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Dubai government targets Smart City transformation

The Prime Minister of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has announced the launch of a new project aimed at transforming Dubai into a smart city built around open access to high-speed public wireless internet and near field communication.

“As a smart city, government departments will be inter-connected to provide faster services and information to all citizens and guests,” Sheikh Mohammed announced last week. “We strive to create a new smart concept in running cities. Through experience, we have learned that there is no one-model-fits-all for development. We strive to catalyse innovation and push higher the limits of using technology to benefit people.”

At his stage, details are somewhat vague. There’s a vision to construct a new fibre backbone that will support a network of smart hotspots, with mention of cloud computing and NFC. A government-led committee has been set up to oversee the project, headed by Mohammad Bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, who runs Shaikh Mohammad’s executive office, and Crown Prince Shaikh Hamdan will supervise the implementation of the project. The Dubai Smart City project will feature the largest partnership of its kind between Dubai’s public and private sector.

“Implementing the project and improving the quality of life in the emirate requires cooperation between the public and private sector,” said Shaikh Hamdan, adding that it will “rank Dubai among leading and most sophisticated cities in the world, and further reaffirms its capabilities to achieve high standards of living for citizens, residents, and visitors.”

Research firm IDC comments that any Smart City initiative must involve a multifaceted transformation of services and infrastructure, impacting numerous areas from the provision of transport, energy, and healthcare services, to the state of public safety and government services.

“The same key questions often arise in cities as diverse as Beijing or Boston, as they consider how to grow and keep pace with technology and the expectations of their citizens and businesses,” said Mukesh Chulani, Research Manager for IDC Government Insights. “We see a similar drive towards Smarter City status by the Emirate of Dubai, where the focus is squarely on ensuring that government services are accessible and delivered quickly and efficiently. This has been the case with a wide range of government projects that can be viewed as a basis for the Smart City initiative, ranging from the Emirates Identity Authority’s Population Register and the National ID Card Project (PRIDC) to DEWA’s online bill payment.”

For a Smart City solution to be considered smart, IDC says it must gather and aggregate data via pervasive broadband networks; employ robust software to process, cleanse, and consolidate collected data; and ensure mechanisms are in place to respond to the analysed information.

“Dubai already has many of the right pieces of the puzzle upon which to build its Smart City initiative,” said Chulani. “It has already invested in solutions to utilise biometrics for secure and efficient border clearance, centralised government payments, and created a base technology platform for departments to utilise shared solutions such as its Government Resources Planning System. Its cross-border electronic data interchange system is among the best in the world.”

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