An upcoming cybersecurity expo and conference are providing Israeli companies that are innovators and leaders in this emerging market with an opportunity to showcase their technologies.
Billed as the most influential and connected cybersecurity event for the Arab world, it also comes in the wake of high-profile cyberattacks and incidents, such as the hacking of a Florida water treatment facility.
Known as the Gulf Information and Security Expo and Conference (GISEC), the upcoming cybersecurity exhibition will take place from May 31 to June 2. It is organized with the most advanced cybersecurity figures in the UAE and will be attended by governments and companies from the Gulf and beyond.
George Giles, a co-founder of MEA Consulting, which is playing a key role in bringing Israelis to the event, says that this is a historic moment. He describes the overall feeling of Israeli companies seeking partnerships and markets in the Gulf as a kind of "gold rush," like in the 19th century when people set off for the hills of western America to pan for gold.
The Abraham Accords of last year have opened up a whole new world with these opportunities, as Israeli companies can now do business publicly in an area in which they may have worked more quietly through subsidiaries in the past.
"Dubai has an image of parties and beaches like Tel Aviv or Las Vegas. When we saw it open up, my background and Gil's were in marketing and public relations, and a lot of businesses were looking to expand and do things," Giles said.
December showed the opportunities that exist, but a lockdown and airport closure in Israel have slowed things down. Visa issues have also been a hurdle, as a visa-free waiver was put off until the summer.
Giles pointed to one issue that many Israelis have mentioned after returning from the UAE. While Israelis like to do things quickly, Emiratis want to grow the relationship slowly. "We see this existing demand and interest. There are a ton of things to be done between the countries: Start-ups and technology and people-to-people relations."
He pointed to the demand for educated people in Gulf hi-tech positions. Lacking a lot of locally trained people emerging from a Dubai-based version of MIT or Technion-Israel Institute of Technology means there is a major need for people with the skills developed in the US, Israel or other countries.
With investment growing, GISEC will be a key event this year. It comes after GITEX, the tech confab, last year and also IDEX, the big defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi in February, as well as Gulfood – a food and beverage conference – that also takes place in February.
Giles pointed to emerging cybersecurity threats that affect even small businesses.
"GISEC is well established, and investors come and companies come, as well as officials," he said. "Large companies from the US and Russia and Israeli companies via third parties were also there in the past, but now you can come as an Israeli and wear a kippah and do business."
With the event beginning on the last day in May, registration is already taking place.
"We are doing the same thing we did at GITEX. We are working with Israeli companies that want to exhibit and want to have a booth, and helping with marketing and public relations and doing interviews," he said.
He hopes many Israeli companies will come. GITEX was a sold-out event, and demand was high, causing Israelis to scramble to get there in just a few weeks. GISEC could be the same.
"[GISEC] has early bird pricing up until this or next week to incentivize people, and even for non-cybersecurity companies it may be interesting to come and learn about the players and culture of the region. It is a good event to attend."
Visas are being manually processed or through airlines like flydubai. MEA foresees having a UAE-Israel cyber partnership day during the exhibition. Other countries that will be featured at GISEC include Saudi Arabia.
The interest in Israel "is a testament to how much interest there is for all parties involved. From that perspective it is a great opportunity for people to come speak and listen to peers in other regions about the challenges they have; we are battling the same issues such as fraud and security," he says.
MEA points out that GISEC, established in 2012, is attended by cybersecurity leaders from government entities, along with trade buyers from the Gulf region, the Middle East, Africa and India, as well as global technology providers in the information security market.
"GISEC is strategically organized in close collaboration with the UAE's most influential cyber entities to curate and prioritize cybersecurity agendas of the region, including Dubai Electronic Security Center, Dubai Police, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, Smart Dubai, Investment Corporation of Dubai, ADNOC Refining, aeCERT and Spire Solutions," MEA noted in a statement.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.