Innovative digital transformation policies alongside sustained investment in related infrastructure have helped establish Sharjah as a digital centre within the UAE and the broader GCC region. Although telecommunications and internet provision are managed primarily at the federal level, the emirate has developed advanced digital services to improve the lives of its residents. Sharjah’s mobile application and digital payment mechanism have helped the emirate streamline access to information and services.

In addition, Sharjah has accelerated the digitalisation of its industrial sector in line with national aims, while advancing its sustainability practices by using new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Sharjah is now firmly established as a competitive ICT centre, offering a digitalised business environment, access to e-learning programmes and a wide range of digital services that signal the emirate’s long-term competitiveness.


Sharjah’s ICT sector is governed primarily at the federal level by the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), which oversees ICT policy and the launch of digital technologies across the UAE’s seven emirates. The TDRA has accelerated the implementation of 5G across the country, establishing one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for the technology. These efforts are in line with the We the UAE 2031 national economic blueprint. In 2007 the TDRA established the ICT Fund to help develop the UAE’s capabilities in the sector. The first fund of its kind in the GCC, it allocates financial resources to ICT-related scholarships, education institutions and national projects.

Digital government services have developed considerably over the past decade, and in July 2023 the TDRA launched a centralised interface for generative AI government services. At the emirate level, Digital Sharjah, a platform available as a website and smartphone app, provides residents with access to local government services. It is operated by the Sharjah Digital Department (SDD), which replaced the Sharjah Digital Office in January 2024.

Policy & Strategy

The federal government has focused on digitalising its services in line with We the UAE 2031, which aims to develop the country’s related infrastructure. The strategy outlines several objectives, including placing the country at the forefront of the global digital economy and providing advanced government services.

Another important strategic enabler is the UAE Digital Government Strategy 2025, which was developed to create a cross-sectoral commitment to digital advancement in government capabilities and services. The UAE Digital Government roadmap comprises six pillars encompassing 64 national digital enablers aimed at achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is supported by several other ICT policies, including the Unified Digital Platform Policy, the UAE Strategy for Government Services, the National Policy for Quality of Digital Life, the UAE Future Foresight Strategy, the UAE Centennial Plan 2071, the UAE National Strategy for AI, the UAE’s Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) Strategy, the Digital Customer and Digital Government Service Policy, the National Strategy for Advanced Innovation and the National Digital Participation Plan 2021-25.

The UAE has placed technology development at the centre of its national policies, and the National Programme to Transform Technology aims to boost the pace of technological transformation in the UAE’s industrial sector. The programme aims to develop 1000 projects by 2031, nurture local talent across advanced technology projects and invest Dh11bn ($3bn) in advanced technology while also contributing Dh110bn ($29.9bn) to GDP.

Building upon this, Operation 300bn, a national strategy launched in March 2021, aims to raise the industrial sector’s contribution to GDP from Dh133bn ($36.2bn) to Dh300bn ($81.7bn) by 2031, and position the UAE as a global industrial centre through digitalisation and the use of innovative 4IR-related technologies. In line with these objectives, in February 2023 the UAE’s Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, and the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development launched the Industrial Technology Transformation Index, a comprehensive framework that increases awareness of 4IR technologies, improves competitiveness, accelerates innovation, and measures the sector’s digital maturity and sustainability.

Sharjah is supporting the national strategy for a digitalised industrial sector in several ways, such as through the merger between Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP), and the Sharjah Oasis for Technology and Innovation to form an independent free zone authority housing 2000 companies and specialising in innovative technologies, with over $100m invested in research. In December 2022 SRTIP announced that it was increasing its investment in 3D printing to become a leading centre for the technology and support the UAE’s goal of becoming an international power in the field.

Furthermore, in April 2023 SRTIP launched the fourth edition of the Sharjah Advanced Industry Accelerator (SAIA) programme, which helps support local and regional entrepreneurs and start-ups. The SAIA focuses on clean and green technologies; agriculture technology (agri-tech); advanced technologies such as AI, robotics, the internet of things and smart cities; sustainable mobility; and space.

