Middle East: Web-chat services unblocked but big tech projects take a hit in COVID crisis
(Source: zdnet.com)

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(Original link: zdnet.com)

Coronavirus: Remote working is just the start of the digital transformation process Watch Now Businesses and societies around the world have been hit hard by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic . But what has been the specific impact on tech use and adoption in a region as diverse as the Middle East?
CXO ZDNet's top enterprise CEOs of the 2010s Executive dies, taking investor cryptocurrency with him. Now they want the body exhumed What is a CIO? Everything you need to know about the Chief Information Officer explained How machine learning is predicting employee turnover (ZDNet YouTube) Ring CEO defends police partnerships (CNET) How to overcome procrastination: A CXO guide (TechRepublic) For some, it's been an opportunity to innovate. For example, in Egypt, 3D printing has been pioneered in the battle to equip doctors and other health workers with personal protective equipment, or PPE.
Giza Systems Education Foundation (GSEF) announced, via its Facebook page, in early May that it had already provided 27,000 protective face shields to doctors and hospitals across Egypt.
SEE: COVID-19: A guide and checklist for restarting your business (TechRepublic Premium)
In late-April, it told AFP that around 2,000 face shields a day are being distributed to medics nationwide, through partnerships with around 25 public and private hospitals.
Elsewhere, technology is being harnessed in myriad ways; from the use of blockchain to track the distribution of food and medicine in Bahrain, through to plans for a virtual hospital in UAE , and deployment of a police robot in Tunisia to help enforce a lockdown in the nation's capital, Tunis.
However, alongside these eye-catching initiatives, what other consequences and tech developments can be seen across the region?
Signature projects delayed One of the most high-profile impacts of COVID-19 has been the delay of Expo 2020 Dubai , a global innovation fair that promises to put technology at its heart .
The event, as ZDNet previously reported , is expected to attract 25 million visits, with 70% of visitors coming from outside the UAE. It will now be held from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022.
Another big-ticket event for the region, the FIFA 2022 World Cup, is still projected to take place in Qatar as planned .
The promotional video for Expo 2020 Dubai now shows the new 2021/2022 dates. Source: YouTube
In other petro-chemical dependent countries, a combination of falling oil prices and the pandemic have had an inevitable impact on large-scale construction projects, such as the creation of smart cities , which have been seen as key to diversifying the economy for many Gulf nations .
According to the Saudi newspaper Okaz, and reported by Bloomberg , 30 billion riyals ($8bn) has been cut from initiatives designed to deliver help deliver Saudi Arabia's 'Vision 2030'.
Meanwhile, AP suggests that Dubai , which isn't oil and gas-dependent, will once again need to look at the focus of its economy, given the reliance on international workers and trade; both of which are vulnerable to the aftershocks of the coronavirus pandemic.
Air industry For many people, the region's airlines will be their first major interaction with a Middle East business. They are among some of the best-known and highest-regarded brands in the region and around the world. With most flights grounded, airlines have inevitably suffered job losses .
To counteract the impact of the health crisis, some airlines in the region are banking on tech as a way to ensure passenger safety and boost consumer confidence once we start flying again.
SEE: Middle East innovation: These four startups are making their mark
Etihad purports to be world's first airline to trial coronavirus technology "which can monitor the temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate of any person using an airport touchpoint such as a check-in or information kiosk, a bag-drop facility, a security point or immigration gate".
The technology has been developed by Australian company Elenium Automation, which has also worked with Amazon Web Services, to create the touchless self-service devices that Ethihad will also pilot.
These devices, which use voice recognition, potentially allow for a contactless check-in, as airports and airlines seek to reduce the potential for viral or bacterial transmission.
Elenium's contactless check-in was tested by Etihad. Source: Elenium/YouTube
Launched at a similar time, and with a similar level of fanfare , Emirates proclaimed itself to be the first airline to conduct pre-boarding COVID-19 tests for passengers.
Conducted on site at the Dubai International Airport, in coordination with Dubai Health Authority (DHA), blood tests offered results in 10 minutes. However, concerns about reliability and accuracy led to the idea quickly being shelved.
Nonetheless, these two developments offer a strong hint about the future of air travel, and the way tech will shape it more than ever.
Emirates becomes first airline to conduct on-site rapid COVID-...