A smart world

SmartCity's Fareed Abdulrahman tells Tamara Walid how he will take the Dubai Internet City concept international.

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By  Tamara Walid Published  December 14, 2007

After almost 20 minutes of looking for a parking spot at the bustling hub that is Dubai Internet City (DIC), one finally surrenders to the comforts of valet parking. It's a frustrating experience, and one that must drive DIC workers half mad on a daily basis.

And while Dubai-based SmartCity - a joint venture between TECOM Investments and Sama Dubai, both members of Dubai Holding - continues to launch global initiatives to build one SmartCity after another, perhaps addressing the parking issue might be an urgent requirement?

We want to close the gaps, and develop a bridge between Dubai, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Levant.

But then again, there are people like Fareed Abdulrahman, executive director of SmartCity Dubai, who appears to be quite a cheerful and positive man by nature. To Abdulrahman, even parking woes could have a positive outcome.

"See? That is the point. We learn from our mistakes for other projects," says Abdulrahman. The ‘other projects' are the much-publicised SmartCity Malta and SmartCity Kochi. With the completion date set at 10 years from today, the two cities are only an example of what SmartCity plans to do. This is just the beginning according to Abdulrahman.

"We are planning to announce five before 2010 or 2011, but obviously Malta and Kochi will be in a very advanced stage," he says. Whether this will be the final number of cities is not yet known, but Abdulrahman confirms that this is the plan for the next five years.

As for why the company hasn't considered starting the implementation of its ‘Going Global' scheme from the Middle East, Abdulrahman explains that it is a strategic decision. "First of all, we had a priority. Our priorities were to find a location in Europe and one in the sub-continent. That has already happened as per the plan.

"Two, we have a selection criteria when we look at any location. We look for certain things such as: is the place or location politically stable? Is there minimal infrastructure available in terms of internet, telecommunications companies, and how advanced are they? We also look at other infrastructure such as power, water, which is very important, and transportation for example," he says.

Under no circumstances was SmartCity going to tap into a location to which direct flights from Dubai weren't available, explains Abdulrahman. "We also look at time," he says, adding that for the upcoming five years locations will be restricted to seven or eight-hour flights. "But once we have those five locations, maybe from there we can go to another seven or eight hours," he says. Among regions under consideration for such projects are the Levant region, North Africa, and Asia Pacific.

Abdulrahman has a dream. He imagines a global network of IT and business parks. "We want to close the gaps, and develop a bridge between Dubai, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Levant," he says, citing an annual event called CEO Interactive, which brings together a large number of IT companies' CEOs all under one roof.

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