> Abu Dhabi unlocks the next generation of ICT talent

The evolution of new technologies like AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) is accelerating faster than anyone expected, with the potential to transform every aspect of how we live and work.

That transformation is already palpable in Abu Dhabi. Harnessing the world’s fastest mobile internet speeds, the UAE capital tops the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) Smart City Index for MENA, placing 13th in the world. Driverless taxis ferry passengers around Saadiyat and Yas Island. Drones deliver medical supplies. The world’s first AI university recently awarded degrees to its first cohort of graduates.

All of it is built on the same foundation: Abu Dhabi’s thriving information and communications technology (ICT) ecosystem.

Building the backbone

“The cloud provides the infrastructure for AI, IoT, smart cities, autonomous cars — all those advanced technologies,” says Mouteih Chaghlil, CEO of Bespin Global MEA, an e& Enterprise Company.

Bespin Global supports large organizations and government agencies in their digital transformations, primarily by migrating to the cloud. Operating worldwide, it recently established its MEA offices in Abu Dhabi, adding to a growing framework of ICT and cloud infrastructure in the emirate.

In the last three years, says Chaghlil, Abu Dhabi’s local cloud providers have been joined by “massive investment from public cloud service providers such as Amazon and Microsoft.”

Bespin Global matches organizations with the cloud services they need to propel their digital ambitions. But the “crown jewel of our business” is the Cloud Operations Center, says Chaghlil. “We continuously monitor our clients’ services, managing them with cutting-edge technologies to protect our clients’ workloads and give them peace of mind.”

Such a service is essential in Abu Dhabi, where “digital services are at the heart of almost every sector – government, manufacturing – all of it is digital,” says Chaghlil. The centrality of digital in the emirate is one reason Bespin Global chose Abu Dhabi for its base in the Middle East, “one of the fastest growing economies in the world,” Chaghlil explains.

The company also received substantial support from the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) to establish in the emirate. “Their support is limitless,” says Chaghlil. “Beyond their financial investment, they are a partner that supports every impossible idea you have.”

Abu Dhabi’s digital focus, government support, and strategic location all add up to a “great ecosystem for us to expand from an ICT perspective,” says Chaghlil.

It helps that “Abu Dhabi is becoming a talent magnet,” Chaghlil continues. “Not just because of the valuable opportunities it is providing, but also because it is an increasingly desirable destination, thanks to its culture, inclusivity, and support for innovation.”

Part of that support comes from the Bespin Global Academy, which Chaghlil says “provides hands-on courses to our team, our clients, and to young innovators in the Middle East,” to strengthen their digital skills.

It is just one of a lattice of education institutions deepening Abu Dhabi’s digital talent pool.

Training the next generation

Meanwhile, 42 Abu Dhabi is a coding school with a difference. Eschewing traditional classrooms, it is “rooted in a peer-to-peer learning methodology that creates learning pathways with a project-based, gamified approach,” says acting CEO Marcos Muller-Habig.

With more than 100 projects, the curriculum equips students with “essential digital skills in areas such a data analytics, machine learning, algorithms and AI, parallel computing and others, as well as business skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, adaptability, and autonomous working.”

While principally a coding school, 42 Abu Dhabi also connects graduates with internships and job opportunities with public and private partner organizations such as the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy (DoE), sovereign investor Mubadala, national security innovators Beacon Red, and Microsoft.

In keeping with its entrepreneurial spirit, the school even mentors students with startup ambitions. “The 42 global network has supported over 500 student start-ups,” says Muller-Habig.

42 Abu Dhabi adopts the 42 network's free-of-charge learning model, and has been supported by the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge since its launch in 2020.

Outside the emirate, free tuition is achieved through “a combination of private sponsors and partnerships,” says Muller-Habig. “For example, Telefonica, the telecom giant, sponsors five campuses in Spain.”

Furthermore, 42 Abu Dhabi complements other initiatives in the region such as the UAE National Programme for Coders, which aims to train and attract 100,000 coders – for scale, Abu Dhabi’s urban population is 1.5 million – through a mixture of education and long-term talent visas.

Thanks to initiatives like these, Abu Dhabi is home to a pipeline of highly skilled digital workers, which Muller-Habig says is “one of the driving factors behind the growth of Abu Dhabi’s ICT sector.”

Digital Abu Dhabi

With its burgeoning digital workforce and “the government’s continued investment in digital infrastructure,” Muler-Habig says, “the future of ICT in Abu Dhabi is very promising.”

“We’re expecting exponential growth in the next five years,” says Chaghlil. And this is not only because of the expanding opportunities, and educational institutions like 42 Abu Dhabi and Bespin Academy.

“People from all over the world are interested in moving here,” says Chaghlil. “Abu Dhabi has 0% income tax. It’s one of the safest cities in the world. It has one of the best education and healthcare systems. I am so proud to raise my kids in this country.”