The Smart Dubai initiative has grown immensely since 1999
In a relatively short period of less than a decade, Dubai has rapidly emerged as a global leader in the introduction of smart services designed to help the economy, make government services seamless and impactful, and ultimately make the people of Dubai - Emiratis and expats alike - happier.
The Smart Dubai initiative - anchored by the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai- is building upon a legacy of innovative programmes, which began with the launch of Dubai eGovernment in 1999, when global Internet penetration was still less than five per cent.
Since that time, the initiative has grown immensely, and the Smart Dubai roadmap boasts of 545 current and planned smart services and initiatives from a variety of strategic partners and government entities.
"As a smart city, government departments will be inter-connected to provide faster services and information to all citizens and guests. We strive to create a new smart concept in running cities," Shaikh Mohammed noted in 2013. "Through experience, we have learned that there is no one-model-fits all for development. We strive to catalyse innovation and push the limits of using technology to benefit people.
"Our goal is to improve the quality of life, as we aim to harness technology for the establishment of a new reality in the city of Dubai," Shaikh Mohammed added. "We want our services to reach every child, mother, youth, businessman and tourist to make a new quality of life for all."
The initiatives broadly fall under six dimensions - Smart Economy, Smart Living, Smart Mobility, Smart ICT Infrastructure, Smart Governance, Smart Environment and lastly, Smart People.
Similarly, in an interview with Khaleej Times, Dr Aisha Bin Bishr, Director-General of Smart Dubai Office, said that "Smart Dubai is committed to creating the best possible city experience for everyone in Dubai".
"Smart technology is our tool to accomplish that goal," she added. "We are working with partners across the city - in the government, the private sector, start-ups and academia - to explore and deliver new or enhanced services that make life in Dubai more efficient, seamless, safe and impactful for everyone."
Dr Bin Bishr noted that there are numerous ways in which smart technology can make life easier for residents of the emirate.
"For example, app-based solutions such as one-tap bill payments through the DubaiNow app; or services like smart parking from the Roads and Transport Authority that save you time; and even infrastructure enhancements including the Smart Grid by the Dubai Water and Electricity Authority that lead to energy and cost savings. Whether you are a government leader, a business owner, a parent or a tourist, our goal is to make your experience in Dubai a happy one."
While numerous government entities have adopted smart services, residents are perhaps most likely to have encountered the UAE's unique "Happiness Meter" - the world's first city-wide, live sentient capture energy - which allows the government to gauge how happy various government services make residents.
Sumaia bin Hamad, Director of Dubai Smart Government's Marketing and Corporate Communications Department, likened the use of Dubai's use of innovative technology as nothing more than "a means to an end."
"It's like the example of a cell phone. A cell phone doesn't make us happy, but by using the cell phone in a better way, we can connect to people and create opportunities," she said.
Looking to the near future, Dr Bin Bishr noted that the next important step in Dubai's smart city journey is the sharing of data between different government entities, which, as a whole, will provide the information necessary for the government to make the use of technology more seamless and beneficial.
"Right now, over 100 data champions from our government entities are working to prepare their entity's data for opening and sharing through the Dubai Data Portal, which is part of the Smart Dubai Platform, in line with the mandate of the Dubai Data Law announced by His Highness (Shaikh Mohammed) in October 2015," she explained.
"The city's data is the fuel of our smart city, and very soon the benefits of the data will be unleashed for the whole city," she added. "The insights we can gain from open data will make the city more inclusive and creative, while shared data between government entities will enhance our decision-making and planning, and make the city more efficient."
Apps for festivals
Tech-savvy festival goers in Dubai have a variety of useful apps to choose from.
The Dubai Calendar app, for example, allows people - travellers and residents alike - to learn about the wide variety of conferences, concerts, exhibitions, festivals, promotions and events related to art, culture, fashion, health and sport that take place in Dubai.
Additionally, many specific festivals come complete with their own apps. The Dubai Shopping Festival, for example, has its own app, as does the Global Village, whose app enables guests to enjoy multiple services such as a car locator and provides the location of country pavilions, shopping opportunities, special attractions, rest rooms, ATMs and more. The app also features daily entertainment schedules throughout the event.
Smart Apps for charity
In October, the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities launched the 'Emirates Charity', creating a unified database for all charity institutions to avoid duplication of assistance.
The app, which allows philanthropists to donate anywhere at any time through an official, authenticated and legal channel with just a few clicks, has already collected hundreds of millions of dirhams for approved charities.
These charities include the ones for the poor, those which help students and families, donate to relief funds, Zakat, or even for the construction of mosques.
The department's apps also help residents identify the nearest mosques, find out about prayer timings, and give fast access to the new Quran version of the popular Sheikh Maktoum Mus'haf, which allows users to search for the name and number of Quranic verses using voice commands.
Lastly, a special app has been launched for the benefit of staff under the theme 'Solidarity Fund' which officials have described as support in case of emergency situations.
Source: Khaleej Times
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