Pioneers of Possible: Why data is the new oil in the Middle East with Bashar Kilani

By | 2 minute read | February 19, 2019

In this episode of the Pioneers of Possible podcast series, we chat with Bashar Kilani, IBM Services Region Executive for the Middle East. Bashar works with local enterprises, helping them integrate IBM managed services, software and systems.

Can you talk a bit about how technology is impacting the Middle East?

The Middle East is an up and coming area when it comes to technology; there’s a lot of adoption. Dubai, over the last two decades, has moved from a forward-looking small town to a global hub of technology. [For example,] Emirates has grown from a regional airline into a leading, global airline. And the same is true for all industries in Dubai and the region. Technology has been a big driver, and there’s a lot of focus on enabling technology to transform business. 

What fuels your passion for technology?

I’m a technologist at heart. I started with IBM in the software development lab in Hursley, just outside of London. In my early days, I worked in a global role to help organizations use technology to transform business. I remember using transaction processing to automate business processes in financial institutions, modify workflows in retail, and of course we all know the technology use in airlines since the ‘60s. That was fascinating to me, because I was able to understand how business transforms using technology — and transaction processing really hits at the heart of the business and processes. That stayed with me ever since moving into services.

You work closely with Emirates. Why has the airline looked to IBM to help expand their business?

Emirates is a global airline headquartered in the United Arab Emirates and has a similar culture to IBM. IBM has been in the region for a long time, so we started with Emirates in the early days with our mainframe technologies, and there’s a lot of familiarity working together. Over the last few years we’ve enhanced our relationship, moving deeper into an as-a-service model.

How about the region’s position on data and the “new oil”?

In the same way hydrocarbons shaped the global and the Middle East economy in the last 100 years, data is going to fuel growth and economic value. An interesting stat I read: 10% of all the pictures around the world have been taken in the last month. That gives you an idea of how much data, structured and unstructured, there is. That’s going to help us get insight to capture all those different data streams to create value. Data will transform industries beyond what we think possible today; it will fuel artificial intelligence, machine learning, a world of man and machine. We’re going to be better at what we’re doing and we need to develop ourselves continuously to cope with that change.

Listen to Bashar’s full story here.


Pioneers of Possible is an IBM original podcast series dedicated to learning more about technologists, innovators and business leaders. Each episode highlights how leaders pioneer new tech solutions in their respective fields.


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