x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Data network is part of bedrock of development

Persistent focus on timely development of sound infrastructure – from the Dubai Metro to new 4G wireless – is making the UAE ready for greater prosperity.

Someday, next year or the year after, when you have cruised across Salam Street in the capital so quickly that you have spare time at your destination to check your stock portfolio on your smartphone, spare a thought for the planning that makes so much of modern life possible.

It's not glamorous; it's often taken for granted, and it even has a rather dreary name, but infrastructure - of many types - underlies our transport, utilities, communications, commerce and more.

This week's announcement that Etisalat is poised to roll out sophisticated new 4G broadband technology is an important step forward in the modernisation of the UAE's telecommunications infrastructure. And it reminds us that this country has cultivated a healthy willingness to invest in the structures and systems which underlie continued prosperity.

"Infra" is Latin for "under"; originally the word infrastructure referred mainly to buried water pipes and sewage systems, and to roads. Works such as the Dh5 billion Salam Street tunnel project and the Dh29.5bn Dubai Metro Green Line remind us that transport must be improved incessantly to serve growing cities. But wireless infrastructure has become a new test of modern economies' ability to compete.

It's all essential. Investors and employers, professionals and skilled workers, international organisations and tourists all are drawn to a city that works. Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which have grown at startling speed, must keep investing in key infrastructure, with prudent foresight, in order to continue growth, diversify the economy and prosper. And transport, utility and data networks have to be extended further into the other emirates to weave the nation more closely together.

This is what the country and state-sponsored companies have been doing, even through the relatively lean times of recent years, and so the UAE's metropolitan centres should be poised to boom whenever the world's economy moves into better times.

To be sure, far-seeing infrastructure policy is always a challenge; the world abounds with bridges to nowhere, developments which have despoiled the natural world, and examples of spend- ing which qualifies as sloppy, or worse.

And the race to keep up never stops. The 4G network Etisalat plans, for example, is just one step along a road which is rapidly growing longer, leading to a faster and faster wireless future. As a society, we must be ready to keep taking the next step.