TIME TO LINK

UAE, Dubai 2012 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eesa M. Bastaki, CEO of the ICT Fund, on its initiatives to promote and enhance ICT development in Dubai and make a lasting impression on the global industry.

Eesa M. Bastaki
BIOGRAPHY
Eesa M. Bastaki received his BSs and MSc degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, San Diego and PhD from the University of California, Irvine. Before becoming the CEO of the ICT Fund, he held several high-ranking posts such as Chairman of the Energy Research Section, and later the Technology Research Section between 1990 and 1992 at the Technology and Energy Research Center of UAE University (UAEU). While at the UAEU, he served as the Assistant Dean. He also founded the IT Center at Al-Ain Municipality in 2000. Bastaki was Consultant and Director of Education and Technology from 2003 to 2008, and one of the founders of the Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority.

What key strategies are in place to achieve the aim of making the ICT sector the second largest in Dubai?

Future trends are very promising in the ICT sector, and world economies will be measured through ICT implementation and production. Modern communications, as an example, started with connecting people to people. Then it developed from connecting people to serving them in all aspects of life. Hence, the future favors the ICT sector transforming developing economies into developed societies. Therefore, the ICT Fund's key strategies are to create a skilled workforce through funding scholarships, to support R&D in ICT, and to enhance knowledge acquisition through funding incubators and start-ups. This is due to the fact that the increase in ICT dependency is exponential and growing rapidly to the extent that technology will be a necessity if a society wants to keep up with the changes. ICT will be the main economic driving force for the future of those who want to sustain economically and catch up with the trends. Nowadays, the world spends more than $3 trillion annually buying technology, and the trend is strengthening exponentially year after year. Future technology will play a large role in every aspect of work, business, industry, health, environment, security, and more. This will require trillions of dollars to be spent yearly. Thus, producing technology will control the larger portion of the world's economies, comparing it to the oil and gas industry, which could have nearly the same share.

How large a role does the ICT sector currently play in contributing to Dubai's economy?

The ICT sector is playing a very important role in Dubai and the UAE's economy. However, it is mainly contributing to the economy on the infrastructure and services side. The UAE has yet to acquire the know-how of technology and transfer the knowledge into society to create an ICT knowledge-based economy. Thus, through the technological initiatives already in place, the ICT sector will be playing a very important role to contribute to the economy of Dubai and the UAE. The day will soon come when the UAE will be producing knowledge and exporting it to the world.

What areas will the ICT Fund's budget be focusing on for development in 2012? What are your considerations when allocating funds to organizations for R&D?

In 2012, the ICT Fund will mainly focus on creating the required skilled workforce by supporting scholarships to universities in the country and abroad. It will also support schools as they create awareness of new technology available and the ways to utilize it, as well as deal with the basic elements of ICT technology for the benefit the country. Secondly, we will focus on funding R&D in ICT to localize know-how and create knowledge. Thirdly, the ICT fund will support ideas and concepts from those innovators in order to be foster their skills and generate innovative ideas to deliver products that are “Made in the UAE, sold globally." Finally, the ICT Fund will support ICT National Interest Projects by funding them, in order to fill the gap and connect the missing link needed to create an ICT eco-system.

Promoting an entrepreneurial culture among the young people of Dubai is of great importance to you—in what ways are you fostering this culture?

An entrepreneurial culture already exists in Dubai. However, the ICT entrepreneurial culture still needs to be looked at. This is the missing link that needs to be connected. The ICT Fund is striving to create this culture through supporting ICT incubators in the country. These incubators produce graduates as start-up companies, which will form the nuclei of the local industry. The ICT Fund will also establish its own incubator to help the country establish technology companies and achieve our goals.

Innovation is an inherent part of media in an ever-changing world. How do you see Dubai as a hub for innovation?

Dubai is well known for its innovative initiatives, even though it has very limited resources. It is the creativity of Dubai that has led it to progress so rapidly and compete with much more mature economies. Since ICT is the future for those who want to keep up with the vast advancements in technology, it is natural to enter into the field of production. ICT companies can contribute to the sector and create the eco-system we envision in the UAE through supporting technology transfer. The results of the success stories will help Dubai contribute to the overall development of the ICT industry worldwide.