In February 2021 the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa) launched the Sharjah Start-up Studio (S3), the first government-backed start-up facility in the UAE. It is the first such location in the GCC to use a revenue-sharing model, allowing company founders to keep ownership of their business and providing them with $30,000 in pre-seed funding. The studio supports Sharjah’s digital transformation and the development of the non-oil economy by encouraging more start-ups to create products and services that meet the needs of the emirate’s economy and can be scaled up for deployment elsewhere. Start-ups in S3 are eligible for business incorporation in SRTIP and can apply for further funds from Sheraa’s investment partners after graduating from the studio.


The SDD drives technological innovation in Sharjah’s public services at the local level. Its Digital Sharjah mobile app offers a portfolio of 41 services across seven categories, including business, transport, utilities, social services, general, real estate and security. There are six payment methods available on the app, including credit card, Apple Pay and Google Pay. The SDD plans to develop the app further to include services from the private sector and non-profit organisations.

In October 2023 Sheikh Saud bin Sultan Al Qasimi, director of the SDD, told local media that the office was investing in human capital, with the goal of equipping the local workforce with the skills required for a technology-driven landscape through training programmes, workshops and courses to enhance digital literacy. Al Qasimi also highlighted the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors – including technology companies and start-ups – in driving innovation.


From 2017 to 2022 the federal budget allocated an average of nearly Dh1.5bn ($407m) annually, with private sector investment also contributing significantly to the sector. In 2017 the total federal budget for ICT was Dh1.3bn ($359m). Its peak over the six-year period reached Dh1.9bn ($505m) in 2019, before falling to Dh1.1bn ($313m) in 2022. Some of the highest levels of investment were seen in enterprise resource planning programmes, computer maintenance and internet services. A September 2022 report published by Invest in Sharjah identified seven high-potential sectors as areas with high potential for greater foreign direct investment – including advanced manufacturing, green technology and agri-tech – supported by the emirate’s burgeoning technology and innovation ecosystem, and the UAE Digital Government roadmap.


Telecommunications services in the UAE are provided by two state-owned companies: the Dubai-headquartered Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company – known commercially as du – which is 50.1% owned by the UAE’s sovereign wealth fund, Emirates Investment Authority (EIA); and Abu Dhabi-based etisalat by e& (formerly Etisalat), which is 60% owned by the EIA. Consumers can also choose Virgin Mobile UAE, which launched as the country’s fully digital mobile service in 2017. Although operating under a different brand name, Virgin Mobile UAE is a wholly owned business unit within du. Other providers include Nedaa, which is licensed to provide publicly accessible mobile radio services; Thuraya Telecommunications Company, which provides mobile communications by satellite in the UAE; and Al Yah Satellite Communications Company, also known as Yahsat, which offers satellite and broadcasting satellite across the country.

The number of fixed lines per capita in the UAE fell with the increased uptake of mobile phones, from 24 fixed lines per 100 inhabitants in 2012 to 21.6 in 2022, according to the TDRA. However, the total number of fixed lines rose from 1.97m in 2012 to 1.99m in 2022 as the population expanded. Both etisalat by e& and du offer interactive maps that allow customers to view their network coverage across the UAE, including mobile coverage, fibre coverage for fixed services, Wi-Fi locations, payment machines for telecommunications services and the location of service centres. The Hesabati government portal allows users with an Emirates ID to see their mobile and fixed-line phone numbers registered in the UAE. Meanwhile, the TDRA’s Kashif feature displays the name of the caller to prevent anonymous calling.

The TDRA established an integrated centre as part of its coverage initiative to assess the quality of mobile network coverage. Field surveys provide an analysis of the status of mobile operator networks to send reports to telecommunications providers about vulnerabilities and opportunities for improvement.

Mobile Uptake

Mobile phone penetration in the UAE has risen significantly since 2012, driven by a young population with high levels of disposable income. The number of active mobile subscriptions rose from 13.8m in 2012 to more than 20m in 2022. As of January 2023 the UAE had a mobile penetration rate of 200.9%, according to mobile industry provider GSMA Intelligence. In recent years the UAE has been quick to roll out new smartphone technologies, as seen through its early adoption of 5G. Based on a study conducted from April to July 2022 by Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson’s research arm ConsumerLab, almost half of customers in the UAE intended to take up 5G subscriptions by the end of 2023, while 20% already had a device equipped for 5G connectivity. In 2023 there were an estimated 9.2m mobile internet users in the country, spending an average of four hours and 18 minutes online on their mobile devices every day. etisalat by e& and du both launched commercially available 5G services across the UAE in 2019, following the allocation of spectrum for 5G by the TDRA. Both etisalat by e& and du saw strong revenue growth in 2022, with revenue from etisalat by e&’s mobile segment increasing by 6% to reach Dh11.4bn ($3.1bn) and du’s revenue from the same segment growing by 8.4% to reach Dh5.7bn ($1.6bn). The two operators continue to compete for network leadership, as both focus on converting pre-paid users to post-paid by introducing a range of new digital services. The rollout of 5G has reduced latency, allowing users to access broader services, such as online gaming and the cloud streaming of games.

