Dubai 10X: Disruptive Innovation

The Dubai 10X program is showing that Dubai’s government entities can create disruptive innovation and creative ideas at a rapid pace

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Dubai 10X: Disruptive Innovation Amer Abdulraoof, Director for 10X, Dubai Future Foundation.
By  Mark Sutton Published  June 12, 2018

Dubai is no stranger to ambitious programs for government, but February 2017 saw the launch of what may be the most ambitious program of them all — Dubai 10X. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the initiative at the World Government Summit, setting a new far-reaching goal for government entities, to put the city ten years ahead of other cities, through out-of-the-box thinking and disruptive innovation.

The government-wide program aims to see Dubai organisations achieving huge improvements in efficiency and services and introducing brand new ways of serving their stakeholders. The plan, which is overseen by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and the Dubai Future Foundation, was not just intended as an exercise in creative thinking however, it called for results. Now, just a little over one year later, the first round of 10X initiatives have been announced and it is becoming apparent just how ambitious and innovative the plans are.

Amer Abdulraoof, Director of  Dubai 10X at the Dubai Future Foundation, said that 10X — which he believes is the most ambitious government strategy in the world — was created with the concept of introducing a new operational model towards achieving the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed for Dubai. Dubai 10X adds on top of  previous programs such as the government excellence program, Smart Government, and Future Accelerators, to find the next big idea for Dubai.

“The question was ‘what’s next? What is the next big thing that the government entities can contribute to His Highness’ vision of Dubai always being number one?’” Abdulraoof said.

“We wanted it to be simple and straightforward. Dubai “10X can be simplified down to what we used to learn in maths classes, find ‘x’. Each government entity should find their own services that they want to deliver, which can be ten times bigger, ten times faster, ten times bolder, ten times more efficient for the benefit of everyone in Dubai.”

10X is looking to harness the same disruptive innovation which is seen in the private sector, in companies such AirBnB and Uber, he added, but to create a program which will allow government to adopt the same techniques and speed of change.

The first stage in the initiative was to create the 10X teams for the 36 government entities that were participating. Each entity created its own 10X units, with a leader and team members drawn from across the organisation. While the Dubai Future Foundation supported the 10X teams, the personnel and the projects were very much owned by and part of their parent organisations.

“The criteria was very simple. First the 10X team leads should be one phone call away from the top decision maker in their entity,” Abdulraoof explained. “Second, the 10X team members should not be exclusive to staff who are in the innovation department. Anyone from the DG of the entity to an intern, all are welcome if they have a great idea to put forward to 10X.”

Part of the first phase of 10X was preparing the 10X team leaders, and training them for the right disruption mindset. This included brainstorming workshops, and a trip to Silicon Valley to visit around 30 leading companies and start-ups and to experience how they work.

This was followed by a second stage of ideation, due diligence and service reviews. Each entity was tasked with coming up with as many ‘moon shot’ ideas as possible, which could be concentrated down to five proposals that would be disruptive, but also achievable within the timeframe. The entities were told to look at services and new ideas from the point of view of their customers or stakeholders, rather than from their own internal perspective.

The Dubai Future Foundation provided facilities in its premises for the 10X teams to work on their ideas, as well as an ‘account manager’ from the Foundation to work with the team and support them. The Dubai Future Foundation’s support was on two levels, Abdulraoof said. At a macro level, DFF encouraged the teams to go beyond ideas that were just operational improvements to their entities, and to really aim for out-of-the-box ideas instead.

At a more detailed level, Dubai Future Foundation offered the training in innovation thinking, and also helped with courses on how to ‘story tell’ ideas, and move them from an idea and a PowerPoint presentation, through a working prototype, and then to an idea which can scale to city or district level. It also helped with introductions to technology providers if the entities were looking for specific solutions, and with in-depth reviews of ideas with the 10X teams and their partners to fine-tune the ideas and prepare them for presentation to the jury before being shortlisted and presented to His Highness Sheikh Hamdan.

With the first set of prospective 10X ideas, the program then moved into an evaluation week. The DFF 10X team assembled a panel of experts, from the private sector and academia, including SAP, IBM, Ernst Young, University of Dubai and IFC, who would ensure that the ideas were up to par and would truly be capable of the right level of disruption and innovation. Each idea was reviewed in depth by the jury, and then revisited again on the final day.

