Making an entire city happy is not an easy task, but Smart Dubai has been making it happen, one digital service at a time. Today, we celebrate four years of turning bold visions into realities.

Our story began in March 2014, when His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the Smart Dubai initiative to transform Dubai into a happiest and smartest city in the world.

The initiative was launched with a clear mandate; deliver 100 smart initiatives and 1000 smart services in three years. The initiative also defined four strategic pillars that will be driving Smart Dubai to provide services that are efficient, seamless, safe, and personalized city experiences. Smart Dubai’s work also spans six dimensions classifying initiatives citywide, and these are economy, living, governance, mobility, environment, and people.

To achieve its mandate, Smart Dubai needed to determine the definitive global ranking or success index for building a smart city.

In January 2015, Smart Dubai Office formed a collaborative partnership with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United Nations (UN) to define the first global smart city index and identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Subsequent to the Smart City Index, today we are still collaborating with ITU to define smart city global standards with UN member states, and even co-chairing some of these activities.

The ongoing collaboration aimed to deliver an internationally adopted, performance-driven index, and objectively evaluated smart cities that could serve as a roadmap to smart city transformation for the emerging world.

October 2015 was a pivotal moment for Smart Dubai’s transformative mission, as data sharing became mandated by the Dubai Data Law. The comprehensive data law, announced by H.H. Sheikh Mohammad, paved the way for the world’s most ambitious and comprehensive data initiative in the world.

In keeping with the vision of Smart Dubai, the data law governs not only the opening of city data but also the sharing of data between entities from the public and private sectors. Opening and sharing data aims to unleash its greatest value to increase access to opportunity and improve the quality of life in Dubai.

On November 26th, 2015, Smart Dubai Office officially began its operations, equipped with the legal and organizational framework, to lead the collaborative efforts of all city stakeholders, and guide the most ambitious smart city transformation, to create happiness by embracing technology, and make Dubai the happiest city on earth.

Though Smart Dubai may just be 4 years old today, digital transformation is not novel to Dubai, and infact started about two decades ago, with the formation of the Dubai e-Government in 1999. Hence, the task of Smart Dubai was not to design a smart city project, but rather to unify the existing initiatives into one strategy and connect the efforts of a citywide network of partners, from both public and private sectors, on strategic, operational and infrastructure levels.

2016: The Pursuit of Happiness 

In March 2016, the vision of Smart Dubai was supported by the newly found Dubai Data Establishment, currently known as Smart Dubai Data, to oversee the implementation of the Dubai Data Law, enforce the rules of participation for opening and sharing data, and ensure that data collected by government entities are effectively shared within such entities and with the private sector. 

To ensure healthy data exchange it was essential to launch the Happiness Agenda in May 2016, one of our earliest initiatives dedicated to guide the city’s transformation and prioritize happiness in our journey.

The Happiness Agenda provides a scientific and systematic approach to understand the happiness factors in the city and address the needs of people that are essential to enhancing happiness.

The key players on the Happiness Agenda are so “Happiness Champions,” seniors from more than 42 government and semi-government entities in Dubai, where they implement the Happiness Agenda projects and carry on new ones. 

To deliver on its mandate, Smart Dubai worked on The Happiness Meter, a service application that was introduced to interaction touchpoints in public entities, to capture customer satisfaction levels.

The Happiness Meter was introduced to interaction touchpoints in public entities, to capture customer satisfaction levels.

Data collected from the Happiness Meters power an analytics dashboard for the city to track happiness levels across in real-time. The results obtained from all entities and touchpoints are then calculated for the citywide Happiness Index.

Daring to design the future of Dubai, Smart Dubai started exploring the latest technology breakthroughs that could position Dubai as a global leader in harnessing these innovations for people-centric purposes. 

Under this vision, Smart Dubai launched the Dubai Blockchain Strategy in 2016, in collaboration with the Dubai Future Foundation, to kickstart the journey toward a blockchain-powered Dubai.

