SMART HAPPINESS

Dubai 2020 | IT & INNOVATION | INTERVIEW

Smart Dubai Department seeks for Dubai's digital transformation roadmap to become a benchmark for smart city transformations across the globe.

Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr
BIOGRAPHY

Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr is the Director General of the Smart Dubai Department. In addition, she was named chairperson of the Dubai Future Council for Digital Transactions and also heads the Council of Happy Cities. She is the chairperson of the SDG 11 Global Council and is the only woman from the Middle East to be a member of the Gartner Global CIO Research Board. Additionally, she serves as a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Future Councils and the Fourth Industrial Revolution's Smart Cities Readiness Index Team. She is also a board member of the Higher Colleges of Technology, UAE, and a non-executive director at Emaar Developments' Board. She holds a PhD in management, science, technology, and innovation and an MPhil in policy and research on engineering, science, and technology from the Manchester Business School.

Dubai has become the model for others to emulate. How are you collaborating across borders to bring the lessons Dubai has learned to other places?
Smart Dubai was launched as a truly citizen-centric smart city initiative with an aim of leveraging the power of technology to make everyday life easier, seamless, and efficient for all residents and visitors, eventually making Dubai the happiest city on earth. We are developing and implementing use cases around different emerging technologies such as blockchain and AI and leveraging data science capabilities to redefine the delivery of city experiences for all. We are consistently approached by several country and city governments to share our learnings on smart city development, which is why we continuously share our experience through participation in global events. We also regularly contribute to several policymaking and research reports created by the UN and the World Economic Forum. Finally, in April 2018 we also launched the Smart City Global Network, which brings together smart city leaders, technology experts, and academics on one platform to share knowledge and experiences with each other.

What were some of the main takeaways from the UAE's first forum on Happy Cities, and what are the next steps in terms of the happiness agenda?
The first Happy Cities Forum brought together government, semi-government, and private sector entities to showcase and exchange best practices that considered citizen-centric design and use of technology to deliver happier services to the residents and visitors of Dubai. Along with the government, the private sector plays a key role in defining and designing daily experiences for the city's residents and visitors, and thus the Happy Cities Forum helped to build stronger partnerships and collaborations between government and private-sector entities. As part of our work on the Happiness Agenda over the past three years, Smart Dubai has been organizing the Designing Cities Program annually, a learning expedition for the Happiness Champions of Dubai, who leading the implementation of the Happiness Agenda city-wide. As of December 2019, the Happiness Champions have been given two new titles: Smart City Experience Specialist for a champion working in customer-oriented services and Work Environment Specialist, for a champion working in HR-oriented roles. The new titles will help them further specialize and focus their efforts, ultimately embedding the concept of Smart Happiness in their organizations.

How is Smart Dubai Department ensuring that the start-up ecosystem grows in breadth and depth?
Smart Dubai also runs or participates in several accelerators and challenges organized to help foster the start-up and SME community in Dubai. We are part of the Dubai Future Accelerators, Dubai Chamber's Smartpreneur challenge, and Startupbootcamp's Smart City Dubai Accelerator. Also, we annually run the Smart Dubai Blockchain Challenge inviting start-ups from around the world to pitch their blockchain implementation ideas at the Future Blockchain Summit, the largest blockchain summit held in the world, attracting over 9,000 visitors in 2019. The Smart Dubai Blockchain Challenge received over 700 applications from 79 countries in 2019.

How does Smart Dubai Department function as the cornerstone of public and private collaboration for Dubai's digital transformation?
Smart Dubai leads the collaboration between the Dubai government and private-sector entities in several ways. One is policymaking, where we have taken a collaborative approach toward building policies and legislations for emerging technology use in Dubai. Be it the Dubai Data Policies, the Dubai Blockchain Policy, or the Dubai Ethical AI Principles and Guidelines—all were created with the support of local and international partners from the government and private sector. In terms of PPPs, Dubai Pulse, which is known as the digital backbone of Dubai, hosting over 530 Dubai government data sets and providing several other services is a product of partnership between Smart Dubai and local telecoms operator du. Another example is the Dubai Blockchain Platform, which is fully funded by IBM but supported by Smart Dubai.