“Having the jury was very important to make sure that the ideas were up to par, that whatever the government 10X teams were recommending are up to par and will benefit the city and the people in Dubai. We carefully handpicked the jury because we wanted them to be experts, from different backgrounds, who are also from Dubai, to cover all aspects the teams might put forward,” Abdulraoof said.

The evaluation week narrowed down the field for ideas, which would then be put forward for final approval, but many of the ideas that were not approved as ‘10X’ have been adopted by their organisations because they have value, and some of the ideas have also been highlighted for revisiting at a later date.

“Dubai 10X is not a competition, it is not competing for a first place or second place, it is whichever projects get approved must benefit people in Dubai and improve Dubai,” he added. “That was important, that everyone came in with that mindset.”

The selected ideas were presented to His Highness Sheikh Hamdan, who approved 26 ideas from 24 government entities, as well as directing the entities to turn the ideas into reality within 24 months of the February 2018 launch.

Dubai Future Foundation is now supporting the entities in hitting these deadlines, with projects being revealed to the public over the past few months.

One area of ongoing support is in helping ensure that the services are compatible with the UAE’s regulatory environment or that legislation can be in place to enable them. During the planning phase the 10X teams worked with incubator 1776 in partnership with the Supreme Legislation Committee (SLC) on a Regulatory Hacking Program, to understand how regulations and policy can complement the new services and projects. The Dubai Future Foundation also worked with the SLC — which is also a 10X participant — in order to provide the right working frameworks for the ideas and to ensure that the regulatory landscape would be able to absorb these new ideas rather than cause issues.

The strength of the ideas generated in the first year of 10X have also inspired a new phase, Dubai 10X 2.0. Abdulraoof explained: “2.0 is a new phase of 10X, The directions that we have received from His Highness was to build on the positive  outcomes of 10X 1.0, and to consider if each entity could disrupt its own services and come up with all these creative ideas, what would the outcome be if they worked together, to share resources and skills to disrupt mutual sectors and services?”

This second phase in underway now, following the same model, but building on the experience and expertise of the 10X teams from 1.0. The Dubai Future Foundation is steering the collaborative teams so that they can work together, including their organisations, as they explore sectors and services for mutual benefit and to develop more disruptive ideas. These initial kick-off sessions are already creating potential ideas, although teams will be limited to just four ideas to ensure that they remain focused and that they are able to deliver tangible results.

Abdulraoof said that the ideas from the 10X teams have proven the creativity of the government entities, but that the 10X program has also shown that government can match and may exceed the private sector for speed of innovation. All of the entities have submitted their execution plans, with deliverables for the next two years, and the first actual success story will be delivered way ahead of time this month, with most of the other programs expected by towards the end of this year or first half of 2019.

“Personally, I have learned that we can exceed boundaries. A lot of the projects that we thought would take a year just to plan, took two months to plan, to find the right partners and be set and ready to go. There were a lot of entities that came to us saying they had plans to deliver by 2020 or 2021, but through Dubai 10X, we saw that with the right partners and right resources, we can deliver in the next six months or a year — that was a game changer for us.”

10X programs

For the past two months Dubai government entities have been revealing their plans under the first phase of 10X, initiatives including:

Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) will develop an end-to-end vehicle lifecycle management using system based on blockchain. The project seeks to improve customer experience by providing a holistic view of vehicle-lifecycle services using Blockchain technology, starting from the manufacturer all the way to the scrap yard.

The Port, Customs & Free Zone Corporation (PCFC) will launch an app and online marketplace to overhaul the traditional dhow cargo trade in Dubai.

The Dhowber smart platform aims to organise trade carried out in traditional dhow ships, which carry around 2.2 million tons of cargo and make 13,000 trips around the region each year. The project will also introduce artificial intelligence (AI) to provide a dynamic pricing engine based on demand, as well as auxiliary services such as insurance of goods.

Dubai Tourism (DTCM) plans a blockchain-based online marketplace to sell hotel rooms in the Emirate. The B2B exchange is intended to connect travel agents and tour operators with available hotel rooms in Dubai, to ensure maximum uptake of rooms and to enable smaller operators to get access to some of Dubai's leading hotels.

Dubai Police will implement a ‘Police Without Policemen' initiative which intends to enhance the sense of security among Dubai communities and reduce levels of crime. The project includes a combination of crowd sourcing and deployment of advanced technologies for surveillance; the launch of surveillance blimps for citywide monitoring, and a ‘Station in a Patrol' project, which will equip and authorise officers to act as independent organisational units.

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