Data fuels future for Smart Dubai

Dubai Data Establishment is overseeing policy, regulation and sharing of data for the Dubai Data Initiative

Tags: Big dataDubai Smart Government ( Arab Emirates
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Data fuels future for Smart Dubai Dubai Data Establishment has taken care to involve both public and private sector organisations in the data initiative, says Younus Al Nasser, CEO of DDE. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  August 9, 2016

The importance of data to the knowledge economy is well recognised – data is often described as the fuel of the digital era, and there is a great deal of focus on collecting, analysing and extracting value and insight from all sorts of data across all sectors. In the smart city model, data is even more important, as more accurate and more timely information forms the basis for all decision making. Across the board, data is becoming central to operations and planning for all kinds of organisations.

The growing focus on data initiatives for digital transformation can be seen in the number of government entities that are developing data policies, both to govern the collection of data, and more importantly, to drive sharing of data through open data initiatives. While many governments around the globe are looking to open up some of their data to public usage, and many municipal authorities are setting out the rules to manage the data created by smart cities, there is no city where open data forms such a central part of the smart city agenda as it does in Dubai.

Younus Al Nasser, assistant director general, Smart Dubai Office and CEO of Dubai Data Establishment explained that data is at the core of the emirate’s and the city’s ongoing digital transformation: “In order to enable the city in that smart transformation, and looking to the future, data is an essential part of it. Data has to be addressed and governed, in order to enable the different constituents of the city in this transformation.”

The importance of data for smart city success has led to Dubai focusing on it’s data program for some time. In November 2014, the Dubai Open Data Committee was formed by a resolution issued by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. The Committee, led by chairman Abdulla Al Madani, CEO of the Roads & Transport Authority, was comprised of a number of different government organisations, and was charged with developing the strategy and plans for data for the emirate.

The Committee developed the foundations for the Dubai Data Law, which was announced in October 2015, which also led to the establishment of the Dubai Data Initiative and the Dubai Data Establishment (DDE) in March this year, to take over from the Committee, Dubai Data Establishment has been set up as the main organisation to manage data in Dubai, with a mandate to develop a culture of data sharing among public and private sector stakeholders; and to ensure that the city is capable of extracting the most value from its data for the benefit of residents and visitors.

The Open Data Committee was tasked with developing the law, policies, regulations and strategies for open data, Al Nasser said, and although the committee looked at open data laws in other cities such as London, San Francisco and Tokyo, Dubai’s plans went further than just an open data approach.

“When we benchmarked ourselves, and looked at the approaches other cities have taken, [our] requirements are much more than theirs. We are also looking after the data exchange and how data exchange is happening across government; the approach was really a comprehensive approach, and very ambitious, in addressing the entire data. It is a unique approach that we are bringing to data initiatives globally today, because of its wide coverage, of both public and private sector, and addressing big data, creating data insights and data culture,” he said.

The DDE follows 11 strategic objectives, focused on three core principles of data sharing and publication; data use and re-use; and privacy, confidential information and protection of intellectual property. The strategic objectives include developing guidelines in line with international best practice to cover the management, dissemination and exchange, privacy and confidentiality of data; encouraging and enabling data sharing and integration between local and federal government for better services and decision making, along with mechanisms for sharing with the private sector, and developing and enabling the culture of innovation and exchange based on the data, to gain the optimal value from data across all sectors.

Realising the strategic objectives of the data initiative has required several different areas of activity for DDE, building on the work of the Open Data Committee, which are all coming together to enable the initiative. One such areas is the Dubai Data Framework, which was developed by the committee in order to categorise data, either open or shared data, and to set standards for the quality of data. Data is classified as either ‘open’, which will be shared by all; or ‘shared’ between specific entities under certain terms and conditions, but not made wholly public, and DDE has developed classifications and standards to govern different types and sets of data, Al Nasser explained.

To help get organisations onboard with the data initiative, the Dubai Data Manual has been created as a comprehensive guide to support data providers and users and define the standards for accuracy and quality of data and how it will be used.

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