During Mobile World Capital (MWC) Barcelona 2023 held in February-March of that year, etisalat by e& announced the commercial launch of its 5G standalone network in the UAE for fixed-wireless access customers. In October 2023 the company confirmed the commercial deployment and service readiness of 5G standalone for all mobile users, moving into the next stage of the technology’s development. This advancement is expected to provide users with higher uplink speeds, improved device battery life and faster connectivity. Meanwhile, du signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese technology company Huawei at MWC Barcelona 2023 to develop 5.5G, with the initiative centred around 5G-Advanced (5G-A) technological innovation. In October 2023 Huawei and du unveiled the world’s first 5G-A demonstration villa, an archetype for future smart homes powered by a 10-Gbps network, with plans to roll out such residences across the UAE.

Internet Use

Internet penetration has risen rapidly since 2012 to give the UAE one of the highest levels of internet access worldwide. Broadband subscriptions at the national level nearly quadrupled from 11.6 per 100 inhabitants in 2012 to 41 per 100 inhabitants in 2022. There were a registered 954,988 broadband subscriptions in 2012, with this number rising to 3.8m in 2022. Meanwhile, over the same 10-year period, internet subscriptions increased from around 958,000 to 3.8m.

In October 2023 the UAE had the fastest average mobile download speeds in the world at 269.4 Mbps, according to the Speedtest Global Index by US-based network intelligence firm Ookla. It also recorded the fourth-fastest average fixed broadband download speeds that same month at 235.7 Mbps, behind only Singapore, Hong Kong and Chile. Mobile phones were the most popular medium for web browsing in the country in 2023, accounting for 63.6% of web traffic, with 65.1% of people preferring to use mobile internet services and 34.6% using a laptop or desktop computer, according to UAE-based digital marketing company Global Media Insight. Google Chrome is the most widely used internet browser, attracting around 68.7% of web traffic in the UAE.

Active internet users constitute 99% of the total UAE population, one of the highest rates globally, according to the TDRA. Internet usage in the UAE is diverse, with consumers using internet services for social networking, work, information, education, entertainment and shopping, among other pursuits. There has been a surge in social media users in recent years, with 10m active accounts registered in the UAE in January 2023, with a penetration rate of 105.5% of the population. Users spent two hours and 50 minutes on social media daily. As of August 2023 app downloads in the UAE had reached 569m, while spending on app purchases had risen to Dh1.6bn ($432m). In 2022 there were 30m visitors to the more than 46,000 websites on the domain.

At the emirate level, e-commerce activities are becoming an increasing driver of internet activity. The Sharjah Economic Development Department offers an etisalat by e& licence for home-based businesses and electronic businesses to run through social networks. The licence is available for UAE nationals 18 years of age and older who live in Sharjah. More businesses are being drawn to the emirate, as it offers many of the same economic benefits for establishing a business as Dubai, with the cost of an e-commerce licence in the UAE standing at around Dh5750 ($1570). The emirate also provides a welcoming business environment with 0% tax on corporate and personal income, a low value-added tax of 5% and a Customs tax exemption.

Network Upgrades

In October 2022 etisalat by e& began a two-year expansion project with Ericsson to improve the energy efficiency of the UAE’s telecommunications network with the deployment of the latest Ericsson Radio System portfolio. The initiative is in response to national aims to enhance sustainability in the sector. The first phase was successful in decreasing energy consumption, as carbon emissions were reduced by the equivalent of 7.6 tonnes of CO per site per year. The expansion is aimed at transitioning etisalat by e& towards using radio access network technology.

