, “The ramifications of all this are both exciting and frightening. The technology has the potential to elicit discoveries in medicine, energy exploration, space engineering and many more areas. But it also bears the potential to render existing cyber-security technologies obsolete, with strong consequences on national security, as the speed and sophistication of malicious code cracking outpaces current approaches to network and data protection. These considerations are sparking a growing sense of urgency as quantum computing approaches its breakout from the lab into the outside world.”

Strategic planning:

In developing a plan, PwC notes that governments should seek to convene meetings with representatives from across major industries to establish where specific national priorities lie. Strategies and policies need then to be formulated and progressed – covering everything from potential points of vulnerability and exposure to existing national strengths that can be used as useful foundations.

Setting this out up front will allow government bodies to focus initial investment, identify the types of collaboration that will be most beneficial, unlock or expand existing technology potential and ensure that all efforts deliver targeted returns.

Although quantum computing is set to emerge into the real world in a handful of years, it is still in its relatively early stages. One of the main opportunities in the short term for nations in the Middle East therefore will be to foster experimentation and encourage the development of potential use cases.

Local economies will attract the right skills and gain a competitive edge if they concentrate their efforts on practical uses for the new technology for the established local energy economy and the region’s emerging financial services, high-tech and adjacent knowledge industries.

Gulf nations which endeavour to take swift action have a good chance of exploiting quantum computing to their advantage, and in staying competitive with other regions that until now have taken the lead.