A few weeks ago, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted praising the story of Mustafa Qandil, an Arab youth who founded SWVL, a startup that offers smart transportation solutions, from Dubai. The startup value exceeds US$1.5 billion and was listed on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. His Highness concluded his tweet by affirming that Dubai will remain a “platform for all Arab youth who aspire to global markets”.
This inspiring message is not rare or random, but is in line with our leadership’s ongoing efforts to make Dubai a launch pad for startups.
A few days later, an international report by the Deep Knowledge Group praised another Dubai-born startup called 01Gov. It is an Emirati startup specialised in GovTech, a domain in which startups collaborate with the government sector to enable innovation in designing innovative public policies and services, and accelerating digital transformation. These agile startups can deliver innovative ideas and solutions better than traditional companies, some of whom grew up in the pre-internet era..
01Gov motto is “future now” and aims to inspire and enable the governments of the twenty-first century.
Steadily, this Emirati startup has won the trust of leading governmental and non-governmental institutions in the UAE, the GCC, the Arab world and the wider Global South. This includes the United Nations, the Open Data Institute in the United Kingdom, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, and other prominent entities in Australia and Asia. Undeniably, this startup can be considered another inspiring source for ambitious Arab youth who strive for reaching a global position in developing digital platforms.
The numerous success stories of 01Gov have been documented locally and internationally by institutions including Emirates News Agency (WAM) and Apolitical, a British platform focusing on government administration.
Being a GovTech startup makes 01Gov a unique story considering that this domain is still in its infancy in the Arab world in terms of the number of startups and the size of investments. On the contrary, the global GovTech economy is about US$450 billion, and it has been growing exponentially during the Covid-19 pandemic. By 2025, the GovTech market is expected to exceed one trillion dollars. Most of these investments are in the US, UK, Israel, Singapore, Australia and other countries where investors have realized the value of this huge economic opportunity.
GovTech has also been flourishing in these countries due to its social impact. The cooperation between the public sector and GovTech startups, such as 01Gov, boosts the ability of government entities to innovate in providing better services and policies to their citizens. Moreover, such cooperation enables these countries to achieve and maintain high ranks in various global indicators of innovation and digital transformation.
These economic and non-economic gains represent a huge opportunity for the government sector and investors in the UAE to excel in this field and foster the UAE’s global leadership. The UAE already has all the essential factors for success, first and foremost the vision and support of the leadership, as asserted by the tweet of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid at this article’s preamble.
Last year, 01Gov closed its first angel investment round, which was a unique occasion in the Arab region for a company working in the GovTech sector. I have decided to invest in this startup and join its team because of my interest in GovTech, on the one hand, and due to the synergy between the company’s activities and my book “Digital Nation”, which has gained local and international popularity.
This company offers the public sector in the UAE and the Arab world a precious opportunity to innovate in the areas of designing the future, data, artificial intelligence, digital government, international competitiveness among others. 01Gov has also developed the first Arab digital platform for government innovation. It actively contributes to the growth of high quality specialised Arabic content on the internet.
And just like in the story His Highness mentioned in his tweet, 01Gov was founded by another Arab entrepreneur. The founder, Ibrahim El Badawi, graduated from Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) as the top of his class, and worked as a strategist in the Dubai e-Government team where he was inspired to launch his startup.
In conclusion, I sincerely invite the public sector leaders and investors to pay attention to this trillion dollar opportunity, so Dubai and the UAE can be home to the first Arab GovTech startup that goes global. We can all find inspiration and guidance in the Principles of the 50, and in the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to preserve Dubai as a platform for all Arab youth who aspire to global markets.