Dubai’s Smart Plans becoming a reality

Smart Dubai is proving its ability to execute, as key initiatives deliver results. Wesam Lootah, CEO of SDGE, discusses the landmark achievements in the smart city’s progress

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Dubai’s Smart Plans becoming a reality Smart Dubai is gaining international recognition for the success of its many initiatives, says Lootah. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  January 21, 2018

In the story of Dubai’s journey to become the leading smart city in the world, 2017 will stand out as a landmark year, when strategic plans and initiatives became reality across a host of new domains. Last year saw achievements in key areas such as data, smart services and more, and international recognition of the role that Dubai is taking on as a leader in smart cities and smart government.

Wesam Lootah, CEO of Smart Dubai Government Establishment (SDGE) noted that Dubai has received mentions from the UN and the World Economic Forum for its recent achievements, and has won fourteen international awards for smart initiatives to date.

“In 2017, we really saw the name of Dubai get tied with the execution and delivery of these strategies, so now you don’t hear mention of blockchain without mention of Dubai and what is happening in Dubai, and that is a testament to the ambitious vision and foresight of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. We were able to prove to the world, that we can not only set strategies, but execute on them — at times when other cities are just experimenting, we are able to show that we are delivering.”

Blockchain is a good example of the progress made by Dubai, Lootah pointed out. Last year Dubai saw its first government blockchain project go live, with the launch of Dubai Land Department’s registry system, which records real estate transactions involving data from multiple stakeholders on a blockchain-based system. Another multi-stakeholder use case will go into production proof-of-concept this month, and the government has already developed 21 government use cases and more than 10 private sector use cases for blockchain technology.

At the Smart City Expo World Congress 2017 in Barcelona, Dubai was acknowledged with an award for becoming the First Smart City on the Blockchain.

2017 marked the third anniversary of the Smart Dubai initiative, and also saw the launch of the 2021 strategy, and many different elements of Dubai’s efforts produced results. SDGE, which is the technology arm of Smart Dubai, is organised along three main goals of seamless experience and technology efficiency, which includes key government applications and services; governance and planning, such as the frameworks and strategic initiatives; and ecosystem enablement, which has included co-ordination across government departments and inclusion of the private sector in programs for the key sectors which include energy, mobility, transport, connected lean government, and smart liveable cities.

There has been progress across all of three of the main goals, Lootah said. The Dubai Now application, a unified app that provides a range of government services continues to gain traction, and has been expanded to include 57 smart services from 25 different partners, including seven private sector entities. The Dubai Pulse open city data platform was officially launched last year, and it is also attracting new participants. Meanwhile, the Dubai Happiness Meter project, established as one of the channels for feedback on smart city programs continues to show double-digit growth in adoption, including 87 private sector entities. Almost fourteen million votes have been collected through the system.

The city’s AI project has also stepped up a gear, with widespread demand from government entities to get involved. The initial AI project, developed by Smart Dubai and the Dubai Economic Department with IBM using IBM’s Watson AI, was renamed ‘Rashid’ in October. An AI lab was launched, and through workshops and development sessions, 97 use cases for government AI have been developed, with 28 set for priority development.

“We have seen a lot of demand come up from government entities, they want to work with us, they want to know how to engage with us, and we have done over fifteen engagements where we train developers and project managers on the best way to use artificial intelligence in improving city experience and government services,” he said.

Rashid has also been expanded, from an initial pilot where the AI could answer questions on starting up a business in Dubai, with Rashid now be positioned as a city concierge that can answer questions from visitors, residents and businesses on many different aspects of Dubai. The AI has been trained with over 5,000 questions, and now individual departments will be able to train it with their own domain-specific questions to expand into new areas.

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