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Dubai has set itself an ambitious goal: to be the happiest and smartest city in the world. To see this goal come to life, the Smart Dubai initiative was launched in 2014. Leading the Smart Dubai Office's movement is Director-General Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, who spoke to Telecom Review about Smart Dubai's goal to "increase the efficiency of government services" to create even better city experiences.

Dubai is working towards a mammoth goal: to be the happiest and smartest city in the world. As 2016 comes to an end, can you highlight some of the greatest achievements Smart Dubai has been a part of to make this goal a reality?
Since the Smart Dubai initiative was announced in March 2014, we have been working diligently with our partners across the city to prepare the foundation for a sustainable smart city transformation that prioritizes people's happiness in everything we do, and is a benchmark to city transformation for the emerging world.

Our journey began with an extensive exercise to understand the current state of smart technology in our city. Dubai has been leading technology innovation in the government for over a decade, so we were unsurprised to find that our public sector partners already had several hundred existing smart services and initiatives that were improving experiences and increasing efficiency in the government.

In fact, Smart Dubai Government, an establishment within the Smart Dubai Office, has saved the Dubai government 4.3 billion AED over the past 13 years through shared infrastructure and shared smart services support for 50 government entities. Today, the Dubai government is saving 5.6AED for every 1 dirham spent by SDG.

Our goal is to continue to increase the efficiency of our government services to create even better experiences in the city - and to expand this framework to the private sector so that all residents, business owners, city leaders and even tourists can benefit. To do this, we are working with a growing network of strategic partners from the public and private sector to prioritize and implement the most impactful smart services and initiatives that will improve efficiency, seamlessness and safety in our city, contributing to more impactful business and life experiences for everyone.

As the Smart Dubai Office, we are leading four key initiatives to unify and enable the city to achieve our vision. This May, we announced the Happiness Agenda to guide our city to prioritizing happiness in its smart transformation through a globally unique, science-based and methodical approach to guiding leadership to achieve maximum happiness impact in everything they do. Through the Happiness Agenda, the Smart Dubai Office is leading the effort to discover, change, educate and measure people's happiness for the city. Already, the Smart Dubai Happiness Meter has been adopted at over 500 customer touch-points in the public and private sector, has recorded more than 4.36 million votes, and is reporting a real-time happiness index of 89% for city services. Our goal is to increase this to 95% by 2021.

While happiness is the vision that guides our smart transformation, data is at the heart. Almost a year ago, we announced the Dubai Data Law, launching the most comprehensive and ambitious data initiative in the world today that governs open and shared data for the public and private sector. Through the Dubai Data initiative, led by the Dubai Data Establishment, we are guiding a collaborative and benefit-first approach to opening and sharing city data. We are working with a team of more than 150 Data Champions from government entities and the private sector to prepare the most impactful city data for opening and sharing early next year.

All open city data will be shared on the Dubai Data Portal, which will be supported by the Smart Dubai Platform, an ambitious project that we are implementing in partnership with our strategic platform partner, du. The Smart Dubai Platform will form the digital backbone of our city in the very near future, and will support not only the Dubai Data Portal, but in fact integrate every layer of our city's digital architecture: from connecting internet of things devices to powering personal dashboards on DubaiNow.

And just this month, we announced the Dubai Blockchain Strategy in partnership with Dubai Future Foundation. A continual commitment to exploring the latest technology innovations that are improving lives for people is fundamental to what we do at Smart Dubai - and the blockchain is powerful new technology that promises to completely reshape the way most daily transactions are made, at the individual and city level. With Dubai Future Foundation, we are implementing the Dubai Blockchain Strategy to achieve 100% government transactions on the blockchain by 2021; spur industry development in Dubai using blockchain technology; and create an international blockchain system that will power seamless tourists experiences in our city, supporting every interaction from visa approvals to hailing a taxi.

There are obviously many barriers for Dubai becoming such a connected city - one of them being cybersecurity. What role is Smart Dubai playing to ensure the cybersecurity of Dubai's citizens?
Cybersecurity will be addressed at every level of the Smart Dubai Platform. Platform security is enhanced through a unified Security Operations Center managed by a higher committee of key project stakeholders including the Dubai Electronic Security Center. Data protection and the privacy of an individual is our highest priority. Only impactful and ready data will be shared and data will always be anonymous when it is shared.

