Dr_Mahir_Nayfeh(left), senior vice-president at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA; Ramez_Shehadi(right), executive vice president and managing director of Booz Allen Hamilton MENA Dr_Mahir_Nayfeh(left), senior vice-president at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA; Ramez_Shehadi(right), executive vice president and managing director of Booz Allen Hamilton MENA

New and emerging blockchain technologies are integral to supporting and realising a digital economy in the Middle East while ensuring effective protection against rapidly evolving threats of data security and cybercrime, according to a new report by global consulting and technology firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

The report, titled ‘Blockchain technology – Can the digital economy thrive without it?’, recommends that as Gulf countries seek to create some of the world’s smartest cities amid a culture of innovation, blockchain technology can offer streamlined and effective ways of protecting and enabling smart city development, disrupting digital transaction systems, and incubating a start-up ecosystem to drive economic growth.

Blockchain helps maintain tamper-proof lists of ever-growing data records, and enables secure value exchanges – be it money, stocks or data access rights. Unlike traditional trading systems, no intermediary or central recording system is needed to track the exchange. Instead, all parties deal directly with each other.

Ramez Shehadi, executive vice president and managing director of Booz Allen Hamilton MENA and co-author of the report said: "Economies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are undergoing a period of rapid change as governments diversify away from petroleum-based assets and explore newer sources of revenue with smart technology at the core. But, with opportunities come challenges. As Smart Cities rise up to support national agendas, governments need to be prepared for threats ranging from hacktivism to cybercrime, and this is exactly where blockchain can help them achieve their digital economy goals while ensuring maximum network security.”

The global digital services market is expected to reach $1.2 trillion in 2018 from $768 billion in 2013 and digitisation is forecast to boost GDP by $5.5 billion in Dubai alone over the same period.

Dr. Mahir Nayfeh, senior vice-president at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA and co-author of the report said: "Blockchain can help remove the security concerns often raised by organisations to justify their unwillingness to reveal information, while encouraging the adoption of data-sharing incentives and fostering a community-based ecosystem that can determine the value of data over time.”

The Global Blockchain Council established by the
Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation sets out to encourage start-up incubation and explore the technology’s potential impact on business and finance, as well as its role in facilitating transactions across sectors.