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Users at centre of smart initiatives, say m-Gov experts

Inaugural public sector mobility conference gets underway in Dubai

Sultan: When every individual became a publisher, a broadcaster – that completely transformed the equation of empowerment of [users].
Sultan: When every individual became a publisher, a broadcaster – that completely transformed the equation of empowerment of [users].

Smart cities and mobile-enabled infrastructures are inevitable, given the changing role of the user within the digital ecosystem.

That was the key message emerging from Dubai’s inaugural m-Government conference, which got underway at the Ritz-Carlton DIFC today in the presence of His Excellency Ahmed bin Humaidan, director general, Dubai Smart Government. The two-day event attracted ICT professionals from across the region, keen to hear how the mobility transformation will challenge enterprises and service providers.

“Imagine a farmer in the most remote part of Africa or Australia and give him a feature phone,” said Osman Sultan, CEO, du, in his keynote address.

“This person will have the communication capabilities equivalent to the President of the United States [only] 25 years ago. Give [that farmer] a smartphone and he will have access to reservoirs of information equivalent to that of the President of the United States [only] 15 years ago. So imagine the pace of empowerment of this individual.”

Sultan painted a picture of the “Internet Minute” with figures, he stressed, that were already out of date due to the rate of cyber-growth. In a single minute through the Internet, 204m emails are sent, 1.3m videos are viewed, 30 hours of video are uploaded and 1m tweets are posted. By 2015, it is estimated it will take five years to view all the videos crossing the Internet in a single second.

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But as Kevin Isaac, regional vice president, Symantec, pointed out, such phenomenal growth is a double-edged sword. 

“The risk of compromise from external actors and malicious insiders has gone up significantly, from potential brand damage and embarrassment to the prolonged outages of critical infrastructure and the theft of confidential information,” he warned.

While praising the Smart City programme initiated by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Isaac urged caution by private and public sector organisations as data creation continues to escalate.

“We need to be right 100% of the time to protect ourselves; an attacker only needs to be right once and they are in,” he said.

Sultan believes that the changing role of users will drive other nations to launch similar m-Government initiatives to that of Dubai.

“Users have moved from being the absent player to having a voice, because today most of the content that we see is being produced by users,” he said.

“If I ask you ‘what is the number-one content provider in the world?’ you would probably tell me it’s YouTube. How much of this content is produced by YouTube? None. This is content that we all produce together. So when every individual became a publisher, a broadcaster – that completely transformed the equation of empowerment of individuals, of groups, of companies.”