Moving into 2023, as we continue to accelerate and scale digital initiatives in the Middle East, there seems to be no doubt that the pandemic has grounded our expectations in our values as humans. The economic hangover we are going through today steers us towards being more cognizant of real things, going back to our roots and dismissing humanless tech. 

With the boom and subsequent large-scale adoption of digital technology and all the innovation possibilities it offers, we begin seeing clearly how the fundamental driver behind any innovation process is the human factor closely associated with it. We look around us and start seeing how the more tech there is, the more human we become, and the closer we get to our humanity. 

Technology changes all the time; human kind, hardly ever. Evgeny Morozov 

So, asked to write about my predictions on the future of the innovations industry in MENA, I wave my humility. As experts predict technology innovations — AI, Distributed ledgers, Green innovations and mixed reality — I speak of the resilience, the trust, the purpose and the determination that is entrenched within those innovations. 

Having worked in the region for 18 years, primarily as a customer guardian, I have witnessed how human values, motivations and attitudes drive innovation to make positive change, and I am hopeful that as innovation unpacks itself in 2023, it will only get us even closer to our own humanity. 

It is primarily through this customer-centricity and cognizance of real things that I unpack my 2023 thoughts:

Building Resilience and Determination to pursue sustainability commitments 

I look at Emirates Crop One (ECO 1), the world’s largest vertical hydroponic farm that recently opened in the UAE to note the resilient agricultural innovation and determination to foster sustainable food production systems. 

And beyond this flagship project, I highlight large-scale funding and investment within the public and the private sectors with a particular focus on how the Expo 2020 Dubai contributed to the continued determination to pursue sustainable commitments. 

A resilience and determination to sustainability innovation driven by our leaders both on the regional and the local level. An accelerated “white” space that will grow beyond 2023 and impact human kind. 

Building brand authenticity through experiential phygital experiences. 

Brands are urgently shifting their efforts towards consumer engagement in the digital world across the different connected channels they use. Today’s retail environment is tied less to tangible values and more to critical experiential engagement. 

People buy while scrolling through their feed and use social networks to ask for advice. Technology innovation and the internet of things is exponentially increasing our touchpoints with the brand offering opportunities for more authenticity. 

In 2023, Authenticity will drive more innovation, particularly in retail, blurring the boundaries between physical and digital. 

Building trust with more distributed ledgers 

Blockchain technology and distributed ledgers will continue transforming our world, driven by the motivation of being smarter and more connected, yet enabled by a mutual trust that entrusts us back. 

Once established, transparency will propel innovation around blockchain technology, building a network of trust around our identity, making our lives easier. 

Extending realities into more purpose 

As extended reality advances, we pave the way for incredible experiences in the metaverse. And as I read Mark Zuckerberg’s “[..] defining quality of the Metaverse is presence, which is the feeling that you’re really there with another person or in another space”, it becomes crystal clear for me that regardless of the extent to which we progress in innovation and technology, human presence remains our ultimate purpose. 

2023 and beyond – A hope in human values and attitudes

2023 will certainly be another surprising year, one full of innovation. I would hope that while we innovate, we continue building on the values, attitudes and motivations that bring up those innovations and offer an extension to their meaning and their purpose. 

Human-focused innovation is what helps advance our lives to make them better, easier and more enjoyable. It adds moments of delight and novelty we desperately seek and yearn for. 

In 2023, I can only hope that we allow our values, attitudes and motivations to enable more human-driven innovations.