His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, meets Jim Balsillie of Research in Motion, along with Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and other officials on Monday. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: Canadian BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) has signed a new agreement with the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and telecom service providers etisalat and du to enable advanced e-government services in the country.

Jim Balsillie, Co-CEO of RIM, told delegates at the technology exhibiton Gitex yesterday that the UAE is "an advanced ICT nation", but steered clear of commenting on the recent lifting of a ban threat by the country on BlackBerry services.

Audio: RIM has announced the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has commissioned it to make e-services better


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In a keynote address, Basillie said the UAE is "well positioned to meet the future of high technology head on" as it continues to invest in education and training.

Balsillie said his firm has inked a new partnership with the TRA, etisalat and du to boost mobile innovation in the country and across the region.

"One of the things we're working on is advanced e-government services," Balsillie told delegates. RIM is also working with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa), he said, to boost payment of bills online.

In a statement, Mohammad Bin Ahmad Al Qamzi, TRA Chairman, said: "BlackBerry smartphones are the leading mobile communications tool in the Middle East and are increasingly adopted by our citizens for their powerful messaging and multimedia capabilities. For this reason, the TRA believes this initiative will help to encourage, promote, and develop more public interaction and involvement between the government and the citizens and residents through the BlackBerry platform."

Etisalat chairman Mohammad Omran said in a statement that the new partnership with BlackBerry "supports etisalat's endeavours to offer more mobile banking and commerce applications to its customers."

Othman Sultan, CEO of du, said: "In today's increasingly networked and digital world, smartphones are playing a critical role in providing consumers and enterprises an enriching experience. "BlackBerry (RIM) is an important and committed partner of du."

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Balsillie said that within RIM's BlackBerry services, 35 million users downloaded more than 1.5 million applications a day in 70 countries, 21 currencies and in six languages. The BlackBerry network, he said, comprises 250,000 servers in 175 countries.

"The popularity of BlackBerry Messenger in the Middle East demonstrates the potential for new apps and services in the region and this collaboration will support the local developer community to create additional rich and locally relevant apps for both BlackBerry smartphones and the new BlackBerry PlayBook," Balsillie added.