By Dr. Omar Bin Sulaiman, CEO, Dubai Internet City
Dubai’s development in the past few decades has been characterized by its great economic transformations inspired by its visionary leaders. The foresight and energy of the late Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, provided the impetus for transforming Dubai from a small trading outpost into one of the world’s busiest trade centers. His Highness Sheikh Rashid’s business-friendly policies and strategic investments in an ultra-modern infrastructure created a high quality business environment that made Dubai the center of the Middle East economy.
Today, Dubai and the UAE are on the threshold of yet another remarkable change. His Highness Sheikh Rashid’s son His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister has envisioned an ambitious strategy to transform the region’s society into a knowledge society.
One of the lynchpins of this visionary strategy is a cluster initiative aimed at accelerating the development of the ICT industry in the region - Dubai Internet City, (DIC).
Dubai Internet City was conceived by His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister and announced in October 1999.
DIC’s mission is to create an infrastructure, environment and attitude that will enable knowledge economy enterprises to operate locally, regionally and globally from Dubai with significant competitive advantage.
DIC is part of the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone, which also includes Dubai Media City, a similar hub for media companies and Knowledge Village a cluster for knowledge-focused companies including education and training companies. All three entities synergise each other and contribute to each other’s development.
DIC provides an advanced infrastructure and support services that can reduce the operational hassles for ICT companies and help them move their core business forward.
It has established Free-Zone specific corporate laws that empower the companies in the community and help them grow. Being located in a free trade zone, Dubai Internet City provides complete exemption from taxes on sales, company earnings and private income. Companies can also have 100 per cent ownership of their companies.
Since its launch more than three years ago, DIC has grown tremendously. In 2002, Dubai Internet City grew by over 110 per cent and experienced similar levels of growth in 2003. In three years, DIC has developed into an ICT community of over 600 companies. More than 10,000 knowledge workers work here today.
Today, DIC is the only managed entity in the world that has all the leading global ICT brands under one roof. Global companies in Dubai Internet City include Microsoft, Oracle, HP, IBM, Compaq, Dell, Siemens, Canon, Logica, Sony Ericsson and Cisco.
DIC has developed into the technology hub of the region. This status brings with it several responsibilities. DIC is keen to plug the gaps for ICT infrastructure services in the region. In 2002, DIC identified a gap for world class hosting and IT security services in the region. DIC started providing services that helped companies to outsource the management of their hosting and security requirements through a subsidiary company called eHosting DataFort. In fact, DIC offers its clients a range of cost-effective and state-of-the-art IT services and infrastructure. This enables companies to focus on their core business and reduce their operational hassles.
DIC offers support for ICT companies evaluating business opportunities in the regional market. FirstSteps, a facility located in DIC, provides a temporary base for ICT companies from around the world who are looking to expand their operations to the regional market. FirstSteps provides them with cost-effective office space and business support services to evaluate a vast market that extends from the Middle East to the Indian sub-continent and the CIS to South Africa.
DIC offers many services that go beyond simply providing office space. In fact it provides a one-stop-shop of business services. One of the key services is incorporation, which allows companies to secure legal protection and tax exemptions. DIC offers a highly simplified and inexpensive incorporation process. Companies can also benefit from a visa service and a simplified immigration process for knowledge workers. DIC’s Hospitality Department assists companies with a range of services like making travel and accommodation arrangements, golf or restaurant reservations, conducting press conferences, exhibitions, product launches and seminars.
DIC actively supports the growth and welfare of companies in the DIC community. It has a Partner Relations Department that assists companies in exploring business opportunities, expanding their operations and setting up new businesses in the region. DIC also supports the marketing activities of companies in the regional market. For example, DIC invites companies to participate in regional and global exhibitions on a Dubai Internet City platform. The DIC Community Zone at Gitex 2003 where 22 DIC companies participated with DIC is an example of this.
DIC has established ‘strategic partnerships’ with ICT organizations and trade bodies of developed and developing economies to assist companies in these countries explore opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. We are helping national ICT organizations to set up a presence in Dubai Internet City. They can act as a gateway for ICT companies in their country to enter the local and regional market. We have signed strategic MoUs with national ICT industry bodies like Nasscom of India, Malaysian Super Corridor, EUs biggest forum - BITKOM, and those in Iran and Turkey.
Going forward, DIC is looking at new initiatives that will drive value for companies in high-growth ICT sectors. Over the next few months, some of these new initiatives will be announced.