Dubai – MENA Herald: Since the humble debut of the Gulf Computer Exhibition in 1981 — when half of the 3,000 Gulf-based attendees did not even have work computers — the event has grown to GITEX Technology Week, the largest ICT exhibition in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, and the third largest in the world.

Though the show’s name has changed, one thing has remained constant: being at the forefront of ICT innovation. GITEX has hosted, powered, and partnered with major events, such as ITU Telecom World, GITEX Shopper, GISEC, and IoTX, and has seen thousands of regional product launches that have put Dubai, the UAE, and the region on the global leadership map. GITEX’s conferences, also celebrating 35 years, have driven dialogue on the latest industry trends.

Technology has come a long way from the virtual newspapers and graphics computers at the 1981 show. While some trends have remained – Arabic software, videoconferencing, and Big Data – GITEX continues to have its pulse on innovations such as 3D printing, smart transformation, drones, robotics, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things.

Whichever technology impacts our daily lives over the next 35 years, GITEX will guide business leaders as one of the world’s trendsetting authorities on technology. Join us, thanks to the archives of the Dubai World Trade Centre and Gulf News, on a GITEX journey through the decades…

Trixie LohMirmand

Senior Vice President

Exhibitions & Events Management

Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC)

1980s

1981 – The inaugural Gulf Computer Exhibition — the original name for GITEX Technology Week — was held from 15-19 December at the Dubai International Trade and Exhibition Centre’s single hall.

HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Minister of Finance and Industry, opened the show, with 46 exhibitors representing companies from Austria, Canada, Greece, India, Japan, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States, and West Germany.

More than 3,000 visitors, mainly from the GCC and Yemen, saw British Telecom’s PRESTEL virtual newspaper, ICL’s PERQ graphics computer, and Arabic software packages. More attendees came from companies not using computers (46%), than from companies already using computers (44%).

HH Sheikh Hasher Maktoum, then-Director of Information for Dubai, opened the co-located Gulf Computer Conference with 150 delegates.

1982 – With the Trade Centre opening a second hall, the Gulf Computer Exhibition expanded to more than 70 exhibitors from 14 countries over 1,300 square meters.

1985 – At the Gulf Computer Conference 5th anniversary, IBM launched its Arabic language keyboard.

1988 – Gulf Computer Exhibition was re-named as the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX), and set new records with 7,500 visitors and 80 exhibitors representing 180 companies.

New technology demonstrations included Philips’ CD-ROM, Nixdorf’s videoconferencing, Etisalat’s voice and video date transfer, and the Arab Information Bank of Al Bayan’s first data bank for the Arab World.

1989 – GITEX broke 10,000 in attendance, with 11,500 visitors – driven by the first Macworld Middle East Expo. Product launches included the Macintosh Portable, Microsoft’s A’amal, the Arabic version of its software, Digital Equipment Co. Ltd.’s bi-lingual video terminal, and Metropolitan Ent. Co.’s Arabic/English electronic typewriter. GITEX garnered official support from the UAE Ministry of Communications and Etisalat, which showcased its ISDN pilot and “electronic mail system” EMNET.

1990s

1990 – During GITEX’s 10th anniversary, Iran took centre stage with more than 200 representatives, and Oracle launched the world’s first software in Persian.

1992 – For the first time, companies from all six GCC countries attended GITEX, while the inaugural GITEX Computer Shopper was held.

1995 –GITEX’s 15th anniversary was DWTC’s first with computerized visitor and exhibition registration. GITEX hosted 350 exhibitors from 25 countries representing more than 1,000 companies. More than 1,000 Middle East product launches included Microsoft Windows 95 and Office 95. For the first time, GITEX chose a “feature country” — India.

1999 – GITEX made its international debut, launching GITEX Cairo and Computer Shopper Cairo.

2000s

2000 – At GITEX’s 20th anniversary, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum inaugurated Dubai Internet City. GITEX hosted 73,000 visitors, and more than 465 exhibitors representing 1,500 companies. DWTC and ExpoCentric.com hosted the first  GITEX Virtual Exhibition.

2001 –Dubai e-government was launched at GITEX, and GITEX Computer Shopper turned 10 years old.

2001 – GITEX joined forces with Termium in Lebanon, and launched GITEX Saudi Arabia and GITEX Hyderabad in India.

2003 – First time for e-access gates and mobile guide at GITEX, with 774 exhibitors representing 1,700 companies.

2004 – GITEX smashed through the 100,000 visitor mark with 116,000 visitors. For the first time, all Dubai government departments took part.

2005 – GITEX’s Silver Jubilee, or 25th anniversary, saw another record with more than 125,000 visitors.

2006 –GITEX launched Gulfcomms, Consumer Electronics, Business Solutions, and the GITEX Majlis.

2007 – Demonstrating GITEX’s growth, DWTC rebranded it to GITEX Technology Week, with 3,300 companies from 83 countries and 130,000 visitors.

2010s

2010 – Now the world’s third largest ICT show, GITEX’s 30th anniversary was the most international to date, with exhibitors representing 3,500 companies from 65 countries. New show features included GITEX Mobile, Apps, Content World, and Cloud Confex.

2011 – GITEX launched “Cyber Security @ GITEX,” the precursor to the Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference (GISEC), along with GITEX Digital Marketing, and GITEX Card Technology. InfoComm MEA, the region’s largest audiovisual exhibition, debuted at GITEX.

2012 – GITEX hosted ITU Telecom World 2012 and launched the Digital Strategies Forum.

2013 – GITEX saw the first-ever Big Data Conference, the region’s first GSMA Mobile 360 Series, along with the Cloud Awards, Hot Stuff Awards, Student Lab competition, GSM Exchange, and Content Hub. Earlier in the year, GITEX powered the launch of GISEC.

2014 –GITEX debuted “smart” experiences included mobile wayfinding, GITEX TV, GITEX Live Blog.

2015 – For its 35th anniversary, GITEX will launch GTX Communities for industry verticals, and GTX Horizons, for emerging solutions such as 3D Printing, drones, robotics, and future of transport. DWTC expects more than 140,000 visitors from more than 140 countries, and 3,500 companies. Earlier in the year, GITEX powered the inaugural Internet of Things Expo (IoTX).