Smart service enabler

Systems integrator Smartworld is playing a key role in the development of Dubai’s transportation sector, particularly the smart transformation of the city’s airports, as well creating a portfolio of managed services to support government clients

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Smart service enabler Dr. Saeed Al Dhaheri, Chairman of Smartworld. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  December 7, 2016

Smartworld, a joint venture between UAE telco Etisalat and Dubai World Central, is helping to transform Dubai’s airport sector as well as engaging in key projects for government customers across the region. Chairman Dr Saeed Al Dhaheri spoke to .GOV to discuss the company’s plans and achievements, and support for key initiatives.

What are Smartworld’s main areas of operations and expertise?

Smartworld is a system integrator and smart solution provider, and our business purpose is to support and accelerate Digital Economic Growth in the UAE and the GCC region. Therefore Smartworld is working to help both; the government and the private sectors in Dubai and the UAE to achieve the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, to make Dubai the smartest city and the happiest city in the world.

Achieving this vision requires a very solid and advanced IT infrastructure in the different domains of Dubai smart city, especially in the smart transportation domain, where Smartworld has been working for the past five years in major projects in Dubai including Dubai Airport Terminal One and Two and recently has been awarded the new extension of Al Maktoum International Airport. Our work in Dubai airports has been recognized as essential to establish the necessary IT infrastructure and integrate the many different complex components installed at the airports which will help Dubai airports to transform into smart airports.

You have been closely involved in many of the UAE’s government technology projects, can you tell us more about your previous experience?

I have worked — during my previous positions in the government — on many projects in smart government. For example, I am proud of being responsible for leading the team that developed the UAE MoFA smart app early in 2013, and which was among the finalist smart apps in the best m-government apps award in 2014. My work in the smart government, smart city and innovation includes lecturing and education in these areas, and I have presented in many seminars and conferences locally and internationally. My slide share site contains many of my presentations in various events in those areas.

I have worked as an ICT advisor to several government departments and ministries in UAE to transform their services and operations into digital ones. For example I have worked with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing of Dubai in 2000, immediately after HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the e-government initiative in Dubai. This work included developing the e-services for the department and a licensing and classification system for the hotels in Dubai. My pride goes to the work in heading the Emirates Identity Authority from 2004-2007 that resulted in establishing the smart Emirates ID card which every citizen and resident in UAE now has, and playing a part of executing the vision of the our leadership in the country to make Emirates ID card the most trusted for identity verification in the country. Also, my work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abu Dhabi included developing and launching citizens and consular digital services in 2013.

What services is Smartworld offering to government customers?

Smartworld has developed unique capabilities in the managed services space, in hosting and management of specific functions of IT. We focus on providing value for money so that we can keep our clients happy. We work with leading technology value chain partners to provide a complete suite of product, support services, and capabilities. Many government clients are seeking to outsource part of their IT infrastructure to manged service providers.

We have successfully established strategic partnerships with a number of government clients, for several years now. Some of our clients include Abu Dhabi Educational Council (ADEC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs MoFA; and Abu Dhabi Systems & Information Center (ADSIC) — we manage ADSIC’s government-wide network (ADNET) that connects Abu Dhabi government entities, with our shareholder company Etisalat. We also worked with Etisalat to provide the ICT infrastructure for the Dubai Parks & Resort project.

Are government customers receptive to managed services?

Yes, I think with the increasing pressure on government organisations to reduce their budgets, government clients are becoming more receptive to managed services. For government, managed services can be one cost cutting approach which provides leverage to the government entity to outsource non-core IT functions to achieve efficiency and cut costs while focusing on core functions. We see this approach is becoming more and more acceptable in government with the maturity of vendor cloud offerings and the increasing pressure from internal and external customers to implement smart solutions in a faster time.

Is the company developing any new capabilities or services for government customers?

Smartworld recently started offering cybersecurity services to the government and the private sector in the UAE. Implementing smart government and smart city initiatives in UAE requires strong emphasis on cybersecurity. Therefore, Smartworld has launched the first of its kind cybersecurity centre in the UAE and the Middle East. The goal of this centre is to train and qualify UAE nationals to take an active role in guarding and protecting their networks from cybersecurity threats, also we provide different cybersecurity services such as risk assessment, penetration testing, and network monitoring private and government clients in UAE.

Physical security is another area, where we have worked with the government, in a flagship project providing the security perimeter for Dubai Terminal 1, and we have also provided CCTV for the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi.

How does Smartworld make sure it can deliver high-end projects in new technology areas?

Smart cities and associated technologies such as cloud computing, IoT, big data analytics, and smart city platforms are fairly new in the region, so availability of expertise is an issue. Certain jobs are in high demand such as smart city solutions architects, IoT architect, and data scientists, and even if the expertise is available, it is the issue of how much companies are willing to pay for it.

Our hiring strategy depends on our strategy for growth and potential profit streams and ROI. We look at the ROI model, the projects we are engaged in, and the availability of expertise and whether we need to bring it to the region.

For example, we have been in talks with several start-up companies in smart parking, who have developed smart parking elsewhere, and looking at how we can bring those start-ups and align with our customer requirements in the UAE. It is all about establishing partnerships with the right vendors who have the technology that will be in demand.

How is Smartworld helping collaboration between the government and the ICT community in UAE?

Smartworld is committed to contributing to the innovation agenda of the UAE. Therefore, at the beginning of the 2016, Smartworld has launched the unique CIOMajlis ( ) initiative that seeks to share experience, enhance knowledge, and explore business opportunities between its members. It is an interactive platform for senior-level government and private sector CIOs, vendors, and media that meet every month to exchange best practices and ideas and formulates strategy to address common ICT issues. By facilitating knowledge and idea-sharing about the best practices being implemented by CIOs from different verticals, the CIOMajlis will come out with creative and innovative solutions that they can implement in their organisations.

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