The Dubai government recently announced plans to use blockchain, the database technology behind crypto currency bitcoin, for all government documents by 2020. What are your thoughts on this?
Blockchain technology is a new, powerful tool that is already shaping the future of the internet with simple, safe and secure transactions. Blockchain technology is already generating value, with $1.1 billion dollars invested in 2015 alone, and 600 new companies who are actively working on blockchain.

Recently, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, launched the Dubai Blockchain Strategy, which will be led through a collaborative partnership between Smart Dubai and the Dubai Future Foundation to achieve the city's twin goals of impacting people's happiness and delivering the future.

The Dubai Blockchain strategy is built on three pillars of government efficiency, industry creation and international leadership. By 2020, we aim to achieve 100% government participation on the blockchain - saving the city 25 million productive hours each year and over 115 Metric Tons of carbon emissions, just on paper processing alone.

We will also aim to spark thousands of new business opportunities with the technology. And, through the Global Blockchain Council, which was founded in Dubai earlier this year, we will also be creating an international network through which tourists from up to 27 can enjoy seamless entry and experiences within Dubai, benefitting from the blockchain.

Dubai will be the first city to lead an implementation of blockchain technology that will go beyond financial transactions, to unlocking opportunities and enriching experiences in all city dimensions.

Can you expand on some of the business opportunities that could come about as a result of initiatives Smart Dubai has undertaken?
We want our private sector companies to join with us and contribute to our transformation with what services and tools they have, and to be willing to work with us, and join us as partners. Today, there are hundreds of companies in Dubai who are contributing smart services to our city and many dozen who are already participating in our citywide initiatives, like the Happiness Meter, DubaiNow or the Smart District Guidelines. We are open to working with all companies: international firms, SMEs and even startups to join in our vision to make Dubai the happiest city.

There is no great line separating the public and private sector as you move through a city, and we believe a smart city should reflect this. That is why our data and our infrastructure plans don't stop at the public sector; the government is just one piece of the puzzle. We are working with all sectors to ensure we deliver a true, universal, smart experience for all individuals, in every dimension of the city: economy, health, living, education, transportation, government and environment. We are working to set the foundation, through enabling infrastructure, open and shared data, to allow all private sector partners and entrepreneurs to join us in our transformation, unlocking benefits for their own businesses, and all Dubai residents and visitors.

One such initiative where this impact will be felt very soon is the Dubai Data initiative. The goal of the Dubai Data initiative is not to publish the most data, but to unleash the greatest value from data, to improve access to opportunity and enhance quality of life for everyone in the city.

The Dubai Data initiative, led by Younus Al Nasser, CEO of the Dubai Data Establishment, organizes everything it does towards to common purpose: to unlock the greatest possible benefit from data for the city. The Dubai Data initiative identifies six primary benefits from data:

Decisiveness data demystifies the process of making decisions at every level of leadership in the city - making the city more decisive.

Efficiency data creates clarity, challenges redundancy - making the city more efficient as a whole.
Inclusiveness data benefits everybody in the city, when everybody plays a role - making the city more inclusive.

Openness: the real value of data is best harnessed, when open.

Creativity: contrary to typical belief, data is not simply logical. It unlocks creativity - making the city and its constituent creative.

Insights: above all, a city transforms when data turns into insight.

Over the past several months, a team of more than 150 data champions from entities throughout the city have been working diligently with the Dubai Data Establishment to catalogue, classify and prioritize the most impactful city data sets to open in the near future.

In that time, the Dubai Data Establishment has led the development of 21 policies and standards that articulate the Dubai Data Law, with a focus on delivering the maximum benefits from data for the city.

Thanks to the hard work on the data champions, we will be opening Dubai's data for the first time early next year. And, opening data is only the beginning. With a mandate to spark a new data economy for the city supported by data science, the Dubai Data Establishment is also currently developing programming in partnership with academic and private-sector partners that will develop a local knowledge-base for unleashing value from data for the city, individuals and business owners alike.

Can you expand on some of the opportunities for tourists as a result of Smart Dubai's initiatives?
The Smart Dubai initiative was established with a mandate to empower more seamless, safe, efficient and impactful experiences across all city dimensions: economy, living, governance, environment, mobility and people. To do this, we had a mandate to deliver 100 smart services and 1000 smart initiatives by 2017, working with 11 founding strategic partners from nine government entities and two smart districts.

