UAE establishes fund to promote information and communication technology

Published online 7 July 2011

Rehab Abd Almohsen

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced last month its plans to invest Dh92 million (US$25 million) in education and new companies to promote information and communications technology (ICT) in 2011.

"Dh22 million (US$6 million) will be spent on research and development this year," said Eesa Bastaki, chief executive officer of the ICT Fund, a government agency based in Dubai, UAE. "A further Dh58 million (US$15.8 million) will be spent on domestic and overseas scholarships and ICT labs in secondary and high schools. The remaining Dh12 million (US$3.3 million) will support ICT business incubators and start-ups." Bastaki claims that the ICT Fund will invest twice as much money next year.

In 2006, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in UAE announced that the country's two mobile operators, Etisalat and du, will contribute 1% of their annual revenues to finance the ICT Fund. The board of the ICT Fund decides how to allocate the funds independently from the two companies. .

The ICT Fund will contribute to promote digital progress in UAE by funding research centres and partnering with research institutes and universities and support fledging business enter international markets

"The door is open to receive domestic research proposals and projects until September 2011. We strongly encourage students and researchers to come and present their ideas," said Bastaki.

According to Nader Azarmi, director of the Etisalat-BT Innovation Center (EBTIC), a research and innovation centre based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, the ICT Fund has helped promote research, development, education and training in the UAE's ICT sector in the past.

"A good example is Ankabut, [UAE's National Research and Education Network], an advanced network of numerous public and private universities, colleges, schools and other learning and research institutions in the UAE, which links to international institutes," says Azarmi.

Ankabut is funded jointly by Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, and the ICT Fund. Nearly 75% of its funds over the past five years have come from the ICT Fund.

"Ankabut plays a role in the research and scientific development of the UAE and contributes to the international knowledge-based economy currently being pursued by the government as part of its recently announced Vision 2021," adds Azarmi.