UAE: Space exploration, flying cars; 10 ways the country is shaping the future

The nation's pioneering vision has been at the core of its outstanding achievements

By Sherouk Zakaria

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Photo: Expo 2020 Dubai
Photo: Expo 2020 Dubai

Published: Fri 26 Nov 2021, 12:35 PM

Last updated: Fri 26 Nov 2021, 12:36 PM

Unesco's declaration to adopt the UAE’s National Day, December 2, as the World Futures Day comes at a momentous time when the Emirates gears up to mark its 50th anniversary.

Founded on the solid basis of progress and advancement, the UAE has launched proactive policies and strategies to shape a prosperous future for generations to come.

The country's futuristic vision has been at the core of its outstanding achievements over the last five decades, placing it as a global inspiring model and an active player on the world map.

Here are 10 ways in which the UAE is shaping people's future:

1. Digital transformation since 2001

The UAE Government adopted digital transformation early on by introducing the eDirham in 2001, launching the eGovernment in 2011 and the smart Government in 2013.

To lead the post-pandemic era, the UAE launched the National Digital Government Strategy 2025 to employ advanced technologies in better serving people.

2. Projects of the 50

The UAE is setting firm footsteps towards the next five decades. After launching the UAE Centennial 2071 back in 2017 to pave a long-term roadmap into the country's 100th anniversary, the UAE Government announced the ‘Projects of the 50’ earlier in September 2021 to drive the UAE's new era of political, economic and social development.

3. Early vision to space

Sights to space was not new to the UAE. In fact, it started when the UAE’s late founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan met three Apollo 17 astronauts back in 1976.

The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) was formed in 2006 before evolving, nine years later, into the present Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.

Besides manufacturing satellites, the centre supervised the design, manufacturing and launch of the Hope Probe, which made a historic arrival to Mars on February 9, 2021, placing the UAE as the first Arab nation to reach Mars. The Centre is currently working on the Emirates Lunar Mission in 2022 and a five-year mission to explore the planet Venus and the solar system’s asteroid belt by 2028.

4. Hosting Expo 2020

The UAE transformed a desert spot in Jebel Ali into a futuristic city to host Expo 2020 under the slogan “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. Over six months, 192 countries are gathering in one place to create sustainable solutions and develop inventions for a better future. Dubai won the Expo bid back in 2013.

5. Driverless transport

To keep pace with emerging technologies, the UAE is developing legislative frameworks to regulate autonomous transport.

Shortly after the cabinet approved a temporary license to test self-driving vehicles on UAE roads earlier this month, Abu Dhabi unveiled its first driverless taxi. Dubai plans to convert 25 per cent of its transport to autonomous trips by 2030, and a fleet of self-driving shuttles were tested in Sharjah last year. Flying cars are also being tested in Dubai.

6. Creating new ministries

The UAE regularly adapts its agile structure to the rapidly-changing world. A cabinet reshuffle in 2020 saw the merging and creation of new ministries to lead the post-pandemic era including the formation of a new ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, the expansion of the ministry of artificial intelligence to oversee the digital economy and remote work applications, and the appointment of three ministers to oversee different facets of the Ministry of Economy.

The UAE was the first in the world to appoint ministers for happiness, tolerance and coexistence, and youth affairs.

7. Future as a strategy

Strategic planning is a key element of the UAE Government to achieve sustainable development across all sectors.

In 2016, the government launched ‘UAE Strategy for the Future’ to forecast opportunities, trends and challenges, and develop responsive solutions. Since then, a series of strategies and plans were announced to support a comprehensive journey into the future, including the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, National Climate Change Plan of the UAE 2017–2050, National Strategy for Higher Education 2030, National Space Strategy 2030 and National Strategy for Wellbeing 2031, among others.

8. Active response to climate change

Last month, the government was the first in the region to adopt the goal of decarbonizing its economy and reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as part of the strategic initiative “UAE Net Zero 2050”.

Earlier this month, the UAE won the bid to host the COP28 climate conference in 2030, reinforcing its global contribution to combating climate change.

9. Accelerating the future

In 2016, the UAE launched the ‘Government Accelerators’ as a platform for cross-sectoral government teams to address challenges and achieve ambitious goals in short periods.

The initiative was expanded to other emirates including Abu Dhabi’s ‘Ghadan 21’ and the ‘Dubai Future Accelerators’. The country also saw the establishment of future-centric institutions like Abu Dhabi’s Masdar, which has been leading the UAE’s efforts in renewable energy since 2006, and headquartering of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi since 2009.

10. Sharing futuristic model

The UAE provides a platform for world governments to explore the future and share successful experiences.

In collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF), the UAE hosts the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils, bringing together more than 700 experts from 70 countries in 41 specialized councils to prepare a clear future agenda to tackle pressing challenges.

The UAE also signed strategic experience exchange partnerships with several countries like Jordan, Costa Rica, Greece, Egypt, Columbia, Uzbekistan and Sudan.

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