When Dubai won the bid for the 2020 World Expo, scenes of jubilation erupted - fireworks lit up Burj Khalifa and a national holiday was declared. With promises to “astonish the world”, anticipation was palpable as the nation approached the proposed opening date of October 20, 2020.
However, the downer that is the coronavirus forcing the Expo opening date to be delayed to 2021. Back in 2018, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, called on the youth to immerse themselves in the Expo experience as much as possible.
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In keeping with his consistent call of empowering youth as much as possible, Sheikh Mohammed emphasised the importance of the Expo for the future of the nation, much in the same way that the youth are integral to realising the government’s vision for the country. There are already initiatives in place to facilitate greater involvement for younger demographics, such as the Expo School Program (designed to bring more students to the event) and Youth Connect, a department specifically designated to engage students and teachers as much as possible through “fun and educational experiences”.
The UAE has already demonstrated an impressive commitment to investing in the youth population. To take it one step further, the country should look to capitalise on the extra time afforded to us by coronavirus-related delays, and reinforce such initiatives as much as possible.
Take, for example, the Young Innovators project, devised to enable students to showcase their innovative ideas on the Expo 2020 website. This can be expanded even further for the actual event itself, using the model of a traditional science fair (although this will, of course, be on a much grander scale).
A showcase for local talent
This way, the Expo team can select the most promising students and invite them to present their designs, perhaps even allocating them their own space or time slot. This has the potential to benefit both the UAE and the students themselves. For the UAE, it is a chance to flaunt the abundance of young talent that the country consistently produces, possibly even attracting individuals looking to invest in enterprising ventures.
On the other hand, the students will be able to attain important skills and experiences in going through the requisite processes in the lead up to the event. The rigor of idea formulation, research, development and presentation will hone their skills, ultimately shaping them as trailblazers for a brighter future. They also have an opportunity to gain significant exposure to intellectuals and prominent figures.
The prospect of having their incipient ingenuity discovered and exhibited in front of such an audience should stir feelings of exhilaration. To ensure that this kind of initiative is as successful as possible, the UAE should look to increase incentives as is feasible. Through partnering with universities, research institutions and firms looking for creative talent, the programme can feature prizes, scholarships and internship opportunities.
As well as ensuring that the greatest possible volume of participants, this also has the side benefit of allowing the nation to show off the its multi-faceted depth. The Expo’s motto is ‘Connecting minds, creating the future’.
The UAE has been presented a golden opportunity to do just that, by building and reinforcing the generational bridge, connecting the minds of the youth, who hold the key to a better tomorrow, with those who forged the world of today.
- Umer Lakhani is a Dubai based undergrad.