x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Technology is key to the country's future, summit hears

Delegates at business conference warned not to rely on oil and instead focus more on technology.

Dr Eesa Mohammed Bastaki, CEO of the ICT Fund, is working to build a climate favourable to the growth of small and medium high-tech businesses.
Dr Eesa Mohammed Bastaki, CEO of the ICT Fund, is working to build a climate favourable to the growth of small and medium high-tech businesses.

DUBAI // The UAE's oil supply will not last forever and so the future of the country lies in technology, Dr Eesa Mohammed Bastaki, the Emirati chief executive of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Fund, told a business meeting in Dubai yesterday.

The ICT Fund is a three-month-old Government venture dedicated to supporting technology- orientated small and medium enterprises (SME). It was initiated by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

The meeting, called the UAE Select Partner Summit and sponsored by the global networking solutions company Cisco, focused on the importance of small and medium enterprises in a sustainable economy.

Dr Bastaki, a guest speaker, said the Government was looking at generating "Made in the UAE" companies by focusing on supporting technology through the TRA's ICT fund. This would entail creating science clubs and laboratories in schools, sponsoring scholarships for ICT and creating centres for the establishment of small and medium enterprises.

"Through these centres and incubation, we will fund [applicants] to be successful worldwide," Dr Bastaki said. "This is the main idea."

Cisco will help these "technopreneurs" through training and marketing. Wayne Hull, the director and general manager of Cisco UAE, said small and medium enterprises contribute significantly to the UAE economy, and make up 46 per cent of the GDP.

Mr Hull explained that the SME component of Cisco's business is about 30 per cent of its total business in the country, and that after the economic crisis, "the SME sector came back the fastest and it is critical to our business".

"Although [the SME sector] is more prolific in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, Abu Dhabi is building out and we are starting to notice more and more smaller companies coming up," he said.

Once people submit their ideas through the ICT Fund website, these will be reviewed and decisions made as to whether each project could be funded.

Dr Bastaki said his organisation has to create an atmosphere for applicants to be successful and also provide the necessary funds.

He said the ICT Fund would create a Business Acceleration Centre to mentor entrepreneurs, in addition to Cisco's helping ideas grow into successful businesses.

"This is what is lacking in this country, to teach people how to be entrepreneurs and how to market their products," Dr Bastaki said. "Technology will be here for at least 50 years. It's the future."

cmalek@thenational.ae