OZY and Predix from GE — the cloud-based development platform built for industry — have partnered to bring you an inside look at the future of digital industries, where people, data and productivity meet.
Walk around the most productive country on the planet and you’ll kink your neck staring up gleaming, futuristic skyscrapers and across the walls of world-class museums. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a man-made island boasting yacht-lined marinas — that is, if a sandstorm doesn’t sweep in front of your face.
While human habitation here dates back some 50,000 years, our much more recent journey for industrialization has accelerated economic growth — and the quality of life for many, but not all — in dizzying ways. “Productivity has always been the engine of growth,” Marco Annunziata, General Electric’s (GE) chief economist, has written. “Most importantly, productivity is the key driver of per capita growth, which results in better living standards.”
If you haven’t guessed it by now, Qatar is not only home to the highest per capita income in the world but also the most productive nation, according to The Conference Board’s Total Economy Database.
Indeed, when economists crunch numbers about labor productivity levels based on output per person and output per hour, Qatar comes out on top, followed by several other contenders from the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — thanks, in large part, to their oil revenues. Traditionally, that’s contributed to a higher level of GDP, “which is reflected in their productivity levels,” says Abdul Azeez Erumban, senior economist at The Conference Board.
But it’s not as matter-of-fact as that. Sure, oil-rich nations might have an edge over competition, but we’ve all seen the headlines about shaky oil prices in recent years, compared to its heyday of the past. And only a bit further down the list for labor productivity comes Luxembourg, Singapore, Ireland, Norway and, yes, the U.S. Shawn Sprague, economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, says that a range of factors can drive productivity — from investing in faster equipment to hiring a skilled workforce and reducing equipment downtime.
All the while, technological innovation is driving productivity, which in turn helps to improve living standards. However, we’re just beginning to turn the corner to the newest movement known as the IT revolution, Erumban says. In countries such as the U.S. and Ireland, where there’s a high percentage of information and communications technology (ICT) services, the benefits of a new digital economy translating into productivity gains has yet to fully arrive. Right now, Erumban explains, these countries are still transitioning from an old-school digital economy — think software, hardware and communications equipment — to a new digital economy where rich ICT services, including the cloud, are still being installed and activated.
Of course, the leading country in productivity is also dabbling in the IT revolution in more ways than one — from deploying an advanced cooling system in its recently constructed (and highly controversial) World Cup stadiums that are powerful enough to overcome Qatar’s searing-hot summer temperatures, to enlisting next-generation ICT services and smart solutions to help drive Qatar Railways Company’s $40 billion plan to develop one of the largest rail projects in the world. All of which, the country hopes, will boost quality of life across the board, even as it continues to face criticism about the treatment of some of its foreign workers.
At the same time, there’s also Qatar’s National Vision 2030, an ambitious plan in which the country is working to reposition itself away from being as oil-dependent to more of a hub for research and discovery in energy, environment, health care and information technology and telecommunications. The only challenge? It’ll have to beat the rest of the world that’s also fighting for those same great gains.
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