Celebrating the UAE’s 40th Anniversary

As the UAE commemorates its 40th anniversary this December, Channel Middle East talks to industry stakeholders and look at major milestones that have shaped, influenced and contributed to the country’s IT market growth

Tags: Aptec DistributionExperts Computer LLC (www.expertscomputer.com/)IBM (www.ibm.com)Jumbo IT Distribution
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Celebrating the UAE’s 40th Anniversary Dr. Ali Baghdadi
By  Manda Banda Published  February 16, 2012

As the UAE commemorates its 40th anniversary this December, Channel Middle East talks to industry stakeholders and look at major milestones that have shaped, influenced and contributed to the country’s IT market growth.

Many channel partners in the UAE are hoping that the country’s 40th anniversary celebrations, herald yet another era of continued growth and innovation in the IT sector in the Emirates. As the UAE continues to bolster its trade credentials and promote technology to the rest of the region and the world, the country has not only emerged as the dominant IT hub in the Middle East, serving a diverse range of markets, but is also one of the most recognised IT hubs around the world. As we take a look down memory lane, we hear from some of the industry veterans that where there when it all started and have seen the key defining moments in building the IT industry in the Emirates.

DR ALI BAGHDADI
CEO, APTEC HOLDINGS

As Aptec is one of the longest serving distributors in the UAE market, Baghdadi recalls his first encounter with the UAE channel back in 1981. He said at the time, the company was launching the first Arabic operating system that Aptec designed. “The channel then was comprised of two types: exclusive agencies representing large vendors like IBM and retail shops selling electronic goods or office equipment,” he said. Baghdadi said back then, software was seen as a free for all offering, as no copyright laws existed. “IT expertise was rare, but Emirati traders were very keen to enter the era of personal computing,” he remembers.

Baghdadi said Aptec’s first presence in the UAE was in Abu Dhabi, where it established an office to market Aptec Arabic software and manufactured peripherals (Aptec Flowriter Arabic printers and terminals).

In 1995, Aptec established itself in Dubai with a distribution hub in Jebel Ali. Gradually, the channel started to settle into resellers and distributors, he added.

Baghdadi added that the phenomenal technology advances in the UAE are the best evidence of the world class competence of the IT channels in the country. “I believe the establishment of the Dubai Internet City (DIC) was the defining moment. It was a visionary move that was the first of its kind in the region. Many were cynical of it attracting major IT vendors, but it happened,” he said.

SHAILENDRA RUGHWANI
MD, EXPERTS COMPUTER GROUP

In the 17 years that Experts Computer Group has been in the Dubai Market, Rughwani has seen the IT industry grow along with the Emirate of Dubai. Today, the UAE and in particular Dubai, has become one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world. “In those days, doing business was easier as there were few companies and each one would specialise in some particular IT sector,” Rughwani said. “As years went by, the number of reseller companies increased in Dubai and today, business has become one of ‘survival of the fittest’. Rughwani believes that the most important factor in the growth of the IT sector in the UAE has been the initiatives taken by the UAE Government to promote IT and computerise all government services which has immensely helped in the overall development of the country. Rughwani said it started with the setting-up of the DIC and Dubai Media City.

Rughwani, who is also president of the Dubai Computer Group (DCG) is upbeat that the UAE could play a major role in the global IT industry by inviting software developers and opening up software development centres in the country.

ARSHAD CHISTY
HEAD OF IT DISTRIBUTION, JUMBO IT DISTRIBUTION

Having been in the UAE market for 38 years now, Jumbo’s initial, focus was on the consumer electronics sector and in the mid 1990’s the company diversified and ventured into IT distribution. “The channel and the technology sector grew by leaps and bounds over the last 40 years, in stride with the economic growth witnessed by the UAE,” said Chisty. “Of course, the UAE’s unique geographical location helped the Emirates become a hub for trading and supply of technology products in the entire region. Over the last four years, we have seen the evolution of the large format retailer as the destination for consumer technology purchases.

“The founding fathers of the UAE had the vision to invest and create world class infrastructure, including IT and telecoms infrastructure. This ensured that most tech companies made Dubai and the UAE the hub of their regional operations,” he enthused. “The concept and execution of GITEX, Technology Expo and Shopper has also helped cement the UAE’s position as the IT hub of the Middle East.

He explained that Jumbo Electronics will continue to play an active role in the region’s IT and electronics sector.

AMR REFAAT
GENERAL MANAGER, IBM MIDDLE EAST, LEVANT AND PAKISTAN

IBM’s presence in the Middle East region goes back to the first half of the 20th century when the company was involved in the drilling of oil in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in 1947. Ever since, IBM has contributed actively in the development and progress of the region.

Refaat said it’s no secret that the UAE’s technology sector has grown rapidly, with particularly marked growth over the past 20 years. “We’ve seen growth throughout the value-chain as UAE business and government organisations demand the latest business and technology solutions,” he said.

Refaat said since its union, the UAE has always been reputed as one of the region’s most progressive countries and one of the most accommodating to business. He said one key driver behind the UAE’s IT sector growth was certainly His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision for an e-Dubai in the mid 1990’s. “The Dubai government’s subsequent focus on developing an e-Government infrastructure saw the Emirate ‘leap-frog’ many nations around the world in adopting IT government systems.” Refaat said this is an example to other governments.

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