Every day Dubai is one step closer to becoming a fully-fledged smart city, as an increasing number of devices become connected, and as governments continue to implement projects with services that strip away the old ways of getting things done. Our lives are becoming more intertwined with smart solutions that save us time and effort on administrative tasks, allowing us to focus on things that make us happy. It’s no surprise then that the smarter a city is, the happier its residents are.
Over the last decade we have experienced the proliferation of digital connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT), both of which have given smart cities a whole new meaning, creating endless possibilities for citizens to lead more convenient lives. According to research firm IHS Technology, smartphones and tablets make up more than 80% of connected devices in the Middle East and Africa and their adoption is set to grow from 133 million devices in 2014 to 598 million in 2018, a huge increase in only four years!
Gulf nations have gained increased visibility in the development of smart cities globally, with Dubai emerging as the leading smart city in the region. The Emirate has made great strides in the short period of roughly a decade since the launch of its eGovernment in 1999.
The smart city is a new playing field where authorities are able to link individuals to public organisations through electronic and mobile governments. Smart cities enable the transformation of public services and in turn enhance the convenience for citizens. One of the most important outcomes of cities going smart is that digitisation of governments, which enables the provision of services to a wide geographical coverage of the population in a citizen-friendly manner. eGovernment and mGovernment services make services more seamless and accessible to the public – especially citizens who are isolated or have reduced mobility. Although citizens have always been players in the system, with digital technology they are now the focal point and have the means to be involved and take control. Consequently, smart governments make life easier and citizen-centric, and residents will be appreciative that authorities do not ask for data which they already have in their possession; that personal data are under the control of citizens to ensure transparency and privacy; and that they can access public services 24/7.
Shaped by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, the Smart Dubai initiative is based on the notion that cities should be designed in a way to maximize the happiness of its residents and visitors by embracing technology innovation. This initiative is transforming the Emirate into a smart city, and over the past three years Dubai has launched an impressive 121 smart initiatives and 1,129 smart services.
For example, app-based solutions such as DubaiNow’s one-tap bill payment makes payments easier, while infrastructure enhancements such as the Smart Grid by the Dubai Water and Electricity Authority leads to energy and cost savings. Smart parking services from Roads and Transport Authority save commuter’s time and additionally the RTA’s Nol Card allows users to pay for taxi, bus and metro fares with ease. Furthermore, Dubai residents can simply scan their Emirates ID cards at airport eGates for easy passage when travelling instead of having to queue up at immigration.
More recently in April, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council launched the next phase in Dubai’s smart transformation which aims to make Dubai’s Government entirely paperless by 2021. Building on the Emirate’s many achievements to-date, the Dubai Government plans to continue deploying and integrating technology into its services to make residents and visitors happy.
As Dubai’s population is projected to double over the next 14 years, reaching five million by 2030, an efficient and frictionless city is essential for a thriving future and explains why being a smart city is high on the national agenda. Seeing that enhanced services make life more streamlined and in turn easier, safer and more impactful for everyone, smart technology is the ultimate tool to maximise happiness — where we can spend time doing things we love, ultimately resulting in increased happiness.
That said, the convenience of smart cities brings risks, as data security and privacy become a concern. Trust and security are key factors that must be woven into the fabric of smart cities for residents and visitors to be able to reap the full benefits. Smart government and public solutions, such as the ones already employed in Dubai only work when we trust those who design the technologies and services we rely on to keep our data and identities safe.
Security therefore must be kept in the forefront of everyone’s minds if smart cities are truly to bring long-term happiness. There are three pillars that both the private sector and government partners must keep in mind if they wish to work towards achieving the full potential of Dubai Smart City initiative: