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Dubai Future Foundation’s Ramadan Pioneer Series: Experts Discuss Global Governance, Trends in Technology, and Upskilling in the Wake of COVID-19

May 3, 2020

Leading experts from around the world have come together for the annual Ramadan Pioneer Series hosted by Dubai Future Academy (DFAc), an initiative by Dubai Future Foundation (DFF). The first five virtual sessions held under the theme, “Life After the Coronavirus (COVID-19)”, saw experts assess global government efforts, identify the role of new technology practices, and navigate ways to develop foresight skills, and successful upskilling, to prepare for current and any future pandemics.

With the participation of more than 1000 people from the UAE and abroad, the session witnessed the attendance of ministers and government and private representatives including Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the Municipality and Planning Department in Ajman and President of the UAE Football Association, His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Her Excellency Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of Smart Dubai, and His Excellency Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation to explore the rising regional challenges and opportunities across vital sectors.


His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi praised DFF’s efforts in introducing future-forward perspectives that would be beneficial across vital sectors and stressed the importance of developing skills for designing the future in the realm of digital transformation, and to find shared solutions to common problems.

Throughout his participation and attendance of the Ramadan Pioneer Series from day one, His Highness Sheikh Rashid highlighted that he has witnessed a lot of positive views, engagement and ideas from both the speakers and audience, which serves as a cornerstone and a key pillar

when building a forward nation. His Highness called on the youth and the general public to take advantage of this knowledge platform and its interactive sessions as a means to better understand the future, its challenges and opportunities, as well as to support the countries efforts in positioning itself as a knowledge base economy.


His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, highlighted the importance of bringing future technologies and forward-looking planning tools to the forefront, to support the UAE’s efforts in their commitment and a concrete plan of action to tackle COVID-19.

Developing Technological Infrastructure in Preparation for the Future

During her session, Her Excellency Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, Director-General of the Smart Dubai Office, said: “The foreword vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to launch smart government initiative in 2013, contributed to the development of a leading technological infrastructure in the world that provides services to the public wherever they are and around the clock.”

For his part, His Excellency Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, reiterated that the rapid surge in practices such as remote work and distant learning in response to the coronavirus threat is a reminder that such tools build stronger and more resilient communities.

Speakers included John Sanei, Foresight Strategist, Singularity University faculty member, Jonathan Mcclory, General Manager for Asia at Portland, Creator and Author of the Soft Power 30 Index, Thomas FLechter, Visiting Professor at NYU and author of ‘The Naked Diplomat,’ Member of the Dubai Future Academy Board of Trustees and Roland Hancock, Partner at PwC and Paul Saffo, Adjunct professor at Stanford University


The Importance of Science, Sustainable System for a New Economy

John Sanei said: “COVID-19 provides an opportunity to radically rethink a new renaissance. As seen from previous epidemics, they are a catalyst for systemic change. With the current pandemic, we have an even greater advantage that will bring about change, and that is science.”

Looking at organizations’ way forward, he emphasized that this is an opportunity for reinventing a better, more sustainable system that does not solely rely on profit.  It is Sanei’s belief that flexible organizations would be the ones growing in a healthier way as opposed to companies using traditional models. Companies that focus on prioritizing employee happiness will see success, rather than ones who prioritize client satisfaction.

COVID-19 Is a Defining Period for Many National Identities

Soft Power – How does the Pandemic Change the global league table, Thomas Fletcher, Visiting Professor at NYU Abu Dhabi and Member of Dubai Future Academy board, and Jonathan McClory, author of The Soft Power 30, discussed many points related to the trust in governments by societies around the world in the performance of health sector, and the impact of the commitment of their members to reduce the damages of COVID-19. Additionally, the sessions discussed the importance of adopting a positive approach based on joint cooperation between different entities to enhance societal culture and direct support to vital sectors that serve humanity.

Upskilling is the Way Forward

In a session titled ‘Skills of the Future’ by Roland Hancock, Partner at PwC, he said almost 30 percent of current jobs will be at risk of being automated by 2030 and added that upskilling and investing in the current workforce is key to adjusting to the future disruptions. An organization must, therefore, identify the skills gap present in their workforce and understand the nature of the organization’s work in the future and upskill accordingly. And this – should be on a deeper level. The workforce should experiment a Cultural shift.

The fifth session titled “How to Think Like a Civilization” hosted by Paul Saffo, Adjunct professor at Stanford University, focused on the current developments that we witness and experience in our world today and how these developments are essential to anticipating what lies ahead. These modern developments also provide a context for understanding one’s personal role and responsibility to the future.

Dubai Future Academy is hosting this year’s Ramadan Pioneer Series under the theme, ‘Life After COVID-19’. Held online for the first time and spread across 13 sessions, the series aims to bring renowned speakers and experts to understand the implications of this novel virus on different sectors of society, identify key takeaways and mount a reliable plan of action for future challenges and opportunities. Those interested in attending the sessions can register through the Dubai Future Academy website: