Creating a Better World Through Collaboration, Innovation, and Connectivity at Expo 2020 Dubai


World Expos are among the oldest and most established global mega-events. From the first-ever Expo in London in 1851 to Milan in 2015, they have always shared a common, unifying thread. They are international celebrations of humanity, human ingenuity, and cultures, bringing together the world to showcase and acknowledge our collective achievements.

World Expos take place every five years, with Dubai hosting the next edition in 2020. At Expo 2020 Dubai, we expect to attract 25 million visits from every corner of the world, and host 190 country pavilions for six months from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021. Seventy percent of all our visitors are projected to come from outside the UAE—the largest proportion of international visitors in the 168-year history of World Expos. This will be a truly global event, and what makes it even more special is that it's the first ever World Expo to take place in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) region.

Expo 2020 will be a global destination. Its 4.38 square kilometer site will enable each participating country to showcase the best it has to offer: from innovation and technology, to culture and gastronomy.

Three Universal Drivers of Humanity’s Growth and Prosperity

Under Expo 2020’s theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, we will focus on the key subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability—three universal drivers of growth and prosperity. 

Opportunity is about bringing out the best in communities and in people. Mobility focuses on the smart movement of people, goods, and ideas. Sustainability is about the planetary boundaries within which we pursue opportunity. We cannot afford to borrow natural capital from future generations and spend it today. Instead, we must create a model of green and inclusive growth that helps us achieve more within our planetary boundaries.

Interwoven throughout these three drivers is the critical concept of connectivity. In our rapidly evolving digital era, connectivity is paramount to our ability to successfully communicate, collaborate, and innovate.

We are working to create an immersive visitor experience and seamless operations at Expo 2020. By integrating across networks in ways we haven't been able to before, we can generate even greater connectivity than we've seen during past editions. 

Connecting Business and Innovation with Leisure and Exploration

My role at Expo 2020 Dubai relates to business programming, business-to-business (B2B) matchmaking, and B2B value creation. All participating countries invest heavily in World Expos, whether in terms of architecturally impressive pavilions, immersive content, or other programming activities.

But our goals for this event span beyond 2020. We're organizing Expo 2020 with a view to the future. For example, approximately 80% of Expo-built infrastructure will be repurposed after the event as part of District 2020—an integrated ‘smart city’ that will carry forward our mission for generations to come. In terms of operations, architecture, and connectedness, District 2020 will be one of the most integrated spaces on the planet.

Connectivity is certainly a sign of our times. When we talk about connectivity and mobility, we are talking about people, data, and the Internet of Things (IoT) all coming together. From our end, we’ll create a platform for B2B connections. The Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC), for instance, which is co-located with Expo 2020, is a 45,000 square meter cutting-edge venue where business delegates will have access to all the wonders the World Expo has to offer. DEC will form an important part of the global platform that we are developing, and it's up to our partners and participants to use this stage to create added value.

Creating a Lasting Legacy Through Partnerships

We have ambitious goals for Expo 2020, and we can’t achieve them all on our own. That’s why we depend on partnerships to help us meet our objectives. Participating countries are helping us to deliver exceptional, immersive experiences inside 190 pavilions, as well as in the public realm. We are also creating a number of pavilions and immersive experiences ourselves. Our anchor Thematic Pavilions, for example, will be amazing. In addition, we'll have up to 60 live events a day, adding up to approximately 10,000 live events over the course of the 173-day World Expo. This is going to be one of the biggest live gigs on the planet.

“The next World Expo needs to be built on a foundation of cutting-edge technology, which is where partners like Cisco come in.” -Shaun Vorster, Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 will be a connecting place where participating countries will bring their ideas to life through innovative designs and immersive experiences. To enable them to realize their visions, the next World Expo needs to be built on a foundation of cutting-edge technology, which is where partners like Cisco come in.

Expo 2020’s theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ is all about harnessing the power of partnership and collaboration to shape a better tomorrow. To achieve this, we need to join hands with countries, companies, multilateral organizations, educational institutions and, of course, our visitors, who are at the center of everything we do. Cisco is one of Expo 2020’s Official Premier Partners from the perspective of digital connectivity—connecting both people and things across our site-wide network. 

This is a massive undertaking, but the creation of a seamless visitor journey and seamlessly connected event-time operations are priorities for us. As Expo 2020’s Digital Network Partner, Cisco is playing a lead role in helping us to implement the solutions required to deliver secure, immersive, cutting-edge experiences.

Cisco is committed to realizing Expo 2020 Dubai’s vision of the future and continues to bring forth its vast network of experts to ensure that technology at Expo 2020 Dubai is adopted in ways that deliver concrete outcomes and a unique experience to all visitors. 

