The UN and the World Economic Forum have both published works on happiness and its relationship with economic productivity, as well as the tangible links between life expectancy and eudemonics. The UN-affiliated World Happiness Report showed that between 2013-15, Emiratis were happier than expats; independently, Emiratis were ranked at 7.06, equating to 15th, and the non-Emirati average was 6.48, which would have placed 31st. Given the large expat population, overall the UAE was placed 28th in the overall poll, a position upon which the UAE looks to improve.
On the ground, this has been taken to heart. “Make Dubai the happiest city on earth“ is the ambitious directive HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in his position as Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has set for Smart Dubai and its initiatives. As a result, the Smart Dubai Happiness Agenda, which is being led by the Dubai Smart Office and its technology arm, Dubai Smart Government, are spearheading this movement.
One manifestation of this agenda has been the Happiness Meter, described as a tool for live sentiment capture. It is the world’s first citywide, live sentiment capture engine, and gauges satisfaction across the city. It was first introduced in the public sector, with the people of Dubai encouraged to rate their level of satisfaction with services provided by at least 14 government entities. Its simple design means it can either be a stand-alone unit within web sites or at physical locations, and the data provided to the host from the dashboard is anonymous, giving a comparative output without identifying the participants.
Users are presented with an interface that gives them three options; satisfied, neutral, and dissatisfied. The idea is that it can give spot-surveys and a real-time understanding of the feeling of happiness across the Emirate, and is Dubai’s first strategic happiness smart initiative.
So far, the meters have been used to measure satisfaction with government services, and, according to the results, 89% of people are satisfied with the government’s services. The Happiness Meter is next going to be rolled out to the other two-thirds of the economy, into the private sector.
Although many in the private sector already analyze their online traffic data to measure conversion rates, usability of their interfaces, and a plethora of other factors, the Happiness Meter is being seen as a further tool to help business owners increase their levels of service.
This reflects Dubai’s general recipe for happiness, which is relatively straightforward: simplify citizens and residents’ lives by creating technological solutions for practical problems. Another example of this drive for technology-based solutions is the DubaiNow app. In both English and Arabic, the app allows users to access 50 smart services from 22 government entities. For example, users can pay utilities and bills to DEWA, Etislat, or du, as well as pay traffic fines, or top up Salik. Users can renew vehicle registration, view road accident notifications, or track Dubai airport departures and arrivals, as well as find their nearest ATM. The app is designed to be a one-stop shop for government services, to make life easier for citizens and expats alike.
One particularly useful service is the rent analysis platform on the app, which can save individuals USD40,829 that they might typically pay banks or audit firms for the same information and service. This is seen as a direct response to what Emiratis feel about housing and the sense of frustration with the bureaucracy that had been surrounding it, making it difficult to have transparency and make the right personal investment decisions. This ability to be responsive is key to achieving the Emirate’s happiness goals, removing barriers that frustrate and leave people unsatisfied with the Emirate.
Dubai, and the UAE, has put itself at the forefront of a global happiness agenda. That intent has been further crystalized by the introduction of the Minister of State for Happiness, which makes the UAE one of four countries, the others being Bhutan, Ecuador, and Venezuela, with a minister dedicated to this policy area.