The United Arab Emirates: the virtual universe in the sands of the desert

To realize its ambition to become a global technology leader and to convert to the digital and innovation economy, the UAE is focusing its efforts on the Metaverse in particular. With real strengths.

According to Global Innovation Indexpublished annually by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)the United Arab Emirates are now at the 18th place in the 2022 ranking. The country has gained 5 places in one year, and continues to progress, being the most innovative economy in the entire region.

This appetite for technological innovation is strongly encouraged by the government, via multiple initiatives. Grouped together in a program unveiled last year, ” Vision 2021 one of these initiatives is to show that the example comes from the top through the creation of a Center for Government Innovation, an educational program to train current and future leaders in government administration in innovation. The curriculum was developed with the University of Cambridge and issues “innovation diplomas”. Thus, each ministry and administration is supposed today to have within it a “CEO of Innovation” piloting the initiatives of its department.

Always at the heart of the ruling sphere, a ” Government Innovation Lab organizes courses to stimulate the emergence of innovative ideas and above all to allow better reflection, thanks to technological innovation, on the challenges facing the country.

Abu Dhabi launched Hub 71 in 2019, a platform that brings together tech players in the emirate. The role of the platform is to provide personalized support to innovation companies and give them access to international markets. In addition, the emirate will welcome, in November, the first Middle East Blockchain Awards. A way to recognize the efforts of the UAE in favor of innovation in the Blockchain.

Attract the best in the world

Last year, the Crown Prince, Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid, also launched Dubai Next as the first government crowdfunfing platform to finance the most innovative start-ups and help them contribute to the various development projects in the UAE, particularly in the field of renewable energy. The platform also works for the benefit of very early start-ups, which have not yet finalized the development of a commercial solution. By 2021, 17 start-ups had already been financed.

Dubai Next began to extend its concept to students, even if they have not yet graduated. Another example that the talent war is both global and increasingly aggressive. 150 entrepreneurial projects have thus been selected since the beginning of the year, the best having every chance of being financed by DubaiNext.

Also noteworthy, in renewable energies, is the Masdar City project, piloted by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Masdar is designed to be a 100% green smart city, but also a center of technological excellence. It should be completed by 2030. It already has a science and technology research institute, created with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It is home to hundreds of companies, including the regional headquarters of Siemens, but also the international headquarters of Irena (the International Renewable Energy Agency).

Metavers: preparing for the future

While preparing for the innovation of the future, the UAE is not neglecting the present. Thus, at the end of last month, the country hosted the first edition of the Dubai Metaverse Assemblywhich brought together several hundred experts and global specialists in the Metaverse, the Internet platform of tomorrow – on which it has radically repositioned Facebook, already devoting billions of dollars of investment to it. A few months earlier, in December 2021, the emirate of Abu Dhabi also hosted an event related to the Metaverse: the Blockchain World Abu Dhabi. International in scope, it dedicated the launch ofHeliconNFTa new “online universe” combining game in the metaverse, but also NFT trading.

The Metaverse can be considered as the virtual platform of tomorrow, succeeding its distant ancestors of the early 2000s, through, for example, the short-lived success of Second Life. More ambitious today, in particular because computing power and connection speeds have increased considerably, the concept is in fact based on the online virtualization of everything that makes up our daily lives today, both private and professional.

Even if the concept is relatively simple to state and it is still only at the first stage of its development, it nevertheless generates considerable hopes of renewal, not only of the Internet as we knows it, but also a possible questioning of most of our societal behavior. Hence the interest for the UAE to position itself now as a nerve center of its conceptualization, a destination where some of the technological developments essential to the realization of the Metaverse will be carried out. But that’s not all: new rules of governance, even ad hoc economic regulations, will also have to be invented for this global virtual space, if it wants to deliver its considerable promises.

A market set to exceed 1300 billion

In Dubai, some of the first concrete achievements of this new virtual environment were therefore presented during the Metaverse Assembly: working sessions on the various technical and regulatory issues, and of course formal presentations by hundreds of international experts in topic.

UAE Minister of Economy, Abdulla bin Touchindicated that the government aims to make Dubai not only one of the “main Metaverse economies on the planet”, but also has the desire to attract “at least a thousand Metaverse companies”, resulting in the creation of “40 000 highly skilled jobs by 2030”.

Another concrete achievement is the creation, at the beginning of October, of a virtual and operational branch of the UAE Ministry of Economy. This headquarters of the Metaverse constitutes a real permanent presentation space, even including meeting rooms and auditoriums, as well as the presentation of companies already involved, in particular the blockchain, an essential technology for securing all actions and transactions that will be carried out during these virtual practices.

The early positioning of the UAE in the Metaverse offers them the prospect of being able to attract on the spot the state of the art of the main components of the digital technology of tomorrow: not only the blockchain (which guarantees the a priori absolute reliability of the data), but also everything related to virtual or augmented reality, artificial intelligence, very high speed networks, cloud computing, etc.

The challenge of this positioning is not only technological or prestigious, it is above all economic. According to a recent study by ResearchAndMarkets.com, the global Metaverse market, if it already represented 40 billion dollars in 2020, could reach more than 1,230 billion dollars by the end of the decade, representing an average annual growth of more than 40% per year. It remains to convince the world’s most advanced technological giants in this field, such as Facebook, Ali Baba, Huawei, Tencent Nvidiato position the UAE, including Dubai, on their own (virtual) map of the Metaverse.

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