Since then, we have not only achieved these targets, we have surpassed them. Today, Smart Dubai is working with more than 25 strategic partners who are delivering hundreds of smart initiatives and over 1000 smart services that are improving experiences in the city today. Earlier this month, during GITEX 2016, we had the privilege of working with 55 from across the city to demonstrate more than 300 of these services.

Some example products that will help visitors which the Smart Dubai Office has led, include: DubaiNow, the unified hub for the city services you need. DubaiNow is already available for iOS and Android, and the DubaiNow web portal has just launched in beta. DubaiNow is unifying 55 digital services from 24 government departments, private sector entities and humanitarian establishments in a single user experience. DubaiNow gives you instant access to the city services you need now, all in a single, simple interface. For example, using DubaiNow you pay all your bills and fines with a single tap, thanks to its integrated, data-sharing platform. With DubaiNow, users can assemble a personal dashboard for all their city services needs: from weather and prayer timings to bill payments and vaccination schedule reminders for your children's health.

Saad is the next evolution in our ongoing efforts to make accessing city services easy, fast and convenient. Using artificial intelligence, Saad has been trained by DED and SDG to provide all the official information you need to know about starting a business in Dubai. Benefiting from natural language processing, Saad can walk clients through the procedures, required documents and other actions necessary to start a new business in Dubai with simple, clear and reliable instructions. Saad continually learns from every interaction, meaning Saad is always getting better and better at answer your questions quickly and reliably. Soon, Saad will be expanding to other governments services. Saad will ultimately become your personal assistant for all Dubai city services.

Can you share insights about the Smart District Guidelines by Smart Dubai, and who benefits from this initiative?
The Smart Dubai Office just released the ICT Masterplan and Developer Guidelines for a smart district in partnership with Dubai Design District at Smart City Expo World Congress held in Barcelona in November. These guidelines demonstrate how a district has embraced technology to improve the quality of life for its residents and visitors, whilst simultaneously acting as a blueprint for smart cities around the world.

At every stage of development, sharing the end goal to improve every aspect of everyday life, the ICT Masterplan and Developer Guidelines also importantly factor in the critical role of technology in creating people-centered cities that offer innovative engagement and participatory mechanisms that lead to happier, more prosperous urban communities.

d3, Smart Dubai's pilot smart district has been implementing smart technology and innovation since its inception, so that rather than implementing smart initiatives in isolated sectors, its multidiscipline approach has enabled it to become a smart district at every angle. Through working together, d3 and Smart Dubai are in a unique position of freely sharing their work with the rest of the city and the world to use, enlightening other cities with their approach to further drive the growth of smart cities globally.

Traffic congestion is a major issue in Dubai, like any rapidly growing city around the world. Do you see autonomous driving taking off in Dubai in the near future?
Earlier this year, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy of 2030, which says that by 2030, 25 percent of all transportation in Dubai will be driverless. Following his mandate, RTA has already started testing their first driverless car with the first three tests done at Dubai World Trade Center, Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard and Business Bay, respectively.

Local taxi company, Careem, also announced that it will be launching driverless pods in the future and will begin its testing phase later this year. With such public and private initiatives in place, I am confident Dubai transportation will be majorly autonomous in the next 10 to 15 years.

Where do you see Smart Dubai's strategy moving towards in the coming years? For example, are there particular areas of technology you are looking into?
In the very near future, we will be announcing the next stage of our transformative roadmap, which will build on the successes that the initiative has experienced so far. This will guide our city towards a smart vision for 2021 that will prioritize people's happiness and deliver more seamless, safe, efficient and impactful experiences for the whole city. In recognition of the hard work completed by our partners so far, now we are ready to move from planning to action.

Our smart city project is a journey without an end date. The next phase of our transformation will focus on delivering benefits from technology for all city constituents: individuals, businesses, the government, and our natural resources and infrastructure.

We have structured our agenda across three impact axes, helping to ensure that every solution we deliver to the city brings the maximum possible benefit for our people, our economy and our resources. Our strategic initiatives and KPIs are defined by the outcomes we will create for the city, with a consistent focus on impacting positive experiences.

With the support of our partners and an internationally pioneering roadmap, we are confident that we have the right resources, policies and infrastructure in place to lead the next phase of our transformation to making Dubai the happiest city on earth, powered by technology innovation.

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