Abu Dhabi: The upcoming the International Council on Archives (ICA) Congress in the UAE anticipates a gathering of more than 3,000 participants, comprising senior government officials, distinguished academics, and professionals specialising in Archives, Records Management, and Information Sciences, hailing from various corners of the globe.

An integral component of the Congress is the exhibition hall, serving as a prime arena for industry frontrunners to establish connections with influential decision-makers and potential clients. This platform not only facilitates the exploration of new markets but also acts as a catalyst for innovation within the global community.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President of the UAE, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidential Court, the congress in Abu Dhabi is being hosted for the first time in the Middle East, from 9 to 13 Oct 2023 under the theme: “Enriching knowledge societies”.

The Congress highlights the UAE’s leading role in the development of the Archiving sector.

19th ICA Congress

Beyond the Congress experience itself, there are many wider benefits of the Congress that flow to Abu Dhabi and across the UAE; both short term and long term.

This event is the 19th quadrennial Congress of the ICA, but it is the first to be held in the MENA region; for many international delegates this will be the first experience of Abu Dhabi and all it has to offer. More than a business event, the ICA Congress will see the sharing of culture, and the establishment of personal connections that have enduring benefits.

In the short term, there are economic benefits for the local economy, as Congress delegates take up rooms in hotels, enjoy the gastronomy of restaurants and explore the wide variety of shopping and tourism offerings, in Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE. Travel industry estimate of the average spend of a visitor to Abu Dhabi on hotel, meals, transport and shopping is around AED860 per day. With 2,000 international delegates expected for the Congress, this spending will generate over ten million dirhams for the tourism sector over a single week. On top of this, Congress activities will draw upon many businesses across Abu Dhabi, injecting millions more into the catering, touring and event logistics service industries.

Longer term, the Congress will achieve a great deal to expand and enhance the global reputation of the UAE, in line with the national strategy to become a ‘leading destination for leisure, entertainment and business’ .

As an example, Dubai’s hosting of Expo 2020 showed the world the UAE’s capability for creativity and innovation; it reaffirmed the open, inclusive and hospitable culture of the UAE and demonstrated global leadership in the way in which it provided a safe travel destination while the world confronted the challenges of the pandemic.

The ICA Congress will maintain this momentum, giving international visitors an experience that grows the reputation of the UAE as a safe, friendly and dynamic environment for tourism, business, research and development.


This is a vital contribution to the sustained development of the UAE’s travel and tourism sector, which according to official statistics produced by the DCT accounts for almost 620,000 jobs - 10.4 per cent of the UAE’s total employment.

The Congress is a program for the exchange of knowledge and ideas, but it is also a hub for business development. Quite apart from the traditional research and learning functions of Libraries and Archives, the institutions are now a key part of the booming ‘experience economy’ offered by the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museum) sector. Institutions around the world are actively seeking new and innovative ways to bring their collections to life for the visiting public.

This is a substantial economic contributor, as Libraries and Archives are constantly upgrading investments in fast moving areas as diverse as data storage, digital preservation, digitisation, and AI. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global document management system market size is projected to grow from USD6.23 billion in 2023 to $18.97 billion by 2030.

Document scanner

Industry watcher Valuates has estimated the global Document Scanner market size to be worth USD 1.4 billion in 2022 and is forecast to grow to USD2 billion by 2029.

Aside from digital technology, institutions continue to search for advanced construction and building management techniques for the storage, preservation and display of precious documentary treasures. For example, just last year Canada completed the construction of a purpose-built archival repository in Gatineau, with an overall investment of USD250 million.

The Congress’ exhibition hall will provide a shopfront for several hundred entities to introduce their products and services to this huge business opportunity, through the thousands of delegates present and eager to learn about new developments and make purchasing decisions. Business deals that start here will endure for several years or even decades, bringing lasting and widespread employment and revenue benefits to the Abu Dhabi economy.

It should also be acknowledged that the success of the ICA Congress will support the broader conference industry of Abu Dhabi; ensuring the sustained success of this sector of the economy that is so important to the vitality and international reputation of Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

The ICA Congress will contribute a great deal to enhancing Abu Dhabi’s reputation as an international hub, injecting a burst of revenue into the local economy, and contribute long-term to business and tourism of the city, the nation and the entire region.

Case study

In 2019, the Canadian Museums Association (CMA) and Library and Archives Canada (LAC) commissioned Oxford Economics (a business arm of Oxford University) to undertake a detailed cost benefit analysis of the GLAM sector in Canada. The thorough investigation and rigorous analysis of findings provide insights that apply to most developed economies around the world and reveal the substantial value of cultural institutions to society.

The study found that for every dollar invested in non-profit GLAMs, society gets nearly four dollars in benefits. This return is on par with government investments in transportation infrastructure projects.

In all, 96% of respondents surveyed for the study said that cultural institutions contribute to the quality of life. Indeed, the study found that visiting GLAMs can be linked with improved health and wellbeing – equivalent to everyone receiving a monetary bonus of $1,440 a year.

GLAM visits are associated with many other important societal benefits including greater literacy, curiosity, innovation, knowledge and creativity, increased rates of volunteerism and a better sense of community. These are incredibly important qualities in an increasingly divisive world.

It also noted GLAMs generate significant educational benefits for the nation, including through school visits which provide children across the country with important learning opportunities. The value of these visits is estimated at $3.1 billion. It was further found that academic libraries contribute an additional $3.4 billion and are associated with higher student wages and income over the working lifetime of students.

In all, Oxford Economics is estimated that Canadian society gains nearly $8.6 billion from GLAMs’ existence every year. The report observed that this is no small contribution to Canada’s economic and social prosperity. Accordingly, the preservation, promotion and development of GLAMs should be of concern not just to those who work in the sector, but to all citizens.