I moved to Dubai a year ago this week, I love the place, nice weather, well, as long as it is not summer, great food, and a city with a great vibe. It does have it’s problems however.
Traffic. Anyone that lives in Dubai for very long will start to complain about the traffic, it is horrible, I knew about the traffic issues before I moved to Dubai, having done years of business in the region, having come from London, I thought I could handle it, I mean waiting 20 mins surrounded by other vehicles to move a mile in London is not uncommon. But here is the thing, in London you have a fantastic, albeit an expensive, public transport system, so you have options, Dubai, not so much.
They do have a the Metro, which is cheap, very cheap compared to other big cities, but it is not extensive. In London you can live without a car and get to any place you want on the public transport, sure there are some dead areas, which would require you to get on a bus, but you can still get there without to much hassle. In Dubai there are two lines with around 50 stops, as opposed eleven lines and over 270 stops in London, plus you get an extensive bus system travelling around the English capital.
I would like to live with out a car, it is just not possible in Dubai, but this is not the biggest drawback for me. What is, the expensive food, the high rental cost or the Islamic state laws? None of these, all of these I can live with when I move to an Islamic desert country with limited land for both food and living. The one thing I really struggle with as a techie is the cost and speed of communication and Internet.
In my flat in London I had fiber to the house, admittedly this was not avliable everywhere, but was being rolled out quickly to high-rise estates, which is basically the majority of Dubai accommodation. I had 1GB download AND upload, which included a landline, all for the grand price of fifty five pounds.
When I looked in to getting top speed Internet in Dubai I could get 1GB download, with 100MB upload for 4600AED, that’s over EIGHT HUNDRED POUNDS. Ten times worse upload, same download speed for nearly 15 times the price? On top of that once you have this internet it will be heavily censored, no porn and no gambling; I can live with that, I am in an Islamic country after all, but sites will regularly be blocked if the say anything bad about large local companies, particularly if they complain about the local telco’s or their service. All sites need to go through the two big proxy servers run by the local telco’s which means anything international is automatically delivered with a delay.
I can live with all this, well not the ridiculous price, but the one thing that irks me is I have a aging mother in England, her hearing is fading, I don’t get to see her that much as she lives up north. That wasn’t a big problem in London as I would just Skype with her, she would put on a headset and turn the volume to near max and we could video chat, happy days. But once I arrived in Dubai, no Skype, it is banned by the local Telco’s cause apparently it eats in to their profit, they want you making calls using airtime, the 6400AED Internet is not profitable enough apparently.
As a techie the Internet is the one bit of infrastructure we care about, as will most if not all technology companies. Dubai has so much potential to become a huge tech hub, low taxes, easy to set up a new business, welcoming to the expat community, allowing you to get the best talent from across the globe in one place, yet this one issue is crippling the tech community.
And that Sir is a shame, because Dubai is great otherwise.