United Arab Emirates - Country Commercial Guide
Digital and Information Communication Technology (ICT)

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-07-26

Overview

There are many opportunities for U.S. exporters in the digital and ICT sector in the UAE.

The UAE, a leading hub for international trade and business in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, is a competitive market for the Information Communication Technology (ICT) industry. In a bid to reduce dependence on oil revenue and grow the private sector, UAE government initiatives aim to build a competitive knowledge economy and establish an open, efficient, effective, and globally integrated business environment. The UAE government is taking several steps to drive the development of the knowledge-based economy.

The UAE government has established a number of free trade zones such as Dubai Internet City (in 1999) and Dubai Silicon Oasis (in 2005) that specialize in the ICT industry and act as industry clusters for high technology and innovation.

With minimal trade barriers, the UAE, and Dubai specifically, are preferred locations for businesses serving the entire MENA region, which also drives demand for IT software and services within the UAE. 

Investment also drives demand for ICT products and services, in sectors such as healthcare, space, aviation, aerospace, defense, transportation, retail, financial services, hospitality, and those sectors linked to the UAE’s economic diversification plans. To attract foreign companies and develop human capital resources:

The UAE government launched policies to promote the use of open data. In September 2021, the UAE published their federal decree law regarding Personal Data Protection. This law applies to any data subject who resides in or has a business in the UAE. It is an integrated framework to ensure the confidentiality of information and protect the privacy of individuals in the UAE.
The Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) established the UAE ICT Fund to enhance innovative research & development projects within the UAE ICT sector and educate hundreds of Emirati students overseas in the ICT field.
UAE’s SmartPass system created a digital framework for the operations of all government services and ministries. The UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (AI) 2031 will be incorporated into these services.

These vast government projects will require the expertise and services of foreign firms – presenting a great opportunity for American companies having a comparative advantage with advanced technologies and innovations.

Leading sub-sectors 

Cloud Computing 

The UAE is one of the largest data center hubs in the Middle East and more are planned. Up to $1 billion in additional investments are projected by 2026. In 2019, Microsoft Azure launched two cloud regions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In 2021, Amazon Web Services announced plans for a new data center region in the UAE. The new region will consist of three availability zones and is set to open in 2022. In November 2021, Oracle announced the opening of its second cloud region in Abu Dhabi, following their Dubai cloud region. Government-owned entities Etisalat and G42 Cloud also have major data centers.

With aggressive investments by the UAE government in cloud computing, the UAE’s competitive business laws, and their strong technological infrastructure, the ICT sector is forecast to continue expanding in the years ahead. Public cloud hosting in the UAE has addressed variations in resources and expertise efficiently through highly specialized solutions. Despite these significant expansions, there is still sizeable room for development that will require the expertise and know-how of U.S. firms. 

Cybersecurity 

The UAE’s geopolitical position and importance to the world economy in the energy, oil & gas, and aviation industry make the UAE vulnerable as a target of cyberattacks, driving rapid growth in the cybersecurity market. The UAE reports the highest number of malware incidents among consumers in the GCC. To protect the UAE’s critical data information infrastructure and improve national cybersecurity, the government introduced the UAE Information Assurance Standards which are a set of guidelines for government entities in critical sectors. Compliance with these standards is mandatory for all government organizations and businesses that are identified as critical infrastructure in the UAE. Several local players have been developing cybersecurity capabilities to capitalize on rising demand, while international IT security firms are expanding their presence in the country. With leading technology experts stating that the number one priority for UAE firms remains cybersecurity, the market is expected to continue expanding. Many UAE development initiatives also drive the demand for cybersecurity. These factors and the growing demand for cybersecurity solutions provide many opportunities for American companies. 

Internet of Things 

Internet of Things (IoT) opportunities include smart services, the industrial internet, and machine-to-machine communications. There are applications in the public sector for smart cities and telehealth, and enterprise applications include smart metering, asset tracking, and production optimization. The UAE has emerged as a leading global location for the deployment of IoT solutions to enhance public infrastructure, especially in Dubai as it aims to become a leading smart city. There is a foundation of cooperation in Dubai and the UAE across multiple sectors including ICT, power, transportation, infrastructure, healthcare, and government.

