Dubai's landmark Smart City strategy is revolutionising the way its residents and visitors live, work and play.
As it strives to become the world's smartest city by 2021, Dubai is pursuing one of the most ambitious Information & Communication Technology (ICT) integration programmes ever undertaken.
Under Dubai's Smart City strategy, launched in 2014, authorities are embarking on more than 545 ongoing or planned initiatives designed to reshape the way residents and visitors alike experience the city.
Key strategic goals include: transforming more than 1,100 essential government services into smart services carried out primarily online; introducing autonomous vehicles and smart transportation services; providing free, high-speed wi-fi across the emirate; and developing a data-driven economy that authorities estimate will generate an additional AED10.4 billion (US$2.83 billion) in GDP by 2021.
Underpinning these remarkable developments will be a telecommunications backbone that will be among the world's most technologically advanced.
"The Smart Dubai Platform will be unlike any other smart city platform operating in the world today," says Her Excellency Dr Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of Smart Dubai Office, the government agency charged with rolling out Dubai's smart city strategy.
As Dr Aisha explains, Dubai's strategy is unparalleled in its ambition. "Smart Dubai [is] pioneering the most comprehensive blueprint globally – [one that] encompasses the whole city," she says.
Smartphone near-ubiquity key to strategic vision
Central to the success of Dubai's Smart City strategy is the proliferation of smartphones in the emirate. According to Google's Global Smartphone Penetration Index, Almost eight in every 10 UAE residents own at least one smartphone, making the country the biggest market for smart handsets in the world. UAE residents are also among the world's biggest consumers of mobile data.
The collection of user-generated data will enable Dubai's authorities to plan and implement an exciting range of intelligent ICT-based services benefiting sectors from transport to healthcare.
The introduction of the Dubai Data Law in 2015 has also helped to ensure that the public and private sectors share data, in accordance with international best practices for anonymisation and standardisation, to facilitate connectivity and access to services and information. This will "lead to better decision-making…and really fuel the creativity and innovation across different sectors," says Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General of Smart Dubai Office.
A smart city is a happy city
The happiness of residents and visitors to Dubai is being gauged as a key facet in the emirate's Smart City strategy. A citywide ICT-based programme was introduced in 2016 which gave members of the public the chance to provide feedback – good or bad – on everything from the quality of essential services to leisure activities.
A survey carried out that same year found 83 per cent of Dubai residents were happy living in the city. The Dubai Happiness Agenda aims to boost this figure to 95 per cent by 2021.
"In Dubai, we believe that happiness can be achieved; that happiness can be measured, and that we can aid our leadership to positively impact happiness for the city, through science and technology," says Smart Dubai's Dr. Aisha.
"The Happiness Snapshot study collects valuable data on the beliefs and motivations of Dubai residents towards happiness in the city. In the near future, this data will be used by city leaders to guide decision-making on new projects and positively influence the happiness of people in Dubai," she added.
Ultimately, this pioneering approach will make Dubai a model example for future Smart City developments worldwide.