Middle East to reach new heights of innovation with open source tech

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Adrian Pickering

By Adrian Pickering*

OPEN source solutions are accelerating the innovation and adoption for cloud, big data and analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain. An agile, cost-effective and flexible alternative to proprietary software – there is no better way to achieve connectivity on a massive scale without relying on open source frameworks and platforms within digital infrastructures.

As most countries in the Middle East activate national digital transformation initiatives to drive economic diversification, open source solutions will continue to gain momentum across the region.

Open source technologies support rapid innovation through several beneficial characteristics, allowing for a more natural adoption approach within the enterprise. It›s free and generally easy to download, install, and launch. This allows easy exploration of and experimentation with new technologies and enables enterprises to get comfortable with the software on smaller, non-mission-critical projects before any financial commitment is required. Open source is becoming increasingly omnipresent across the IT stack, particularly as organizations look to drive innovation while maintaining operational and cost efficiencies.

End-user organizations are not the only beneficiaries, open source also serves as a de-facto source of innovation for vendors, many of which are using open source technologies to build new solutions.

Key drivers behind the popularity of open source include associated benefits in terms of total cost of ownership, flexibility, scalability, reliability, and security in addition to no fear of proprietary lock-in.

Organizations have flexibility and security as open source solutions can be customized to their requirements, and a high level of collaboration allows for faster discovery of bugs and security gaps.

Open source enables greater reliability, as organizations can easily upgrade systems and features in less time with limited interruption in addition to rapid innovation as new features and functionalities are adopted faster than closed solutions.

The use of open source solutions also brings about a shift in the way organizations collaborate internally. Embracing practices such as DevOps and engaging in digital transformation requires operational IT and developer teams to work more collaboratively, and increases the level of collaboration between IT and lines of business.

In a global study conducted by IDC, 94% of surveyed organizations indicated that they were either adopting or planning to adopt open source as part of their application development strategies and capabilities. In addition, 90% of companies surveyed indicated that they are engaged in some form of digitization but only 16% said that their organization has implemented a bold, scalable strategy.

A number of governments around the world have established open source strategies to improve overall transparency in the public sector, promote innovation and cost savings, and avoid vendor lock-in. Meanwhile, many end-user organizations have adopted an «open source software first» strategy, or are evaluating open source software alongside other solutions.

As organizations build out their digital competencies to gain a competitive edge, improve customer engagement, and enhance their services, they are increasingly extending their infrastructure and applications to run on cloud.

Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of open source, eIT Solutions retains a global growing community of 15,000,000+ developers that are currently engaged in over 1,000,000+ projects worldwide.

The use of open source will continue to rise as organizations increasingly adopt agile development frameworks and tools to modernize existing applications and build new, cloud-native applications or services.

Awareness of open source in the Middle East has risen significantly in recent years. However, the level of adoption and prioritization varies considerably from country to country.

Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt have implemented national-level strategies around the use of open source solutions, which required the respective governments to drive awareness, create communities, and invest in building relevant skills. To this end, government entities, research and educational institutes, and open source IT vendors have been playing an active role in promoting both the awareness and use of open source across the region.

In the UAE, the government has been actively promoting innovation. Indeed, there has been an increase in the number of incubators, start-ups, and fintechs being established in the county, with these organizations increasingly leveraging open source solutions to create new digital services.

The UAE government has an established open data policy whereby data is accessible to different entities so that the information can be used to create new products and solutions. Through its Open UAE Research and Development Group, the University of Sharjah is working to accelerate the adoption of open source software in the region by driving awareness, providing training, offering advisory services to public- and private-sector entities, and even developing solutions based on open source.

In 2017, the UAE government launched the «One Million Arab Coders» initiative in a bid to empower young Arabs with coding and programming skills by helping them to contribute to the digital economy.

Across the Middle East, sectors such as telecommunications, banking and financial services, education, and healthcare have been using open source to optimize and simplify operations, reduce costs, and facilitate their digital agendas.

Despite the extensive efforts being undertaken by governments and vendors across the Middle East, open source adoption in the region is still being inhibited by a lack of awareness.

* The writer is Red Hat Regional Head for Middle East and North Africa


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