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In less than half a decade, all eyes will be on Dubai as the city unveils its World Expo 2020 exhibition.
The emirate will be handed the reins of the world’s biggest trade show – an event that has never before taken place in the Middle East.
Held over a period of six months, the World Expo is expected to attract more than 25 million new visitors to Dubai and boost business across many industries in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
As companies look to benefit from increased demand for goods and services ahead of and during the event, IT will be a key factor in ramping up capacity, flexibility and capability. According to IDC, the local ICT industry could see a boost of 1-2% growth before and during Expo 2020.
While the primary economic beneficiaries of Expo 2020 windfall are likely to be infrastructure and tourism bodies, the ripple effect of more international visitors to Dubai and increased global visibility are expected to drive wider industry growth in the medium-term.
“The preparatory steps that CIOs need to take for Expo 2020 depend largely on the sectors in which they operate,” IDC's industry solutions senior research analyst for the Middle East and Africa, Jebin George, told Computer Weekly.
The large-scale capital expenditure related to infrastructure will include ICT-related investments, he added.
“The increased demand for products and services will result in new businesses starting operations, as well as existing ones beefing up their operations, both resulting in significant investments in ICT,” said George.
He expects the construction and utilities sectors to be the biggest beneficiaries currently, due to the large-scale infrastructure requirements for the Expo.
“During the Expo, the large number of visitors will drive growth in the tourism, hospitality and transportation sectors, as well as retail,” said George.
The prestigious global trade show is also expected to create around 277,000 jobs between 2013 and 2021, according to government projections. Around 40% of these employment opportunities will be generated in the travel and tourism sector.
“Closer to the Expo, the real estate and retail sectors will also gain from the increase in population due to the high level of job creation,” said George.
David Wang, CEO of Huawei UAE, which is a major local government partner, said Expo 2020 is in line with Dubai Ruler HH Sheikh Mohammed’s vision to transform Dubai into a knowledge-based economy and the world’s smartest city.
“The event will be a major catalyst for Dubai and it comes at a time of already unprecedented growth and economic diversification in the country,” he said. “This growth has already attracted waves of foreign investments and I believe this is only the beginning – the Expo is great for business everywhere.”
Dell Middle East enterprise product manager Shams Hasan warned companies to do their IT homework to take advantage of potential gains of the Expo.
“CIOs will need to ensure that their IT strategy and infrastructure is agile and able to adapt to new IT trends, adapt to changing business needs, and to accommodate for unexpected demands,” he said.
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Hasan added that public cloud could prove to be a “saving grace for many”, granting IT managers cost-effective agility on a flexible basis.
“The most important advice I would give to CIOs is to consider that a strong future-ready strategy that works in 2020 needs to be readied now,” he said.
“Technologies that are geared towards virtualisation, support open-standards and support agile physical infrastructure scalability are key to a successful IT strategy ahead of the Expo.
“UAE companies have a huge opportunity with the Expo 2020 to take advantage of digital transformation,” added Hasan.
IDC’s George agreed that local CIOs will need to ready their infrastructures to cope with increasing demand.
“The Expo provides significant expansion opportunities for many businesses and this should be complemented with investments in networks, systems and storage, software applications, and peripherals,” he said.
George added that a mobile strategy is a key area for Expo 2020 IT preparations. “Any business that doesn’t harness these technologies – mobility, data analytics, social media – will be left behind,” he said.
Hasan added that availability used to be one that centered around the datacentre, but today availability issues are also concerned with how mobile-enabled the workforce is and how mobile-ready the customer experience is.