The Emirates… A Global Center for Innovation and Technology

27 Jun 2022
Mohammad Al Gergawi and Elon Musk

Twenty years ago, when the features of the future were not yet clear and the region was on the cusp of the new millennium, the UAE saw its seat in the future and took bold and deliberate steps…  put a wager bet on the “dynamo” of the future “technology” and won its bet with merit…  In the past, where Ruler of Dubai said in 1999: “Our time today is witnessing the revolution of the Internet… the nervous system of the new global economy.” To the present day, where a Minister of Artificial Intelligence was appointed in 2017, the world’s first position of its kind, the country has emerged as an important hub on the technology and business map, as well as an incubator for the technology industry leaders, new technology businesses, minds, and talents.

The beginning of technological development in the UAE

Due to his forward-thinking aspirations and long-term visions of leadership in the technology sector, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, was vigilant in establishing a technology city called ‘Dubai Internet City’ (DIC) when the Internet was still in its early days. Mohammad Al Gergawi, the Director-General of the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone (DTMFZ) was assigned to attract global tech giants to Dubai and complete the project in 364 days.  The DIC created a legal framework and offered modern infrastructure and a favorable atmosphere for new economy enterprises to operate in Dubai.

Today, it is home to over 1,600 companies, including “Cisco”, “Intel”, “Oracle”, “SAP”, “IBM”, “Google”, “Microsoft”, “Apple”, “Accenture” and others, with 32,000 technology professionals in the UAE as the headquarters of their regional offices in 2020.


Mohammad Al Gergawi and an IBM representative lay the foundation stone for the company at the city site in 2002.   

The UAE market has also attracted the interest of global investment companies, as seen by Uber’s $3.1 billion acquisition of the Dubai-based Careem application and Amazon’s $580 million purchase of the e-commerce platform “”  There are several technology-free zones across the country’s several Emirates that comprise business complexes and serve as a starting point for businesses wishing to develop a presence in numerous markets.

Since the commencement of e-government in 2001 and the launch of the smart government by His Highness in 2013 , technology has been an intrinsic component of the structure of the country’s key sectors and an important factor in its growth. In terms of education, the country launched the smart education system 10 years ago in 2012, including cutting-edge technology in the health and economic sectors, among others.

Bezos’ visit to Emirates Towers accompanied by Mohammad Al Gergawi

On His Highness’ vision and constant thinking about the future, he said in one of his famous quotes in 2003: “Let me talk to you to have a discussion and think about the future so that we all have a clear vision; When the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids, they did not expect it to last for five thousand years.  They created rather than imagined. When the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci produced the renowned “Mona Lisa,” he had no idea it would become the most famous painting in history… He was creative but not imaginative, whereas we humbly create and imagine.”

As a result of the government’s commitment to the expansion of this industry, the country has transitioned from a technology importer to a technology provider, staging significant technology-related events that attract thousands of tourists and specialists annually. . It also constantly forms partnerships with global technology companies to exchange knowledge and experiences, as well as to promote the use of technology in various sectors and harness it to provide distinguished services that meet customers’ needs and provide them with an easy and comfortable experience. All of this contributes to improving the quality of life of the country’s residents and achieving the leadership’s aspirations.

 Mohammad Al Gergawi and Tim Cook at the World Economic Forum in 2018

With the goal of developing Fourth Industrial Revolution applications in the UAE and the Middle East, the UAE opened the region’s first Fourth Industrial Revolution center in 2019 in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. This strengthens the UAE leadership’s vision of becoming a worldwide leader in the proactive confrontation of future issues, as well as the adaptation of the resources offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution to serve the community.

The information and communications technology industry is one of the pillars of the UAE’s economic growth plan, as its contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 was around 1.4% or 21.4 billion dirhams. According to Fitch Solutions, it is anticipated that the sector’s spending would increase at an annual rate of 8 % and reach around 23.1 billion dirhams by the end of 2019. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, the UAE is one of the world’s most business-friendly nations. Dubai has become a destination for global minds, skills, knowledge, and entrepreneurs to work and live due to the nation’s appealing environment.

High ranking in competitiveness indicators

Reflecting on the above, the country today holds a significant global position in this technology sector and has advanced in measures of technical competitiveness. The UAE ranked first in the Arab world and 42nd globally in willingness to adopt new technology, according to the index of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s “UNCTAD” Technologies and Innovation Report for 2021.

According to a recent report released by the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority, the UAE ranked first in the world in the competition index on the Internet and telephony sectors for the year 2020, as well as the government’s purchase of advanced technology products. It also ranked first in the speed of mobile broadband and the coverage of the fiber-optic network connecting to homes.

Hamdan bin Mohammed, Mohammad Al Gergawi and a number of UAE officials in a meeting with Cisco President at the World Economic Forum 2019

In 2020, the country also maintained its lead in indicators of technological development and application, due to the growing quality of the country’s communications infrastructure and the eagerness of various sectors to be equipped with cutting-edge technology. This also helped to increase the ability of the country’s various sectors to respond to the “Covid-19” crisis, giving them flexibility in coping with the pandemic impact and efficient business continuity.

According to global competitiveness indicators that quantify the degree of infrastructure investment by countries, the UAE ranked first in the world. The UAE ranked third in the world in terms of investment in communications services and fourth in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) and technology transfer.

In the 2020 edition of the Global Talent Report published by the World Competitiveness Center of the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), the country ranked first in the Arab world and joined the top 10 internationally in 13 indicators.

Talents and Minds

Talents and minds have become the most valuable commodity in the future due to the rapid worldwide changes, so whoever owns them will own the future. As for the economic battles of the subsequent phase, they will be battles of ideas, and those who will lead the transformation are the owners of ideas.

Based on this principle, the UAE government has made historical changes to the residency visa system, making it possible to grant Emirati citizenship and passports to investors, talented and specialized scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, intellectuals, and their families at the start of this year. In 2019, the country granted specialized talents and researchers in the fields of science and knowledge Golden Visa, a long-term residency extending to 5 and 10 years, with the goal of facilitating doing business and creating an attractive investment environment that encourages growth and success of the business for investors.