The United Arab Emirates is seeking to develop its high-tech infrastructure and position itself as a regional e-commerce leader.
The head of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, Abdul Rahman Ghanem Al Mutaiwee, said that e-commerce and digital technology is replacing traditional technology and commerce and that the Arab world, particularly the Gulf, cannot stand idly by and watch it happen. The region must engage and become leaders.
"Dubai is still depending a lot on traditional ways of doing business,' Mutaiwee said. "We should take the lead and introduce new ways. We should explore new horizons and adopt the most modern system of transactions," he said. "We must develop our own portals to become more competitive and facilitate our communications with other chambers of commerce and business organizations,' he continued. "The earlier we move in this direction the better it will be for us," he said.
The pace with which UAE citizens are connecting to the Internet is likely to make the country the Arab world leader in terms of Internet users. In 1995, there were only 2,503 users. Last year, that number had grown to roughly 200,000, or about 14 percent of the population. That number is expected to leap to 64 percent by 2002.
Furthermore, UAE e-commerce is projected to explode from $26 million in 1999 to more than $1 billion in five years.
Mutaiwee said the chamber plans to establish a separate department to handle e-commerce-related issues and development of on-line businesses. He said there was pressure on Dubai to introduce and develop on-line businesses because of its position as the regional trade hub.
Yesterday, an e-commerce conference and exhibition opened, in which 60 companies (3 foreign) are participating. Georges Kaser, the administrative manager for the Middle East, Africa and Mediterranean regions for Compaq, said just as Dubai emerged as a regional and international center, there are indications that the emirate will play an equally important role in e-commerce.
Meanwhile, it was announced that the International Gulf Conference for E-commerce will be held in Dubai between April 23-26. (Compiled from Arabic and English UAE press reports)
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