United they stand

Alliances, associations, consortiums, industry bodies. Call them what you want. The IT sector is a breeding ground for these sorts of groups, many of whom spring up in a blaze of self-created glory only to fade away again when interest starts to wane and the initial enthusiasm dissipates.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  January 10, 2007

Alliances, associations, consortiums, industry bodies. Call them what you want. The IT sector is a breeding ground for these sorts of groups, many of whom spring up in a blaze of self-created glory only to fade away again when interest starts to wane and the initial enthusiasm dissipates.

The recently formed Dubai IT Association is one such organisation that faces the task of demonstrating its value during the coming months.

Without question, the Dubai IT market continues to become more structured and sophisticated with each year that passes. Try to identify a high profile technology manufacturer that doesn’t yet have representation in the market and you will probably be left scratching your head. For the vast majority, Dubai still remains the first port of call and the overwhelming choice as a location from which to establish a beachhead to serve the entire Middle East.

The creation of an association that actively seeks to promote and accelerate ICT development — which the group claims it will do — is nothing less than a positive step and should be wholeheartedly welcomed. The only surprise, perhaps, is why it has taken until now for it to happen.

I must confess that my first reaction when learning of any new industry alliance being formed tends to be quite sceptical. While most are launched with the best intentions in the world, they often come to discover that their attempts to make a real impact within the environment they work are hampered by bureaucracy, time constraints or the mere inability of participants to pledge the dedication that their membership commands.

They simply fall into the trap of becoming talking shops where rhetoric ends up outweighing substance. Yes, dialogue and discussion is the first step to instigating progressive change, but it is only worthwhile if acted upon.

I am looking forward to following the Dubai IT Association’s voyage during the coming months and monitoring the steps that are taken to enhance the development of technology in the Emirate. The initial goals it has outlined are clearly thought-out and sensible.

They include recommendations to increase internet, broadband and technology usage among all sectors of society and provide advice on IT policies for public and private organisations. According to a spokesperson for the group, there is also set to be a strong emphasis on fostering relations between vendors and local Dubai resellers.

With Dubai Internet City (DIC) playing an instrumental role in the formation of the association, the group certainly has the advantage of an independent party steering it in the right direction. However, it has to be wary that it doesn’t bite off more than it can chew.

For a start, the list of founder members include several names who operate in disparate sectors of the market, such as 3M, Ducont, HP, Microsoft and Nokia. Admittedly, they all have a common interest in the development of the overall ICT marketplace, but I am sure each one would rank their priorities in a different order of importance.

If you look at other similar associations around the world, such as the Global Technology Distribution Council, the Storage Networking Industry Association or the European Software Association, then the one element that binds the member companies together is that they all share an exceptionally similar strategic profile.

Consequently, their range of concerns and objectives are much narrower. In the last week, for instance, we have witnessed the birth of the Hybrid Storage Alliance involving hard drive giants Seagate, Toshiba, Samsung and Hitachi. They have combined forces purely with the sole aim of promoting the use of hybrid disk systems. That, to me, is a classic example of an association that possesses a very focused mission with a set of members that clearly have the same agenda regardless of their competitive rivalries.

Don’t get me wrong, anything that improves the health and status of the IT sector in this region should be encouraged as it stands to benefit the entire market. It is crucial that ties between the public and corporate sector are strengthened on an ongoing basis, and it is vitally important that companies operating within the DIC zone endeavour to meet with one another to aid the evolution of the Dubai IT channel in a positive way.

Many associations in the technology world convene on a quarterly basis, but I understand that DIC is anxious for members of the Dubai IT Association to unite each month. Given its lengthy mission statement, that would seem a natural stance to take.

For it to prosper, the association will require firm management, guidance and accountability. It is one thing setting up such a group. It’s quite another to make it flourish and dramatically change the market for the better.

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