x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dubai to host big-name talk-in

A version of a renowned conference including such high-profile speakers as Bono, Bill Gates and Al Gore makes its way to Dubai.

ABU DHABI // A version of a renowned conference that has included such high-profile speakers as Bono, Bill Gates, Al Gore and the Nobel Prize-winning American physicist Murray Gell-Mann is making its way to Dubai this year. TEDxDubai, affiliated with the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talks held annually in California, will take place in October after receiving the green light from its US headquarters.

"The buzz is amazing. It's like Woodstock in the 1960s," said Giorgio Ungania, a marketing and new media manager with the Australian firm SAE, who is organising the event with James Piecowye, a professor at Zayed University. "It gives me a real [sense] of the hunger in the UAE about ideas and forward thinking." TED has emerged as one of the world's most prestigious conferences after beginning more than 20 years ago as an informal gathering of bankers and architects on the US's west coast. Since then, it has garnered a reputation for attracting the world's leading thinkers and doers to share their thoughts on global issues.

TED's profile has been driven in part by its strict stance on admitting no more than 1,000 people to the audience on an invitation-only basis - there is a three-year waiting list to attend - while broadcasting its 400 talks on the internet, with more than 100 million unique page views. Bill Gates made headlines when he spoke at TED this year and unleashed a swarm of mosquitoes into the crowd during his talk on malaria.

"Not only poor people should experience this," he told the shocked audience. While it is too soon to tell if TEDxDubai will share similar theatrics, Mr Ungania is keen to bring the same attention to the UAE. TEDxDubai last week announced its first speaker, the consumer technology guru and one of the world's most popular podcasters, Leo Laporte. dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae