TBY talks to Dr. Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General of Smart Dubai Office, on the private sector, the Emirate's “Happiness Goals,” and the future of the UAE.
What have been some of the standout developments from the 100 smart initiatives and 1,000 smart applications in efforts to boost the economy?
In terms of ICT infrastructure, we have implemented an artificial intelligence tool called Saad in partnership with the Department of Economic Development in the form of a new personal concierge that you can ask any business-related question to and it will reply accordingly. Recently, we started the first phase of registering new businesses for this service. We wish to use this technology across all government services after this initial implementation. Furthermore, DubaiNow[m1] , a mobile app created by the Smart Dubai Government last year, unifies several government and private sector applications into one, which means that people no longer need to go through hundreds of applications for government services. We have almost 55 government private sector services consolidated through one platform. The[m2] overarching Smart City initiative is about unifying experiences across the entire city, regardless of whether it is public or private. We want all experiences to be simple, seamless, efficient, and safe. By launching Dubai Data we are expanding our services and initiatives to cater to all entrepreneurs and startups in Dubai so that they can benefit from government data. For example, if you are an investor and you want more data about the city, you do not want raw data but data that can be put through analytical tools to provide more insights. Through our platform, we provide analytical tools to deal with big data and enriched data pulled from the Internet of Things (IoT) around the city.
How has the private sector responded to these initiatives?
It is well known that the government loves megaprojects, but smart cities require both the public and private sector to be on the same page to achieve success. Government services represent 25-35% of the services individuals receive in a city, while the rest are delivered by the private sector. In 2015 we implemented Happiness Meters across over 500 government sector touch points. By mid 2016, we received an 89% happiness level across the city, and now by we bringing the private sector on board with us we will see a more holistic picture of the city. Implementation of Happiness Meters will also give the private sector the chance to make their businesses more efficient in terms of satisfying customers, and will also give them the chance to fortify their marketing campaigns.
How can technology be used to help achieve happiness goals?
Today, only the UK government recognizes the potential for new and upcoming technology such as Blockchain. Consequently, nothing has been implemented yet, but the government intends to adopt this. We launched the Dubai Blockchain Strategy in November 2016 with three main pillars to target having 100% of government transactions processed through Blockchain, to spark 1,000 new business opportunities through Blockchain technology by 2020, and create an international network through which tourists from up to 27 can enjoy seamless entry and experiences within Dubai. This is a very bold statement, and we are already piloting over 17 projects across the city. The projects focus around trade licensing, digital ID, digital payment, e-ticketing, and other components when it comes to the financial sector. Leading companies such as Emirates NBD, Dubai South, and Dubai DP World are already working on testing Blockchain technology. [NB3] There are plenty of projects using Blockchain technology and we at the Smart Dubai Office, in partnership with the Dubai Future Foundation, are unifying how Blockchain is used.
How do you draw a correlation between technology and happiness?
Our vision is to make Dubai the happiest city. For us, smart cities and happy cities cannot be mutually exclusive. If the technology will not bring added value, then it does not constitute a smart life. In May 2016 HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister & Vice-President of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai launched the Happiness Agenda, which is aligned with the federal happiness agenda as we believe that happiness is attainable and measurable. As a government entity we need to focus on basic needs. Individuals want streets, roads, electricity, and water, as well as simple access to services. All of our projects should take all of these needs into consideration to make sure that we offer whatever people want from us. As Dubai is a melting pot of ethnicities from around the world, when we did our first snapshot of the service requirements, we segmented the community based on origin; whether they are Emirati, Western expats, Asian, from the Indian Subcontinent, South America, and so forth, to gauge the needs of the whole community. We targeted 10 items that include housing, education, and health, created a list of needs and were surprised by the variety of needs between groups. For Emiratis, the greatest priority has always been housing and locals traditionally always preferred to live in villas instead of apartments. Upon completing our study, we realized that in today's day and age the younger Emirati generation with smaller families is more comfortable in an apartment. Consequently, we are working with the construction sector to reflect the needs of the population in terms of diversity of housing options. We discover the needs of our people then go to our systems, make changes and implement policies that help our people the most. We want the people to know that happiness is attainable and tangible; it's not just an abstract concept. The Smart Dubai Office is working toward making the people of Dubai the happiest on Earth.