In October 2021 Abu Dhabi-based tech company G42 and etisalat by e& combined their data centre portfolios under Khazna Data Centres. As of September 2022 the group was operating eight data centres, with three more under construction and three in the pipeline, along with plans to develop a new centre in Sharjah. Through a joint venture with local sustainability company BEEAH Digital, Khazna Data Centres is building a 9 MW facility in Sharjah that uses solar power technology and wastewater recycling systems to improve its carbon footprint in line with national aims, potentially providing a new model for future data centres in the UAE.

Technology Development

The UAE and Sharjah governments have focused strongly on developing the digital skills of Emiratis. There are several training programmes in Sharjah aimed at educating people in digital technologies to equip them for the growing number of tech jobs available and support a digitalised future. The average wage in Sharjah is more than Dh248,200 ($67,600) for an AI engineer and Dh124,100 ($33,800) for a data scientist, according to data from US-based job search portal Indeed.

Numerous schools are encouraging skills development in digital technologies. For example, the University of Sharjah operates the OpenUAE Research and Development Group to provide new opportunities related to the successful adoption of open-source software within the region. In June 2023 the American University of Sharjah partnered with Bybit, a global cryptocurrency exchange, to promote blockchain education in the UAE. Bybit is providing a scholarship fund worth Dh1m ($272,000) to support 20 students who are pursuing studies and research in fin technology and blockchain, with a concentration on computer science and computer engineering.

The metaverse – a virtual reality space in which users can interact with one another – is an additional area of interest for the development of Sharjah’s digital economy. In October 2022 Singaporebased Multiverse Labs, an AI company, developed Sharjahverse, the world’s first publicly available, government-backed metaverse city in collaboration with the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA). Sharjahverse is a real city-scale metaverse covering 2590 sq km. Through this project, the SCTDA hopes to make Sharjah more accessible for tourists who are unable to visit the emirate in person, propelling the mass market tourism sector into the next generation in a sustainable manner.

On the green tech front, Sharjah Sustainable City, developed by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, better known as Shurooq, and Dubai-based Diamond Developers, is at the forefront of deploying environmentally friendly smart city technologies. The fourth and final phase of the project was launched in May 2023, following the completion of the first three phases and the construction and sale of 928 villas. The city provides residents with smart home and energy management solutions aimed at integrating digital technologies and sustainable practices into residential areas.

In terms of entrepreneurship, the Access Sharjah Challenge (ASC), an initiative developed by Sheraa, provides Dh500,000 ($136,000) for start-ups that offer viable technology solutions to support net-zero and transformational waste management objectives. Sheraa uses the ASC to support the development of start-ups in line with UAE sustainability ambitions.


The ongoing digital transformation of the UAE and Sharjah is accompanied by growing cybersecurity risks, with increasing amounts of valuable data stored online. At the national level, actions are guided by the TDRA’s National Cybersecurity Strategy, which aims to bolster protection for businesses, individuals and critical digital infrastructure, while also fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation to enable the UAE to be at the forefront of technological developments.

In November 2020 the UAE Cabinet established the UAE Cybersecurity Council, tasked with creating robust national cybersecurity infrastructure. In September 2023 the council announced that it was developing a vision to safeguard the country for the next 50 years against rapidly evolving threats linked to AI and other innovations. Sharjah also operates its own Sharjah Cybersecurity Centre tasked with ensuring the resilience of the government’s digital platforms against online threats.

Other emirate-level entities are taking their own measures to enhance safeguards against potential cyberthreats. For example, in October 2017 the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) signed a protection agreement with etisalat by e& to improve its digital security, data flow and network readiness in order to tackle potential threats. The digitalisation of SCCI services aligns with several national digital economy initiatives.


National strategies for digitalisation go hand-in-hand with sustainability aims that encourage companies to reduce energy consumption while improving services. This has been strongly reflected at the local level through the construction of Sharjah Sustainable City and the incorporation of carbon-cutting technologies into industrial projects across the emirate. Plans for network expansion and the adoption of new 5G services are expected to improve the user experience in the coming years and position Sharjah and the UAE at the forefront of regional digital transformation. In addition, the ICT training schemes and research opportunities offered at several of Sharjah’s educational institutions are set to develop a cohort of trained graduates for work in the tech sector to support future innovation.