Dubai’s route to ‘world’s happiest city’

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Dubai’s route to ‘world’s happiest city’

Dubai Plan 2021

By 2050, almost 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Much of the work to make cities ‘smart’ focuses on tackling the issues that arise from urbanisation. The Middle East and Asia is a leader in the implementation of smart city technology, and Dubai in particular is expected to play a significant role in the evolution of our future cities.

The capital of the Arab Emirates started its initial transformation plan in 2013, and it’s currently developing new projects to bring innovation to every part of people’s life. As part of these initiatives, Dubai is hosting the Future Cities Show 2018, which focuses on achieving sustainability through innovation, and the World Expo 2020 on ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ theme.

Despite the number of smart cities around the world increasing, there isn’t a defined way for a city to grow smart, so Dubai based its unique approach on three priorities: communication, integration, and cooperation. The uniqueness of Dubai’s project is that they decided to add one more objective to the final goal, common for everyone; in addition to  the usual aims of greater efficiency, productivity, liveability, and sustainability, Dubai also wants to achieve happiness.

People and society are the bedrock of any city, so citizens are naturally a key player in the development of Dubai’s solution. For this reason, the government started a project called the ‘Happiness Meter’ to get feedback from people about the city’s services. This system allows people to rate different services around the city, and currently gathers more than 23,000 votes per day, showing a happiness rate around 90%.

Not a bad start, but in order to ensure happiness levels get even higher the city has released the ‘Dubai Plan 2021’, a global roadmap and benchmark that splits the smart initiatives over 6 dimensions: Economy, Society, Government, Experience, People and Place.

Dubai Smart City Plan

“Our vision is to make Dubai the happiest and smartest city in the world by embracing innovation and technology as a means to improve our lives.” said Her Excellency Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, the Director General of the Smart Dubai Office.

Instead of one big investment in innovation, Dubai’s government decided to undertake multiple smaller actions, that can impact on more than one dimension, but in each case focused on people and tourists’ experience.

Sheikh Mohammed, Ruler of Dubai, said “Our ambition for this project is to touch the life of every individual in our country: every mother in her home, employee in his work, investor in his project, child in school, or a doctor in his clinic. Our aim is a happier life for all.”

One of the main initiatives relates to open data, which aims to increase transparency and stimulate innovation, both of which are core principles within the city’s vision, which sees transparent, efficient and customer-centric governance as a key element for a successful transformation program.


Dubai’s initiatives

Here are some of the other initiatives implemented in other sectors:

  • High bandwidth Wi-Fi networks to help machine-to-machine and IoT communications;
  • Smart traffic sensors to detect traffic flows;
  • Wireless sensors for a smart parking system;
  • Healthcare analytics to improve service and reduce costs;
  • Smart buildings fitted with sensors to collect information on various aspects of the building itself;
  • New technologies to enable better water and waste management;

The latest project introduced in the program is the Dubai Blockchain Strategy, which aims to use the blockchain to power the government and enhance its global competitiveness. The technology is still under development, but it’s a great tool for privacy and secure records online, as well as to speed up transactions, increase transparency and reduce money laundering. Dubai wants to be the first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020, to be ready for the future.

The adoption of a Blockchain technology at city scale is seen as a huge effort for the purpose to lead global thinking and transform the industry, and it’s one of the main reasons that led the UAE’s capital to win the Smart City 2017 Award, at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona. The jury also valued its commitment to support the creation of a blockchain industry empowering start-ups and businesses.

Next steps

Dubai seems to have identified the primary reason why cities should become smarter: improving citizens’ lives. New technologies can positively affect the environmental impact of a city and improve its performances, but they are useless if they don’t take into consideration people’s needs.

Keep an eye on Dubai’s latest initiatives, because a city that cares about the happiness of its citizens should really be held as example for all those who want to enter the Smart Cities universe.    

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