Having a holistic approach to Industry 4.0 is important, and its underlying technology is already impacting our professional and private lives. Automation in new homes and the Internet of Things enable us to control heating or cooling as well as the security features of our homes from anywhere in the world. Our children are more familiar with augmented reality and virtual reality than they are with their own neighbourhoods. 

Our governments offer most of their services online and are planning to use blockchain-based smart contracts soon, while the 5G internet infrastructure will enable robotics to enter many different areas of production and the services sectors, while artificial intelligence and mass data analysis are dominating the security sector. 

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A closer look at the future trends of the technologies mentioned above shows we are at the beginning of a rapidly developing and highly disruptive era, one that carries many benefits but also begs many questions for our economies and societies.

According to surveys by organisations such as PwC and McKinsey, many countries in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region are well equipped to adopt Industry 4.0 since they boast modern infrastructure, high levels of mobile penetration and young and technology-oriented populations. In fact, countries such as the United Arab Emirates are pioneers in the implementation of world-class digitalisation strategies in the state and private sectors. 

However, a holistic approach to Industry 4.0 leads to a the dynamic development of societies on a local level rather than a greater implementation of imported technologies. The beating heart of Industry 4.0 is R&D, which is based on the knowledge-based society. If we have learned anything in the past two decades, it has been the lesson that the best digital solutions for MEA countries have been developed by their own youth and talent. Shining examples can be found in the fintech and agrotech sectors, and have been covered in my past columns. 

This is why the education of local talent, investment in regional start-ups and financing of MEA-based R&D facilities are as crucial for a successful Industry 4.0 strategy in our region as the knowhow transfer of foreign tech by co-operation and FDI.

Mazdak Rafaty is managing partner of Ludwar International Consultancy and SME adviser to the joint Emirati-German Chamber of Commerce. E-mail: m.rafaty@lic-consulting.com