Public get chance to nominate knowledge award candidates

For the first time, people will be able to put forward who they want to win the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Award.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - December 7, 2014.  ( Left to right ) Jimmy Wales ( Founder of Wikipedia ) and Sir Tim Berners-Lee ( Inventor of the WorldWideWeb ) during The First Knowledge Conference, held at Grand Hyatt Hotel.  ( Jeffrey E Biteng / The National )  Editor's Note; Ramola T reports.

From a sleepy backwater on the edge of the Arabian Gulf, Dubai has grown over the past 50 years to become a skyscraper city known the world over. At first there was only trade and pearling, then came oil and rapid growth but the future, and a key plank of the UAE Vision 2021, is developing the city into a knowledge economy.

From virtually no education 50 years ago, the emirate now looks to be a leader in innovative thinking and one means of cementing that vision is the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Award.

Launched in 2015, the award recognises individuals and organisations with significant contributions to the knowledge sector and the knowledge economy and, for the first time, the public will now be able to nominate candidates. In the first two years, nominations were selected by the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation.

“The award is international and we’re working closely with global foundations in many fields, including physics, chemistry, literature, economics, peace as well as electronics and others,” said Jamal bin Huwaireb, the foundation’s chief executive.

“The community will have more of a say in this and it’s a more objective point of view. This is the right way of doing this.”

A shortlist of 20 to 25 people will be drafted in September or October before the winner is selected at the Knowledge Summit in November.

“It’s the first year that it’s open-ended,” Mr bin Huwaireb said. “I hope we’ll get thousands of applications. The idea is that it’ll be a lot better than us choosing.”

He also looked at the transformation of Dubai and the UAE as a whole since its formation in 1971.

“Most people were not educated and there were maybe only 40 graduates,” Mr bin Huwaireb said. “But the rulers changed the face of the UAE from nothing to what you see today. There were barely any roads, schools and hospitals and they did not have a high standard. There was very little knowledge, no research centres and no management skills.”

The country’s academic level was also considered low. “We changed the skills and built the knowledge in this age,” he added. “We became leaders in different skills, especially in government.”

Some of the past winners, who Mr bin Huwaireb said “changed our lives”, include World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, and Masdar, for its work in clean energy.

Mr bin Huwaireb spoke of Dubai now  as a city of knowledge. “The UAE government is putting a lot of money in knowledge infrastructure but it’s not enough, we need to continue,” he said. “Without knowledge, there is no good economy and no future. The way of knowledge is the way of the future and to be something in 2050 and beyond, we need to go ahead.”

The foundation and the United Nations will also launch the International Knowledge Index in November, ranking 190 countries.

“The UAE is sponsoring it and there will be a number of workshops in Paris, New York and China on this,” Mr bin Huwaireb added. “It’s important for all countries to know where they stand in knowledge today and they have to continue their work or they will be left out.”

Hessa Al Mazrui, a 25-year-old Emirati engineer, hopes to contribute to her country’s knowledge sector in the future.

“Our leaders have outlined the significance of knowledge for now and for the future,” she said. “We have to be able to base our future on this because it’s a solid pillar that gives the UAE a certain strength in the global arena. I’m hoping to be able to work in clean energy in the future and help my country achieve that.”

People can submit an application for the award in English or Arabic on at The deadline is August 31.