Dubai has emerged as a key driving force in the region behind an initiative to bring internet access to half the world by 2015.
US-based technology firm AMD has used Dubai’s location and status as a financial hub to drive its mission to boost current levels of internet penetration in the Middle East and Africa.
Dan Shine, vice-president of the 50x15 Initiative at AMD, said the project is aiming to significantly increase web access around the world from its current 20 to 25 per cent to 50 per cent by 2015.
“So far [we have] been leveraging the UAE for access to other regions – Dubai is a hub for general business in the Middle East and Africa. The UAE is very important to us,” Shine told Emirates Business.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 2008 World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (WSIE) in Dubai, he added: “Because of some of the excellent opportunities we’ve had in Pakistan recently, we made a decision to focus some of our resources there, but [the initiative] will be managed and directed from the Dubai offices.”
He added that the initiative has also been evaluating a number of different types of projects both in education and healthcare in the region.
AMD said at current growth rates, half the world would have internet access by around 2030.
The company, which conceived the 50x15 Initiative, uses its resources to support and build on existing solutions for internet access and taking these initiatives to a greater scale.
The 50x15 Initiative, launched by AMD in 2004 at the World Economic Forum, aims at providing accessible internet and computers for 50 per cent of the world’s population by the year 2015.
The firm also concentrates on providing specific services including VoIP and telephony in rural areas.
“It’s not just for rural populations though, it’s also for highly urbanised populations. It doesn’t mean one computer for each person. We believe by 2015 the way people interact with computers will be very different,” Shine added.
The firm is also involved with the World Economic Forum’s global education project that has had deployments with the Jordan and Egypt education initiatives.
Private sector companies in the UAE have a chance to provide cost-effective services including WiFi and cellular broadband, to bolster the 50x15 effort, Shine said.
“There’s so much physical and architectural growth here. By building technology into architecture – high rises or low cost-housing – that would be available immediately or in a few years, you could really improve the ability of delivering services to people,” he added.
AMD, which acquires 70 per cent of its profits from outside the United States, announced the 50x15 Initiative at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos when global internet usage was just over the 10 per cent mark.
10%: The percentage of global internet usage in 2004
2015: The year when AMD hopes 50 per cent of the world will have internet access
Dubai to play pivotal role in internet plan