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The importance of digital transformation and the need to think of alternative business models to seize the opportunities brought by the networked society was highlighted last month at the Change-Makers Forum, hosted by Ericsson.

The forum, which brought together prominent speakers from around the region and the world to discuss subjects related to the transformation of information and communications technologies, was held in Dubai on January 10, 2016, at the Sofitel, the Palm hotel, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and Chief Executive Emirates Airline and Group Dubai Aviation City.

Rafiah Ibrahim, president of Ericsson, region Middle East and East Africa, said, ""ICT is transforming the way people work and communicate. People's lifestyles are changing; we are using more data to access products and services. And we want the best experience when doing that. And as devices are online and interacting, and as mobile broadband unite with cloud services, every industry that we represent today will find itself in a new reality. At the Change-Makers Forum, we discussed the need to anticipate what the consumer wants and create consumer needs. In short, when disruption accelerates, we need to anticipate change and act to remain relevant.""

Change-makers who were part of the event shared common themes related to the transformation of business models across industries. One of the industries discussed was transportation, whereby Magnus Olsson, co-founder and chief navigator at Careem, presented to the audience how business models are radically transforming enabling new growth opportunities. ""Today, I am proud to say that Careem has grown to become one of the leading car booking services in the Middle East. This new business model is changing our society's economic landscape allowing entrepreneurs to explore brand new business opportunities that we are witnessing for the first time,"" he added.

Speaking about harnessing the power of social media, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, delivered a keynote speech, where he said: ""As the internet continues to grow and change at exponential rates, open-source, open-content technology will affect the fundamental ways that businesses interact with customers, distributors, suppliers and the public in the future.""

Refugees United and Ericsson also explained how mobility can transform people's lives globally. Christopher Mikkelsen, co-founder of Refugees United, delivered a keynote speech about how connectivity has improved refugees' conditions across the world.

Mikkelsen highlighted how mobile communications can be used to solve challenging issues and change people's lives for good. He said: ""When working with refugees, we understand the value of connectivity and how technology can help to promote it. Ericsson supports the networked society, aiming to connect those who do not have the ability to reach their families. I am happy to be part of this event to promote a transformation to improve people's lives.""

In the fifth edition of its annual trend report, Ericsson Consumer Lab presented the 10 hottest consumer trends for 2016 and beyond.

This year's report showed consumers believe artificial intelligence (AI) will soon enable interaction with objects without the need for a smartphone screen. In fact, half of all smartphone users expect smartphones to become things of the past within the next five years.

The report also showed that as the adoption of networked technologies moves faster than ever, mass-market use becomes the norm quicker. As a result, the time period when early adopters influence others is now shorter than before.

Michael BjÖrn, head of Research, Ericsson ConsumerLab, says: ""Some of these trends may seem futuristic. But consumer interest in new interaction paradigms such as AI and virtual reality (VR), as well as in embedding the internet in the walls of homes or even in our bodies, is quite strong.

This means we could soon see new consumer product categories appearing - and whole industries transforming - to accommodate this development.""

The insights in the 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2016 report come from Ericsson ConsumerLab's global research program and cover a range of consumer opinions. The broadest trend is representative of 1.1 billion people across 24 countries, whereas the narrowest represents 46 million urban smartphone users in 10 major cities.

The 10 trends for 2016 and beyond are: The Lifestyle Network Effect; Streaming Natives; AI Ends The Screen Age; Virtual Gets Real; Sensing Homes; Smart Commuters; Emergency Chat; Internables; Everything Gets Hacked; and Netizen Journalists.

Ari Kesisoglu, regional director, Africa, Middle East & Turkey at Facebook, delivered a keynote address at the forum confirming one of the 10 hot consumer trends discovering that social networks may become the preferred way to contact emergency services. ""It is critical for businesses and individuals to understand the impact of the technological transformation. If we examine social networking tools, for example, they represent just the beginning of a new era of communication that could lead to unimagined ways of finding and interacting with one another. At Facebook, an organization at the forefront of social media innovation, we recognize that we currently stand on the edge of a new world of limitless possibilities. We know that the future of social networking will take us somewhere exciting,"" he said.

Ali Jaber, Group TV Director of MBC, was also in attendance and talked about the convergence between OTTs and TV and how this transformation is shaping the media industry.

MBC and Ericsson discussed the shifts in consumer behaviour and technology that are reshaping TV and media. Ali Jaber, Group TV Director of MBC & Dean of Mohammed bin Rashid School of Communications, American University in Dubai, delivered a keynote speech about the importance of content for TV and media, how ICT is transforming the converged media experience, and how technology tools can help the industry to grow.

Rafiah Ibrahim, president, Ericsson Region Middle East and Africa, said: ""This transformation is fuelling the networked society, a society in which mobility empowers every person and every industry to reach their full potentials. New innovations and players are shaping several industries and we want to participate in the discussion to enable a sustainable future for all parties.""

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