Artificial Intelligence 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a priority in the UAE. AI is forecast to play a role to contribute almost 14% of the national GDP by 2030 ($96 billion), and the annual growth in the AI contribution to the UAE economy is forecast to grow by 33.5% between 2018 and 2030. As part of the government’s UAE Centennial 2071 plans, the UAE AI Strategy 2031 was launched to improve efficiency in the transport, health, space, renewable energy, water, technology, education, environment, and traffic sectors. The UAE has already begun integrating AI with industries such as education, healthcare, space, transportation, and aviation. AI is a key part of the ambitious plans of the UAE government to diversify their economy and become a knowledge economy. This includes the establishment of the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi, part of an effort to develop more talent that can support the growth of the digital economy. The race between Gulf states to have the newest and most sophisticated technology, particularly in the field of AI, provides a large market in which U.S. firms have comparative advantages. 

Smart Cities 

The UAE has made significant investments into projects for smart cities, with goals to build smart cities from scratch and improve infrastructure in existing cities. Since October 2013, the Dubai authorities have undertaken a mission to transform Dubai into a smart city, with innovations centered on six key areas: transport, communications, infrastructure, electricity, economic services, and urban planning. The Digital Dubai Authority was established to support the city-wide initiative to transform Dubai into the world’s smartest and happiest city. In December 2021, the Dubai Paperless Strategy was fully implemented across all 45 government entities in the emirate, after being launched in 2018. These entities provide more than 1,800 digital services and over 10,500 key transactions.

Examples of initiatives include the provision of public Wi-Fi, electric car charging stations, live traffic monitoring, and an eWallet for the Roads and Transport Authority. UAE authorities will want to maintain the reputation of the UAE as a leading smart country, and continuous public sector investments in large-scale infrastructure projects revolving around ‘smart’ building will likely continue to grow, providing opportunities for U.S. companies.

5G 

The UAE was the first country in the Arab region and fourth globally to launch its 5G network. Both Du and Etisalat, the nation’s leading telecom companies, launched limited 5G networks in 2019, along with the 5G-enabled ZTE Axon 10 Pro smartphone to both post-paid and pre-paid customers. By the end of 2023, it is estimated that 16 million 5G smartphones will be operational in the region. With the UAE being at the forefront of technological advances and given the strong GDP per capita, demand for 5G services is predicted to be strong over the coming years. 

In June 2021, Etisalat revealed a 6G project that is estimated to be around 100 times faster than 5G. They have invested in 6G realization by conducting research and developing international standards that are the main building blocks for the 6G ecosystem. The rollout and expansion of the telecom network and infrastructure in the UAE will likely offer business opportunities for U.S. companies.

Opportunities 

The UAE continues to grow in the technology space. Private and public sector players are seeking to modernize by adopting state-of-the-art solutions and catch the broader global wave of innovation, data utilization, digital transformation, and technological advancement. The UAE’s desire to diversify and build a knowledge-based economy is creating new opportunities, and the government has set aside large parts of the budget to achieve the ambitious visions and plans. Technology players continue to see the potential to grow their business in the UAE.

The software and services segments have seen significant investment in areas such as cloud computing, smart services, and cybersecurity, according to Business Monitor International (BMI). IT spending in the UAE is forecast to increase at 6.5% over 2020-2023 to reach a total of $8.2 billion. Software and services demand will drive IT spending growth over the medium term, especially demand from large industries for solutions around cloud computing, data analytics, cybersecurity, and IoT. The hardware segment will also see healthy growth as the market tilts towards high-end power users and workstation purchases from the enterprise and commercial sectors. 

UAE Opportunities in Software Services
UAE Opportunities in Software Services

 

UAE IT Market Forecast 2019-2023.

There is also growth expected in the demand for business management software. Key verticals include process manufacturing and finance, where regulatory compliance and new services such as Islamic banking will help to create opportunities. The increasing regional and global orientation of the UAE economy is a major driver for locally based small and medium-sized enterprises to enhance the efficiency of their operations.

Trade Shows and Exhibitions

GITEX GLOBAL

October 10-14, 2022

Dubai World Trade Center, Dubai, UAE

www.gitex.com  

 

GISEC GLOBAL

March 14-16, 2023

Dubai World Trade Center, Dubai, UAE

www.gisec.ae