Sheikh wants to put Dubai on IT map

Nestled in between leading IT vendor booths and one for the state of California, a booth showed off the offerings of the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai and H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rasid Al Maktoum’s dream of making it an IT centre in the Middle East.

On the stand, public relations people handed out a mouse pad and a glossy brochure with the Sheikh’s photo and his Web site that provides a virtual tour of Dubai. This is the first time the Crown Prince of Dubai has brought word from the Arabian desert what Dubai can offer and efforts to make it a bustling Internet city

“The purpose of us being here is (to emphasize) that Dubai is not just a desert, but a hub for the Middle East,” said Wadi Ahmed, a marketing manager for “It is because of the IT initiative of Sheikh Mohammed.”

The Sheikh seeks to make Dubai a completely online city where citizens interact with the government via the Net. Transforming the government infrastructure online will provide more efficient services.

Funds are being spent to fully equip Dubai with computers and technology, Ahmed said. For example, some 14-year-old or 15-year-old students are already certified on systems from U.S. networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. Such moves translate ultimately into the majority of the population being computer literate.

Some perks are also available to encourage foreign companies to set up shop in Dubai, such as no corporate or income taxes, Ahmed said. Already, Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Siemens AG have operations in the United Arab Emirates, he said. And 230 companies are awaiting to space to be built there.

The goal is not only to attract large corporations, but small companies and Internet startups. No expense is being spared in the vision of making Dubai a IT center in the Middle East, Ahmed said.

“It is all for the benefit of the city,” Ahmed said about the Sheikh’s focus. “That is why the people love him.”

More information on the Crown Prince of Dubai’s IT efforts can be seen at