2017: Surpassing the Mandate

The year 2017 marked record-breaking achievements for Smart Dubai. Four months before the three-year deadline, Smart Dubai has not only achieved its mandate; it has surpassed it. We delivered 121 smart initiatives and 1,129 smart services by collaborating with all Dubai government entities and several private sector partners.

The achievements stand as a testimony to the success of the collaborative approach that Smart Dubai has embraced and fostered.

In 2017, collaboration across the city rose to unprecedented levels with the launch of the DubaiPulse data exchange platform, the digital backbone of the smart city initiative.

With the support of “Data Champions,” Smart Dubai Data identifies, prioritizes, and classifies and published data sets on Dubai Pulse.

The “Data Champions” are a community of public sector organization change agents leading the implementation of Dubai Data initiatives within government entities and ensuring organizational compliance with the Dubai Data Law.

By 2017, Happiness Meters became available for both public and private sector entities and on all digital customer interaction channels and registered 14 million votes that recorded 89% happiness in Dubai.

Expanding our applications that cater to customer experience, Smart Dubai launched the Dubai Careers portal in 2017 to connect job seekers of all categories with more than 45 Dubai government entities.

During the first year, 65000 candidates registered on Dubai Careers to navigate through more than 1100 opportunities posted by 38 partner entities, and 131 applicants were hired. Smart Dubai has continuously enhanced the app to provide a better experience for applicants.

Today, candidates can fill and submit their applications in just 3.4 minutes. They can also track their job application status, receive email notifications, and complete video interviews using any smart device. As a result, the portal has hosted 2,665 job opportunities, and received 1,393,586 applications, out of which 944 applicants were successfully hired.

Smart Dubai also developed the Smart Employee application for managers and employees of Dubai government entities, where they can easily access the worklist, submit and update leave requests, see history and balances, view current and past payslips, and more.

We concluded 2017 by another initiative that aims to position Dubai as a global pioneer in emerging technologies. In partnership with IBM, Smart Dubai kickstarted the Dubai AI initiative by developing the AI roadmap and launched the AI Lab to explore the possible integration into government services and city experiences, in ways that both boost innovation and deliver human benefit and happiness.

2018: Preparing for 2021

Since the beginning of our operations, we carefully chose purposeful initiatives and projects that touch the lives of everyone in Dubai. These initiatives are bringing us closer to making Dubai a happy, resilient, sustainable, and smart city that boasts a globally competitive economy, powered by disruptive and emerging technologies.

The year 2018 brought to us a new challenge: Preparing Dubai to embrace the future, now.

Under the Smart Dubai 2021 vision, the Dubai Paperless Strategy was launched in February 2018 by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council.

The strategy, a globally first of its kind initiative, seeks to transfer all applicable government transactions to one digital mobile application by the end of 2021, ensuring all of them are 100% paperless.

In collaboration with six Dubai government entities, our early work identified 72 journeys where paper could be eliminated. The journeys were consolidated from 1,660 services.

Naturally the DubaiNow app, Dubai’s most comprehensive app, is one of the leading applications that are supporting the paperless strategy.

In 2018, Smart Dubai continually improved Dubai’s unified service platform used by more than 313,053 persons. As a result, smart services available on the app grew from 55 to 61, provided by 28 partners from the public and private sectors.

Also, Dubai’s first AI-powered chatbot Rashid found its home on DubaiNow to become the user’s most trusted advisor by offering official and reliable answers to questions regarding the necessary procedures, documents, and requirements to conduct various transactions in Dubai.

In October 2018, Smart Dubai celebrated another fundamental enabler for the digital and paperless transformation for the nation as a whole: UAE Pass, the first national digital identity in the Emirates.

Through a smartphone-based authentication, users will have a single digital identity across both local and federal government entities, in addition to other service providers. It also enables users to sign documents digitally with a high level of security.

UAE Pass is developed in collaboration between Smart Dubai and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and in partnership with Abu Dhabi Digital Authority.

2019: Feet on the Ground, Head in the Future

In our fourth year of operation, the paperless movement in Dubai was steadily making progress in eliminating paper and changing a habit that has been cultivated for centuries.

