• Tax exemption Free Zones that specialize in the ICT sector
  • Commitment to developing key sub sectors such as Smart Cities, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, 5G, AI and IoT
  • Leaders in the ICT Global Competitiveness Index in 2019

A key sector for the UAE

The UAE has identified the ICT sector as a key industry for the nation as they continue to reduce their dependence on oil revenue and grow the private sector. With a combination of UAE Vision 2021 and Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 the government has shown its intent on developing a pioneering national business infrastructure.

One of the primary prospect industries that are integral to achieving this vision is the ICT sector, the UAE government has heavily invested in the industry which was reflected when the UAE led the ICT Global Competitiveness Index in 2019.

In accordance with this vision the UAE government has established several free trade zones such as Dubai Media City, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Silicon Oasis that specialize in the ICT sector and act as industry clusters for high technology and innovation. Within these zones, firms are given 100% import and export tax exemptions, complete repatriation of capital and profits, and corporate tax exemptions for 50 years, on a renewable basis.

Some of the ICT trade free zones in the UAE include:

  • TwoFour54 (Abu Dhabi)
  • Dubai Studio City (Dubai)
  • Dubai Production City (Dubai)
  • International Media Production Zone (Dubai)
  • Dubai Outsource City (Dubai)
  • Sharjah Media City Free Zone (Sharjah)
  • Ajman Media Free Zone (Ajman)
  • Creative City (Fujairah)

With an already highly developed market for ICT products and services, the UAE is seeking to harness the transformative potential of digitalisation to facilitate government-to-government and government-to-citizen transactions and increase efficiency across a range of industries. The primary example of this technology is UAE SmartPass system which has created a digital framework for the operations of all government services and ministries.

Leading sub-sectors in the ICT industry

Smart Cities

Seen as a key initiative the UAE has made large investments into projects for smart cities. The prime example for this is Dubai, where the government has chosen to focus on 6 key areas; transport, communications, infrastructure, electricity, economic services, and urban planning. This is to be achieved through several initiatives and government services. Examples of these initiatives are the creation of public WI-Fi, electric car charging stations, live traffic monitoring, and an eWallet for the Roads and Transport Authority.

The most ambitious smart-city plan of the UAE is the creation of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, an $18 billion planned city. Designed to run entirely on solar power, it will have many smart features, the city will implement policies aimed at zero waste, sustainable transport, building energy efficiency standards, biodiversity strategy policies, and renewable energy requirements.

Cloud Computing

The UAE has significantly increased the size of its cloud computing industry, with a forecast of creating over 32,000 jobs and $411 million in yearly expenditures on public cloud services by 2020 the UAE has become the region’s most significant player.  

The Government Information Authority (GIA) is developing cloud technology to be used by federal government entities in the UAE, and the services it offers include electronic hosting, file management and database systems, intranet portals, email and meeting management systems. The SmartPass service currently allows citizens to conduct their affairs with four federal government departments, and there are plans to connect other government agencies soon. With a clear intent of future investments by the UAE government in cloud computing, and the UAE’s competitive business laws, as well as strong technological infrastructure, the sector is forecasted to continue expanding in the years ahead.


Due to the UAE’s geopolitical position and importance to the world economy the UAE is highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In response to a record number of malware incidents among customers in the GCC the UAE government introduced the UAE Information Assurance Standards (UAE IAS) which are a set of guidelines for government entities in critical sectors. Compliance with these standards is mandatory for all government organizations and businesses that are identified as critical infrastructure in the UAE. Several local players have been developing cybersecurity capabilities to capitalize on rising demand, while international IT security firms are expanding their presence in the country. With leading technology experts stating that the number one priority for UAE firms remains cybersecurity, the market is expected to continue expanding.


The UAE Is the first country in the Middle East and fourth globally to launch its 5G network. The current 5G coverage in the country has reached 80% of the UAE’s main cities, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with Expo 2020 venues serving as test sites for the network. With the UAE being at the forefront of technological advance and given its strong GDP per capita, demand for 5G services is predicted to be strong over the next five years.

Artificial Intelligence

Ai is forecast to contribute to almost 14% of the UAE’s national GDP by 2030 ($96 billion). In accordance with this the UAE AI Strategy 2031 was launched to improve efficiency in a number of sectors such as transport, traffic, health, aviation, renewable energy, water, technology, education, environment, and space technology.

The nation has already begun integrating AI within the education, healthcare, and aviation sectors. Examples of this include AI in digital education platforms across numerous schools in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, the use of robotics and AI to automate surgeries and other procedures, and the UAE’s aviation authority has signed an agreement to explore the use of AI in air traffic management.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The UAE has emerged as a leading global location for the deployment of IoT solutions to enhance public infrastructure, especially Dubai as it continues to strive to become a leading smart city. Multiple sectors have already started cooperating these include ICT, transportation, power, infrastructure, healthcare, and government. The UAE government is committed to developing IoT across the nation and spending on the sub sector is estimated to exceed $37 billion by 2020, with a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 31%.

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