TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK

Dubai 2020 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

DKP and DIAC synergistically work together to push Dubai's agenda for a knowledge-based economy into the 21st century.

Mohammad Abdullah
BIOGRAPHY

Mohammad Abdullah, as Managing Director of DKP and DIAC, is responsible for aligning over 500 businesses and 27 universities with Dubai's long-term strategy for creating a sustainable, knowledge-based economy. In 2018, he was appointed by the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI) board of directors as president. He was formerly managing director of TECOM's Media Cluster comprising of Dubai Media City, Dubai Production City, and Dubai Studio City. Prior to joining TECOM Group, he was executive vice president of CNBC Arabiya. He also held media roles with Emirates Media Inc. and Abu Dhabi Television. Abdullah holds a bachelors' in mass communication and French literature from UAE University and a master's in broadcast journalism from Emerson College.

How does the integration of DKP and DIAC respond to labor market needs?
DKP and DIAC were established with an effort by Dubai to create knowledge-based economic clusters. TECOM Group turned this vision into action by taking charge of different industries and sectors. The group started with Dubai Internet City in 1999, followed by Dubai Media City a year later. These sector-focused cities were created to address local challenges, such as a lack of regional talent and human resources. The initial reason behind establishing DKP was to respond and cater to the requirements of the workforce. When local, regional, and international companies set up in Dubai, their human resources requirements must be met. Companies used to bring staff from other countries. Attracting companies in HR development was important, which is how DKP was created; we are the only HR zone in the world. In total, there are more than 95,000 people working across TECOM Group's 10 sector-focused communities. This would not have been possible without the creation of specialized parks with business-friendly regulations and interconnected infrastructure. When DKP was created in 2003, it was not just for HR and training, but also for higher education. After DKP started to attract universities, with the interest from institutions came the idea of a higher education zone. DIAC was thus created in 2007 and currently has 27 institutions from at least nine countries offering more than 500 programs. We have more than 27,000 students of 150 nationalities studying at these academic institutions, and we are still attracting new institutions, students and investment.

What are DKP and DIAC's expansion and partnership plans?
We need to understand size and demand. The market can accommodate expansion even though we focus on quality, not quantity. We are always working hard to forge partnerships with global institutions and convey the advantages of being here. With other countries putting in restrictions rather than easing movement, there is an opportunity for us to seize. Education is an important component in attracting tourism. Our market research study showed that there major upcoming destinations, such as Indonesia, Nigeria, and Chile, want to build on these trends and utilize them. We work equally as hard to attract institutions as we do students. One important consideration for international students studying abroad is student accommodation, which was a challenge for many years. We identified this gap and opened the first student accommodation in DIAC in October 2019. In Dubai and the UAE, the value chain begins with regulations. We continuously work to ease our regulations for institutions coming here. For example, Dubai Development Authority launched Earn While You Learn, which allows those on a student visa to work in TECOM Group companies. Next to DIAC is Dubai Outsource City, and companies there want students who can work a few hours a day or week. It is all about building something that will work and is sustainable. All these aspects are important; it is not just a matter of building buildings and telling institutions to come.

What are the priorities moving forward for DKP and DIAC?
One priority is to attract more students to Dubai and contribute to the UAE's knowledge economy by creating a first-rate education system. In line with this commitment, we established the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation in Dubai Design District to develop a new generation of students that merge visual literacy with digital fluency and strategic acumen. We also want to discuss solar energy with universities and contribute to Dubai's vision to become a hub for clean energy and green technology. Moreover, we want to attract universities to develop new programs and students. One of the most important aspects we are developing relates to vocational education. We have been speaking with vocational institutes from around the world to advance our offering and enable the UAE to set new benchmarks in learning and knowledge.