Switching To Mobile-Government; A Smart City Initiative In Dubai

Smartness defines the new age! Be it the work individuals perform or the personality they wish to imbibe into, all needs to be defined with a sense of smartness, presentation and effectiveness. And this new approach is not just restricted to individuals but also  organizations and even individual big cities. Across the globe, cities are adopting smarter technologies and approaches to transform themselves to into more efficient, effective and well managed entities so that they can gain competitive edge and strike a distinctive brand image.

From Nice and Barcelona in Europe to Singapore in Asia, smarter initiatives are undertaken. These initiatives, which are expressed in the form of bundling numerous different innovative technology solutions are aimed towards, effectively and successfully managing numerous challenges, pertaining to energy and water shortages, management of resources, pollution, safety and traffic congestion etc. Not to mention, offering a comprehensive and simple solution to the residents and tourists to meet their needs such as paying bills, filling up forms and assessing real time information on schools, hospitals and parking space.

The present trend of infusing smartness has successfully cascaded into UAE as well. In UAE, besides Dubai, which many analysts believe as the frontrunner in spearheading new initiatives in the region, Masdar city in Abu Dhabi is also implementing the smart city technologies.

In the context of Dubai, on which the subsequent parts of this report developed by Research Konnection Team will be focused, the smart city initiative seems to be on a full swing. It is getting implemented under the supervision of Dubai’s Crown Prince HH Sheikh Hamadan and is based on a philosophical understanding of combining together public and private organizations to nurture communication, integration and cooperation. The initiative was incubated in October last year, however, the genesis could be traced back much before in HH Sheikh Mohammad, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai’s vision to transform the emirate into a world-class city for residents, businesses and tourists alike.

The present phase of smart city is more focused on the smart government plan which is aimed at managing the transition of Dubai from eGovernment to mobile or mGovernment. It is capitalizing on high mobile, particularly smartphone penetration (73.8 percent, highest across the globe) of the emirate and is determined towards integrating various public service departments, information system and infrastructure into one unified system, which will pave way for accessing all the government services through a single login on mobile phone. As a constructive step in this direction, an application named smart store has been developed with the help of Apple and Google. The application offers more than hundred applications and can be used for accessing 700 customer services from one platform.

The smart government plan will also draw its strength  form the existing robust online usages of government services in the Emirate. According to the data revealed by the government, last year, 38.1 percent of the services were accessed by the web and was associated with an astounding 90 percent of satisfaction level. The ePay portal which can be used by individuals and corporates for paying bill for 250 government services has accounted for a total transaction of AED 5.6 billion (USD 1.52 billion) in 2013, a 37 percent increase from previous year.

Due to robust online usage of government services, which is aided with high internet penetration, the situation looks ripe for a mobile centric transition. On a technological level, it is being implemented with the help of rolling out a network of interconnected information system, Konnected with the smart sensors.

The suitability of the present situation is also evident from the unprecedented 265 percent rise in mPay, an iPhone and android friendly mobile application, which can be used by the residents of Dubai for a range of service such as paying for Salik cards, electricity bill, traffic police fines, Etisalat payments and donations to charity such as Dubai Cares and Al Jalila foundation. The rapid growth of such platforms indicates higher inclination for latest technologies among the residents of Dubai, further lending support to the smart government initiatives.

Besides, the smart government mentioned above, the larger smart city plan involves numerous other action plans such as; developing Wi-Fi internet facilities in parks, buses and taxis; conceptualizing ‘My Window to Dubai’ which will facilitate easy access of all the information pertaining to schools, healthcare, road, transport, buildings and energy under one platform and development of a unified control system to manage all forms of transportation and traffic.

It will also develop smart meters to rationalize the consumption of water and electricity and use of smart grids to encourage households and other property owners towards using renewable solar energy and selling surplus energy back to the government to ensure conservation of energy. The smart city also plans an open laboratory called 5-D control room, which can encourage creative individuals and organizations to try and test the very latest innovations in science and technologies.

There are multitude benefits associated with the smart city initiative. Firstly, it can ensure easy access of services for the residents and visitors at lesser cost. Secondly, it can confer benefits to environment in the form of lessened use of paper receipts and decrease in carbon footprint and traffic congestion by avoidance of unnecessary visits to government counters. Thirdly, it can result into effective usage of energy and water resources and fourthly, the overall plan which is associated with a total investment of AED 55 billion (USD 15 billion), is expected to generate 27,000 new jobs from 2013 and 2018.

Besides, influencing the lives of its 2.1 million residents, the smart city project is also anticipated to be positively interlinked with the vibrant tourism sector in Dubai, which presently receives over eleven million annual tourists for leisure, business and medical objectives. After winning the bid to host the world exposition 2020, the emirate wishes to further hit the blooming sector and is determined at adding near around nine million more annual visitors by 2020 with the help of developing new international airport, hotels and convention centers.

In such a crucial time, the impact of smart city initiative on Dubai’s robust tourism sector will be twofold. At one hand, it can help the incoming visitors with a simple and hassle free single window to plan, manage and execute all their requirements. This could range from administrative processes to paper less smart receipt for shopping.On the other hand, it can add huge value to brand Dubai by helping it showcase itself as one of the smartest cities across the globe. This can indirectly assist in Dubai’s ambition to further rise up the ladder in the international tourism landscape.

Dubai has the entire existing infrastructure, which encapsulates high internet broad band network, 4G internet and higher penchant towards new technologies for successful implementation of such smart initiatives. However, the ambitious initiative is not insulated with challenges, one of them being the unavailability of Wi-Fi internet in public places in the present time. Second major challenge, involves the integration of service and technological dimensions of public and private sector. The integration with the private sector is believed to intensify the challenge. Thirdly, on data management and retrieval front the Emirate suffers from closed data sets and isolated silos, which might pose its own bottleneck. But given the track record of the city in executing mammoth projects at swift speed, this won’t be a herculean task. Dubai can easily manage such bottlenecks to roll-out the ambitious project effectively.

This research report is compiled by Research Konnection Team; a Dubai based market research and business consulting firm that is focused on capturing latest insights and happenings of major events across various sectors and industries in UAE. If you are looking for more research, information and qualitative/quantitative data, then feel free to contact us on waqas@researchkonnection.com. We also assist in preparation of feasibility study, business and marketing plans.

Author: RKonnect
The author is the Managing Director of Research Konnection, a Dubai based market research and consulting firm that helps local and international companies to identify emerging business opportunities and successfully expand in the Gulf region. The author can be reached at waqas@researchkonnection.com
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