In close collaboration with Cisco, we will ensure that Expo 2020 offers its visitors an extraordinary experience, fueled by the latest digital solutions and technologies. The underlying smart converged infrastructure is designed to enable all of Expo’s use cases and experiences. 

Delivering on Our Commitment to Digital Connectivity

To deliver on our commitment to digital connectivity throughout Expo, we've partnered with a number of complementary technology partners. For example, Siemens, our Premier Infrastructure Digitalisation Partner, is working with us to implement smart building technologies across 137 Expo structures, while Etisalat, our Official Telecommunications Partner, is helping to ensure that our master-planned site is 5G-enabled. We are also working with a host of other technology partners, such as Accenture, Mastercard, SAP, and DarkMatter, to deliver a digitally connected experience for millions of people from around the world.


Cisco Advisory Services worked with Expo in identifying and validating the underlying digital services portfolio to enable Expo to undertake the challenges of operating a complex event and ‘wowing’ its visitors across their journey. Cisco is helping Expo design and implement the “Office of the Future”, which will act as a venue for running the latest digital solutions and offer a glimpse of the future of workspaces. 

Cisco will be designing a smart converged network infrastructure that is first of its kind at this scale. The smart converged network will move Expo 2020 Dubai beyond connectivity to be a platform for insights, automation, and innovation based on Cisco DNA. The network is based on open, extensible, software-driven architecture built on a set of design principles to drive Expo 2020 Dubai’s business outcomes. Expo 2020 Dubai will be able to gain insights and actions to drive its innovation efforts and expedite launching and scaling its services to deliver a unique customer experience at much lower cost and in a highly secure environment to manage risks. This will enable Expo 2020 to augment its visitors’ experience and offer them innovative services.

Cisco will oversee the largest deployment of Cisco Vision outside of the US for Expo 2020 Dubai. This vital network capability will enable us to seamlessly connect people and physical objects.

When we started to analyze the connectivity and networking requirements for Expo 2020, we realized we needed the best in the world to help us deliver on our mission. Our connectivity provider needed to match the scale and investment of our project. Cisco's unparalleled experience, reputation, and ability to handle connectivity on such a massive scale made the company a natural choice.

Expo 2020 is an amazing project with a long lead time. When Dubai won the bid to host the World Expo back in 2013, we moved from concept to planning immediately. We're now deep into implementation, and we will be transitioning to readiness and testing very soon.

We are on track to complete major construction works by October 2019. This timeline will allow for extensive testing before we open our doors to the public on 20 October, 2020. Achieving our targets may seem daunting but if you work with world-class expo partners, you can do anything.

“Achieving our targets may seem daunting but if you work with world-class expo partners, you can do anything.” -Shaun Vorster, Expo 2020 Dubai

We realize how critical it is to get this right and create a seamless, immersive experience for all our visitors and participants. In particular, we want to inspire young people who visit the World Expo by allowing them to witness first-hand the innovations and technologies that our partners bring to the table. In this way, we hope Expo 2020 will motivate youth to pursue their dreams in research and development, technology, and innovation. 

A Better World: 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future'

World Expos have always contributed to achieving humanity’s biggest goals and overcoming our most pressing challenges. By connecting millions of people from every corner of the planet, Expo 2020 Dubai aims to contribute to the creation of a better future by empowering the innovators of today and inspiring the change-makers of tomorrow. 

“Expo 2020 Dubai aims to contribute to the creation of a better future by empowering the innovators of today and inspiring the change-makers of tomorrow.” -Shaun Vorster, Expo 2020 Dubai

We can achieve this by delivering an exceptional experience that is fun, vibrant, informative, inclusive, and entertaining, showing everyone who comes to Expo how innovation can contribute to human progress and help us to leave a meaningful legacy for future generations. If we can fulfill this ambition, we will have achieved something to be proud of because Expo 2020 is not an end in itself; it is about creating a positive long-term impact for humanity.

Expo 2020 Dubai will likely be the most aspirational and inspirational project I will ever participate in. To be part of such an ambitious undertaking is a privilege. When it comes to sending a message to humanity that is both relevant and inspirational, we couldn’t ask for better partners. Expo’s mission is to use partnership and collaboration to create a better world and, thanks to the connectivity tools that are being delivered by Cisco and our other technology partners, we are able to reach more people than ever before.

The Expo team goes to the office every day with a sense of responsibility, humility, and a great belief in what we are working to achieve. However, it's not just the ‘what’ we are focusing on, but also the ‘why’. For me, this is the most important question. By asking ‘Why?’, we can help to create a better world.

Expo 2020 Dubai is a milestone on a journey, not only for Dubai and the UAE but also for every one of our 190 participating countries, all of our partners, and our millions of visitors. We want to have a transformative impact; that's our ultimate goal. With such a magnificent history of World Expos to build on, and world-class partners by our side, we’re confident that we can create a spectacular future, together.