Creating The Ideal Environment for Digital Success
We are living through the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – the next phase of digitization, catalyzed by the confluence of new technologies like AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, and the cloud.
It is a time of enormous change – and enormous opportunity for those with the ideas and energy to grasp it. But just as the industrial revolution was enabled by the railways, 4IR depends on a supportive infrastructure as well.
In the global race to cultivate this era-defining paradigm shift, Dubai is creating the ideal environment for the digital economy to grow.
The world’s first international Digital Economy Court
One crucial, but often overlooked, ingredient for cutting-edge businesses to flourish is the right legislative environment.
In December 2021, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts launched the world’s first international Digital Economy Court.
The court will, “enhance the ability of global companies and institutions operating in the digital economy to adapt to the future requirements of this fast-growing sector,” commented HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and president of the DIFC.
Overseen by Justice Michael Black of England and Wales, the court uses recently finalized industry-specific rules to resolve national and transnational disputes in emerging technology such as AI and blockchain – which can often fall outside of existing frameworks.
Justice Omar Al Mheiri, Director of the DIFC Courts, says the court, “not only absorbs current dispute resolution needs but can flex to address and resolve emerging disputes,” which helps, “to support the continuity of business projects.”
In doing so, it forms part of a supportive legislative framework for digital businesses, offering the flexibility they need to grow sustainably.
Other key elements of this framework include the Dubai Financial Service Authority (DFSA) Innovation Testing Licence – a ‘test and learn’ regulatory sandbox for tech startups – and Sandbox Dubai, one of the first projects from the Dubai Economic Agenda ‘D33,’ which expands the approach.
These initiatives all work together to provide the legislative space innovators need to experiment – so they can take full advantage of the digital infrastructure Dubai is also building.
The court not only absorbs current dispute resolution needs but can also flex to address and resolve emerging disputes to support the continuity of business projects.”
— Justice Omar Al Mheiri, Director of the DIFC Court
When 24 million people visited the Dubai Expo 2020, they were treated to a vision of a ‘smart city.’ Over 100 applications monitored IoT sensors around the 4.38 sq. km site, using Siemens MindSphere to manage everything from building temperature to irrigation and energy efficiency with only a smartphone.
As with all 4IR use cases, such smart city management requires constant access to the cloud. To the digital economy, the cloud is as vital as electricity.
Dubai Chambers, which represents businesses in Dubai, is working to bring hyperscale cloud computing to the emirate. A recent report co-commissioned with Amazon Web Services estimated such infrastructure could generate $17.1 billion in economic benefits to SMEs and start-ups between 2022 and 2030.
The Chambers’ Cloud Computing Business Group – launched in late 2022 – seeks to unlock that benefit. It convenes the region’s leading cloud providers to “promote collaboration and knowledge-sharing, to drive new ideas and approaches to cloud computing,” says Miguel Villalonga, a founding member of the group, and CEO of e& enterprise Cloud, which supports digital transformation in large organizations across the UAE and the GCC.
The Cloud Computing Business Group also works with the Chambers to shape policy and initiatives to expand cloud access, and support small businesses in utilizing the technology.
And the emirate will soon have always-on, anywhere, connectivity to make the most of the cloud. The UAE telecoms regulator TRA is aiming for complete national 5G coverage by 2025. Where currently available, the country already boasts the world’s second highest 5G download speeds.
Such connectivity provides the backbone for the digital economy. Crucially, the emirate is also investing in the skills required to use it.
Nurturing tech talent
The UAE’s National Program for Coders aims to train and attract 100,000 coders to the country, with a suite of initiatives such as training programs, internships, financing, and Golden Visas – ensuring a steady supply of high-skilled digital workers.
The country has also reduced the age at which someone can legally operate a business within the UAE from 21 to 18, further encouraging digital natives to pursue their ambitions.
And Dubai is actively investing in tech startups. As part of D33’s objective to generate an annual $27 billion from digital transformation projects, the strategy pledges support to scale 400 SMEs, as well as identifying 30 ‘new economy’ companies to scale into unicorns – businesses worth at least $1 billion.
The framework for digital success
With innovations like the IDEC, comprehensive cloud coverage, and government support for young talent and innovation, Dubai has cultivated a powerful enabling environment for digital businesses to succeed.
I foresee Dubai becoming the world’s leading digital economy hub.”
— Miguel Villalonga, CEO of e& enterprise Cloud
It’s thanks to this supportive framework that Villalonga says, “I foresee Dubai becoming the world’s leading digital economy hub.”