Dubai Chamber of Commerce calls for greater data access in the UAE

26 September 2019 3 min. read

 A report from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with consultancy Roland Berger has called for greater data access to aid start-ups in the Emirates.

Global strategy and management consultancy Roland Berger has partnered with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry to release a whitepaper exploring the importance of open data in support of the UAE’s start-up sector. Titled ‘Validating a Start-up Business Idea’, the report argues that greater access to data would grant local start-ups a competitive edge when it comes to market assessment and the validation of business ideas.

According to the analysis, more than a quarter of start-ups fail in the MENA region due to “insufficient and ill-calculated matches of respective products and services with market needs” (categorised as ‘no market need’), with the paper citing statistics which suggest that this figure is as high as 42 percent globally. Meanwhile, 46 percent of local entrepreneurs cited the availability of industry and market data as among their greatest challenges.

Biggest challenges for entrepreneurs in the UAE

Indeed, the lack of access to data was considered the fourth most significant obstacle to success for local start-ups in a survey conducted at the beginning of last year, behind banking, funding, and affordable office rentals. Yet, such has been the improvement in office affordability since then (due in part to the rise of local co-working spaces) that the Dubai Chamber switched from the subject as its intended whitepaper topic to focus instead on the challenge of validation.

According to the Chamber, addressing this challenge would speed up the development of viable products and lead to higher success rates, with an open data approach recommended as the appropriate tonic. Examples given where open data could aid start-ups include; in assessing potential markets for expansion; validating demand by analysing target demographics, efficiently targeting marketing spend; and by inspiring investor confidence with a quantified growth plan.

Here, the Roland Berger study points to the correlation between a country’s ranking on the World Bank’s Open Data Index and its positioning on the Ease of Doing Business Index, the latter which it says reflects a country’s “start-up friendliness.” Ultimately, the report argues for the widened collection of data and increased usability, calling on government entities and the private sector to share a broader number of datasets at a more granular level.

Ease of doing business correlation to open data

“Global best practices and case studies have shown that start-ups in developed markets are not only relying on available data for market validation but have government data as part of their core business model,” the Chamber states, highlighting the importance of data for market intelligence and underlying growth drivers. “A key criterion for investors in evaluating the potential of a start-up is the size of the market or scale of the problem that it aims to address.”

In addition to greater access to data, and in line with global leaders such as the UK (which according to the analysis holds over 40,000 datasets compared to the ~1,130 held by the UAE government’s official data portal), the authors believe that education and training should be given to budding entrepreneurs on how to best utilise such data, as well incentives formulated for corporates and government agencies to adopt co-creation models with start-ups.

Coinciding with the release of the report, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum coincidentally declared that Dubai had become the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the Middle East. This may be true from a regional perspective, but on the global stage, despite some notable local success stories, not a single UAE firm featured on the latest Deloitte Technology Fast 500 rankings for the EMEA, while the UK had 118 listed. Greater access to open data may help to bridge that gap.