TBY talks to HE Dr. Aisha bin Butti bin Bishr, Director General of Smart Dubai Office, on smart technology in the public sector, Dubai's partnerships with the private sector, and the ultimate goal of making Dubai the happiest city on earth.

HE Dr. Aisha bin Butti bin Bishr
Prior to her role as Director General of the Smart Dubai Office, the government entity overseeing Dubai’s citywide smart transformation, HE Dr. Aisha bin Butti bin Bishr worked as Assistant Director General of the Executive Office of the Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. She also worked in the Ministry of Labor as an Assistant Undersecretary. She has more than 20 years of experience in ICT development in the public sector. In 2015, she received the Leading Woman in the Public Sector award from the Global WIL Economic Forum.

What are some of the standout developments from the 100 smart initiatives and 1,000 smart applications in their 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 can reply to any business-related question. Recently, we started the first phase of registering businesses for this service and wish to use this technology across all government services. Furthermore, DubaiNow, a mobile app, unifies several government and private-sector applications, which means that people no longer need to go through hundreds of applications for government services. We consolidated almost 55 government private sector services through one platform. The overarching Smart City initiative is about unifying experiences, regardless of whether it is public or private, to create seamless, efficient, and impactful experiences. The launch of the Dubai Data initiative expands our services to all entrepreneurs and start-ups so that they can benefit from government data. For example, if you are an investor and want data about the city, our platform provides analytical tools to deal with big data and enriched data pulled from the Internet of Things around the city. Smart cities require both the public and private sector to achieve success. In 2015, we implemented Happiness Meters across over 500 government sector touch points. By mid-2016, we received an 89% happiness level, and now we are bringing the private sector on board with us for a more holistic picture of the city.

How can technology be used to help achieve happiness goals?

We launched the Dubai Blockchain Strategy in November 2016 with three main pillars: to have 100% of government transactions processed through Blockchain, to spark 1,000 new business opportunities through blockchain technology by 2020, and to create an international network through which tourists up to 27 years old can enjoy seamless entry and experiences within Dubai. This strategy is a very bold statement, and we are piloting over 17 projects across the city. The projects focus around trade licensing, digital ID, digital payment, e-ticketing, and other components of the financial sector. Leading companies such as Emirates NBD, Dubai South, and DP World are already testing blockchain technology. There are plenty of projects using blockchain technology, and Smart Dubai Office, in partnership with the Dubai Future Foundation, is unifying how blockchain is used.

How do you draw a correlation between technology and happiness?

For us, smart cities and happy cities are mutually inclusive, and happiness is attainable and measurable. 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 a government entity, we need to focus on basic needs. Individuals want streets, roads, electricity, and water, as well as simple access to services. When we did our first snapshot of the service requirements, we segmented the community based on origin, as Dubai is a melting pot of ethnicities from around the world, to gauge the needs of the whole community as well as specific needs of each segment. For example, housing has always been the greatest priority for Emiratis, and locals traditionally preferred to live in villas. From the study, we realized the younger Emirati generation prefers apartments. Consequently, we are working with the construction sector to reflect these needs with diversity of housing options. We discover people's needs through technology and data, then make changes and implement policies to optimize happiness. Happiness is attainable and tangible; it is not just an abstract concept, and the Smart Dubai Office is working toward making Dubai the happiest city on Earth.