Opinion and Editorial

How smart and digital Dubai is changing lives

Dr Aisha Bin Bishr
Filed on June 18, 2017
How smart and digital Dubai is changing lives

Dubai as a city in the Mena region has succeeded in transforming itself into a global city and a regional business and tourism hub

The trend of urbanisation has accelerated in the past decades posing significant challenges for cities globally in terms of their infrastructure, social and economic fabric, as well as environmental aspects. The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region is no exception. The rate of growth in population in the region has been higher than in any other part of the world, especially during the second half of the 20th century. While this growth presented enormous regional challenges, it also provided substantial opportunities for development of the region.

Dubai as a city in the Mena region has succeeded in transforming itself into a global city and a regional business and tourism hub; with the leadership of a very strong and productive government embracing regulatory and progressive reforms as well as technology and digital city transformation.

Going by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, technology is simply to play the role of an enabler "to make Dubai the happiest city on earth". The impact the city can create with the goal to drive happiness is enormous.

Today, Dubai has become a leading global contender as a successful smart city. We aim to be at the forefront as a leader by harnessing digital innovation and sustainability in all city endeavours. And the five-year Smart Dubai 2021 strategy targets to bring about significant positive impacts on the city. The various constituents that form the city such as government, businesses and individuals, interact on a daily basis by exchanging products, services, ideas and experiences. The foremost aim of this interaction is to ensure happy experiences.

The second impact area entails achieving significant financial benefits and savings while simultaneously delivering happiness to citizens and residents. Our third impact area entails the city environs including resources and infrastructure for which a course has been charted with clean and sustainable resources and enhanced infrastructure as the aims.

This challenge is looked upon as a unique opportunity whereby technology will be harnessed for the city's transformation by achieving positive impacts in all three areas thus rendering Dubai unique as a truly smart and sustainable city.

The world is becoming ever more interconnected and Dubai intends to ensure all people and organisations have fast internet connectivity by 2021, and at the same time making sure sensitive and private information are safeguarded. All resources and infrastructure - water, energy, sewerage, drainage, waste distribution networks, buildings and traffic lights - will be interconnected and monitored as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) strategy.

This will, in turn, allow the city to provide reliable and efficient services. For example, outages and water leaks will be sensed immediately leading to faster recovery time and resource savings. In addition, residents will be able to monitor consumption of resources thereby allowing them to make conscious choices. Moreover, Dubai's resilience as a city will be enhanced by fully preparing for challenges posed by potential man-made and natural disasters and carefully planning for them.

Economic growth

Dubai has achieved unprecedented economic growth as a regional hub with strong economic sectors, thanks to a strong innovation culture and spirit of entrepreneurship. The city's strategy entails harnessing digital transformation for enhanced processes, products and services to further boost the city's economy and sustain global competitiveness. Seamless and convenient digital services will ease entrepreneurship, thus encouraging businesses. In addition to this, research and development efforts in the city will also see a boost.

Dubai being a melting pot of talent, receives the best human capital from across the globe, and this to a large extend has enabled the city to realise its aspirations.

Dubai, hence, aims to ease residents' lives by providing 90 per cent of the daily needs through digital services. This includes healthcare, education, culture, housing, entertainment, community and volunteering services, among others. This will ensure Dubai has a strong social community, enriched by digital services that enable happy social experiences. Dubai also aims to achieve excellence in traffic management by capitalising on latest technologies.

The city hopes to embrace autonomous mobility technologies as a safe, quick and happy transportation alternative. The strategy targets 12 per cent of city trips to be through autonomous driverless systems by 2021.

Smart parking, smart tolls and smart traffic lights will all contribute to improving mobility and ensure a free flow. It is estimated that 80 million trips will be circumvented in the next five years, thanks to the smart city efforts and digital city services.

In its strive to achieve green and inclusive economic and social growth, the city will aim for a low-pollution and low-emission environment coupled with clean resources.

Continuous monitoring of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ambient noise, electromagnetic radiation, air quality and water will help better manage the city environment.

Another major step towards ensuring a happy city is to ensure that Dubai is a paperless and cashless city by 2021. The aim is to make all government services and transactions seamless without residents having to visit government offices. Residents and businesses should be able to access government services and carry out transactions anywhere, any time, through their channel of preference, be it websites, mobile phones or other means. Furthermore, all eligible, open and shared city data will be shared through the Smart Dubai Platform by 2021.

The city will work with various stakeholders in an inclusive and collaborative way to steer it to the next level by 2021. Smart Dubai Office will support this transformation through targeted strategy, policy, technology, and data interventions. As many as 42 strategic Key Performance Indexes (KPIs) with and 58 additional KPIs will track the progress of the city and benchmark it globally.

The article is sourced from a paper presented by Dr Aisha Bin Bishr at the World Economic Forum. Aisha Bin Bishr is Director General ?at the Smart Dubai Office.

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