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Digital divide and lack of skills still problem for Gulf

Middle East head for IDA Singapore reveals what's holding the region back

Digital divide and lack of skills still problem for Gulf
Shaik Umar, centre director (Middle East), IDA Singapore.

SINGAPORE: The digital divide and lack of skilled talent are the main problems plaguing the Gulf's IT industry, says Shaik Umar, the Middle East centre director for the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore, adding that these challenges are not exclusive to Arab countries and are being mirrored across the globe. 

"These two issues are common everywhere but, for some countries in the Middle East, it is more prominent because of smaller populations", stated Umar.

Shaik Umar was speaking on the sidelines 2010 Infocomm Media Business Exchange (imbX) event taking place from June 14th to 20th in Singapore, which has the attendance of several high-ranking delegations from the Middle East. 

"Many Middle East governments see Singapore as a good partner and collaborator in their own developments. For this purpose we have MoUs with Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. As part of the MoUs we exchange information...and (the MoUs) help us to share Singapore plans that they otherwise wouldn't have access to."

In the United Arab Emirates, a number of major projects have been assigned to Singaporean companies. Singapore Technologies Electronics (ST Electronics) won an $8 million contract to provide an advanced taxi fleet management system in Sharjah. The win, which was announced in 2008, is still being implemented according to Umar. 

CrimsonLogic, another Singaporean firm, is behind the development of Abu Dhabi's eJustice programme for the Ministry of Justice that aims to enhance transparency and efficiency. The five-year programme, also announced in 2008, involves developing an integrated platform for easy case filing, legal research, notary services along with case and document management. 

A couple of years ago, Singapore-based InfoTrack Solutions merged with Abu Dhabi's CERT Telematics to form CERT InfoTrack Telematics, and their first win involved a $43 million government contract with the capital's Centre of Regulation of Transport. The contract sees the company equipping taxis in Abu Dhabi with a tracking and dispatch device which features detailed maps of the UAE, an electronic meter and a database recording system. There are also plans to introduce credit card payment facilities but there is no information available on that as yet.

IDA says it is still too early to confirm participation in this year's GITEX Technology Week as the decision is driven by ICT companies in Singapore depending on their agenda, plans and focus at that time.

"If there is a group of companies that plan to go to GITEX this year, we‘ll find ways to support them," added Umar.
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