Can you imagine Dubai without the Metro? UAE official reveals secret to city's transformation from 1950s

Foreseeing the future and taking risks is in the DNA of this country, says Dubai Future Foundation CEO


Lamya Tawfik

Published: Mon 6 Feb 2023, 11:18 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Feb 2023, 11:28 AM

“Can you imagine Dubai today without the metro? It started as an innovative vision that people doubted in the beginning.”

At the opening of Innovation Talks, Abdulla Mohammed Al Basti, Secretary General of the Executive Council of Dubai, said that ‘innovation’ should not be spoken about as a value. He said that the city’s transformation from the 50s was an act of innovation started by the late Sheikh Rashid.

“The work of widening the creek, building the Dubai airport in the 60s, and building Jebal Ali are all part of this innovation. He wanted the city to be at the centre, and he built things which were considered at the time to be innovations and weren’t considered even logical to people in the region,” he said, adding that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, continued this vision and the adoption of this value.

“We see many projects that many people didn’t understand in the beginning. The metro, for example, people would talk about whether or not we need it. Today, it transports more than 600,000 passengers every day. Can you imagine Dubai today without the metro?” he asked.

He said that innovation is a value that should be adopted by everyone in all organisations and that it is motivated by one of two things: finding solutions for a problem or the desire to stand out and improve. In either case, thinking without boundaries is key, said Abdulla. “If you put boundaries, you will find it difficult to achieve what you want,” he added.

Foreseeing the future and taking risks is in the DNA of this country, according to Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation. “Taking risks means to be ambitious and to have hope. We may make mistakes, but these mistakes should be a point of learning,” he said.

He said that the foundation’s goal is to understand the near and far future and to bring the imagined future into reality both physically and from a legislative perspective. Khalfan identified 10 megatrends for the future: materials revolution, devaluation of raw data, technological vulnerabilities, energy boundaries, saving ecosystems, borderless world fluid economies, digital realities, life with autonomous robots, future humanity and advanced health and nutrition.

Speaking to Khaleej Times at the event, he said that UAE Innovates plays a key role in aggregating all the discussions to have a better future for all. “The biggest challenge today is that the world is extremely fragmented. We learned that the hard way during the Covid pandemic. We saw big nations having challenging moments when it came to quarantine regulations or vaccination. Here in the UAE, we set an example,” he said.

He said that from the pandemic, an important lesson was learnt – the importance of unity in the upcoming years. “I’m not just talking about it from the health perspective but also from the perspective of the digital economy, data protection law and cross-border transactions,” he said.

Speaking about how the Dubai Future Foundation works, Khalfan said that they always try to stay one step ahead by working on the next ‘unknown’ once the previous one is known. “We are constantly studying and understanding what’s happening in the world,” he said.

Agility is also key, he explained. “The more agile you are as a nation, the more leading role you will play. Governments need to be agile with the regulations, amend them and always put safety as a key ingredient,” he said that one of the biggest risks to humanity at the moment is mental psychology, the deterioration of social skills and the physical effects of digital dependency such as the rise in obesity.

Innovation Talks is a three-day event that is part of the nationwide UAE Innovates 2023, held throughout February.


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