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Dubai is using technology to serve people

Younus Al Nasser
Filed on August 28, 2020

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We did not want to opt for ready-made solutions. Instead we built and designed every part of the ecosystem over the course of three years

The term 'smart cities' evokes thoughts of digitally advanced metropolises, with images of futuristic modes of living, as one would imagine the 21st century to look like. Smart cities are frequently viewed as government bodies and science experts using mysterious technologies titled with phrases such as 'Internet of Things,' 'predictive modelling,' and 'artificial intelligence', all now part of the modern-day vocabulary thanks to the rapid increase of technological developments taking place around the world.

The reality, however, is much different. The application of technology is not the guiding imperative for those of us designing these capitals of the future, but rather their relevance to everyday life. The purpose and value of smart cities can only be fully realised if the technologies they employ are successful in reaching people, connecting with them, and impacting their lives in a meaningful manner.

It may come as a surprise to learn that as officials in charge of building tomorrow's smart cities, the biggest challenge we face is not one of employing technology, but rather implementing it in a way that both adds value to people's lives and benefits the government and private sector institutions responsible for providing technology-based services. While technology is readily available and easily accessible, realising its full worth in everyday life requires innovation - this is something we are now focused on mastering.

This takes me back to 2016, when I was appointed CEO of the Dubai Data Establishment, and given the honour of building Dubai's data ecosystem. The moment I was given this task I felt overwhelmed by the enormous challenge of creating something that has never been built before anywhere in the world. I was mandated with the responsibility of establishing an ecosystem that would serve as a global benchmark; no small feat. What made my mandate feel particularly onerous was that advanced countries were - and still are - exploring and finding their way with data.

My portfolio involved my dedicated team and I creating a completely new and unprecedented data experience - one that would be the most comprehensive and ambitious in the world. With a main aim of our work being to stamp Dubai's authority as a leading pioneer of smart city architecture, we did not want to opt for ready-made solutions. Instead we built and designed every part of the ecosystem over the course of three years.

But what exactly is data? Put simply, it is information collected from activities carried out by people, the government, private sector entities, and the tools and devices they use. This includes, for example, information on government transactions, water and electricity consumption, housing, education, health. and so on.

This is the fundamental of data. From now on in this weekly column, I will be sharing with you insights and learnings in this area through a series of articles titled 'Data Moments.' Through these I will introduce you to an array of technology- and data-related terms and explain how they relate to your lives as individuals or businesses.

You may have heard the expression that 'data is the new oil.' Global studies and research confirm that those who succeed in achieving and analysing a wealth of data will govern the new economy. I hope sharing my learnings through Data Moments will contribute in some small way to helping achieve this success, and I would be delighted if you would join me on my journey. 

Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General of Smart Dubai, CEO of the Dubai Data Establishment

 


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