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How Dubai is developing the next generation of coders

The emirate has become a tech talent nexus – for established developers and budding coders alike

Dubai has recently emerged as a global tech hub, home to regional titans like unicorns Careem and Kitopi – ride-sharing and food delivery services respectively.

Its burgeoning startup ecosystem is supported by a raft of accelerators, incubators, and initiatives – the sweeping, tech-friendly Dubai Economic Agenda ‘D33’ not least among them.

Crucially, for a sector so dependent on highly skilled knowledge workers, the emirate is also fueling a swelling talent pipeline. Long-term Golden Visas and short-term ‘digital nomad’ visas are attracting developers from overseas (along with a sun-soaked lifestyle and 0% income tax).

But Dubai is also nurturing the next generation of coders, thanks to the UAE National Program for Coders, and sister initiatives like UAE Codes.

These programs provide prized opportunities for ambitious young tech workers – and much-needed talent for the emirate’s startups.

A community for developers

The National Program for Coders aims to attract and train 100,000 coders in the UAE, as well as establishing 1,000 digital startups by 2026. The program’s goals are supported by a lattice of associated initiatives designed to promote coding in the country.

Naiyarah Hussain is a Developer Advocacy Leader, based in Dubai thanks to a 10-year Golden Visa recognizing her talent as a software developer.

Back to homepage I’ve always been a part of community work, from hackathons to meetups and workshops in my university days, so it was pretty easy for me to land my first job.”
– Naiyarah Hussain, National Program for Coders Ambassador

She is also a Coding Ambassador for CodersHQ, a community hub for coders established to support the National Program for Coders, just a short walk from the Dubai Future Foundation.

It is a hive of activity, hosting meetups, talks, conferences, and hackathons, alongside an online community platform for discussion and collaborative problem-solving. “It’s a very low barrier to entry,” says Hussain. Open to all skill levels, “you can really enter any of them and grow according to your interests.”

Naiyarah Hussain, Coding Ambassador for CodersHQ

Hussain credits participation in the developer community – thanks to events like these – for entering the profession. “I’ve always been a part of community work, from hackathons to meetups and workshops in my university days,” she says, “so it was pretty easy for me to land my first job.”

CodersHQ offers direct support in finding employment, too. Hussain says one of the hub’s key programs is (hq)assessment, a program she works on. “[We] assess the skill levels of all the developers in the UAE and make sure they’re able to find the right jobs for those skills. Currently, we can assess about 200 skills of anyone working in tech.”

And events like UAE Codes ensure the region’s youth are aware of the opportunities available to them. “UAE Codes happens every year on October 29th,” says Hussain. “Last year the idea was to get as many people as possible to write a single line of code… I think we got around 88,000 people who did that.”

Initiatives like these offer a path – and the resources to follow it – to aspiring software engineers. Dubai is equally enthusiastic in its encouragement of young tech entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial spirit

In Hussain’s experience, “the focus is more on engineering or research,” in other developer hubs like San Francisco and London.

Dubai’s tech scene, augments this kind of R&D with, “a strong focus on entrepreneurship and startups.” If you’ve got an idea and “you want to turn this into a product or a startup, you will get all the resources to do that.”

Back to homepageIf you’ve got an idea and you want to turn this into a product or a startup, you will get all the resources to do that.”
– Naiyarah Hussain, National Program for Coders Ambassador

For example, ‘D33’ features a pledge to generate AED 100 billion (USD $27bn) in revenue from digital transformation, in part by helping 30 tech startups scale into unicorns – businesses worth more than USD $1 billion.

The economic agenda also launched Sandbox Dubai, a regulatory sandbox in which cutting-edge businesses can explore new products and services without the usual compliance requirements, but within a carefully supervised environment.

The program expands an approach taken by the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC)’s Innovation Testing Licence (ITL), a FinTech-specific sandbox available to participants in the DIFC FinTech Hive accelerator.

Other incubators and accelerators include the Dubai Future Accelerators, Dubai 10x and Area 2071, which all offer a range of support to startups – from office space and mentorship to networking, funding, and introductions to potential clients and investors.

These resources – and the safety net they provide – have created a uniquely agile tech scene, where “you can fail and fail fast, and then pivot to something else,” says Hussain.

The next generation of tech talent

Dubai is looking far into the future. The Dubai Future Academy offers courses in emerging technologies and ‘futures literacy’, equipping Dubai’s youth with the tools to navigate the next wave of technology.

With initiatives like these, the emirate is providing a wealth of opportunities for those interested in tech as well as building an invaluable talent pipeline for digital businesses – global tech giants and next-gen startups alike.

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