Today, 15 government entities have successfully reduced their consumption of paper by 74 million pieces a year, saving annually 3.5 million hours and AED 335 million in the process.

Always supporting the paperless progress, the DubaiNow app is now offering 88 services through digital seamless, integrated customer journeys. It acts as a one-stop-shop for all of Dubai’s Government-To-Consumer services.

Providing these digital services has reduced the average number of times individuals need to travel to customer service centers annually from 23 to 9, saving 28 hours per year.

At the same time, Smart Dubai Data has continued to successfully promote the data culture and position Dubai as a world frontrunner in open data governance.

In this light, Smart Dubai launched “Data First, The City’s Data Challenge”, a six-month-long challenge that brings together Smart Dubai’s government and semi-government data partners to underline the importance of collaborative efforts in data Management, collection and insight generation. To date, a total of 35 Dubai government and semi-government departments joined the Challenge by providing their respective data to the Dubai Pulse platform.

By now, DubaiPulse has identified more than 2,000 datasets from participating entities and ingested 460 datasets; it also attracted more than 2 million hits from visitors and data seekers, a figure that reflects the growing interest and importance of the city-data.  Equipped with leading edge city data expertise and insight, Smart Dubai was humbled to co-chair the Data Economy, Commercialization and Monetization Working Group in ITU as part of the global Focus Group on Data Processing and Management between July 2017 and July 2019.

Looking ahead into the future, we also increased our focus on blockchain and artificial intelligence. These technologies, although they are still nascent, they could potentially shape the future by transforming entire industries.

Under the umbrella of the Dubai Blockchain Strategy and in partnership with Dubai Future accelerators, Smart Dubai hosted the second edition of the world’s largest blockchain gathering, the Future Blockchain Summit, with more than 9000 attendees.

Part of the Summit, Smart Dubai also organized the 3rd edition of the Smart Dubai Global Blockchain Challenge, that aims to promote innovative applications of the technology across various sectors. Startups from 79 countries participated in the challenge by submitting more than 700 applications and blockchain use cases, out of which three were final winners.

The blockchain initiative in Dubai further matured with the launch of the Dubai Future Council for Blockchain in January 2019, to understand how Blockchain can play a vital role in creating the future of Dubai and the UAE.

The Council is chaired by Smart Dubai’s Director General H.E. Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr.

Soon after its formation, the Council launched the Dubai Blockchain Policy, aiming to support government entities and private companies to implement the technology and form value-creating blockchain networks.

In continuation of Dubai’s AI roadmap, Smart Dubai is currently working on 43 use cases with 20 government entities across 10 different industry sectors.

In addition, Smart Dubai launched the Dubai AI Principles and Ethics designed to inspire an AI behavior that is based on ethics, security, humanity, and inclusiveness.

Smart Dubai also unveiled the Ethical AI Toolkit to provide practical help across a city ecosystem to offer unified guidance that is continuously improved in collaboration with our communities.

The eventual goal is to reach widespread agreement and adoption of commonly agreed policies to inform the ethical use of AI not just in Dubai but around the world.

To Dubai, and Beyond

Throughout our four years of operations, Smart Dubai was able to inspire new realities for people in Dubai and beyond. Today, our efforts are noticed and recognized on a global level, as we have accumulated a total of 11 international awards since 2015.

Most notably, Smart Dubai brought home the prestigious 2019 SXSW Interactive Innovation Award for the Paperless Strategy during the world-renowned South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference & Festivals held in Austin Texas.

Smart Dubai also won three awards at the Stevie Awards 2019; a Gold Stevie was awarded to the Smart Employee application a Silver for the Business Intelligence HRMS service and a Bronze for the Asset Tracking System (ATS).

Finally, one not to forget, is the City Project Award we received at the 2017 Smart Cities Expo World Congress in Barcelona Spain for the visionary Dubai Blockchain Strategy we launched in 2016.

We are also a proud management team member and one of the leaders of the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) initiative, which is the only global initiative supported by 16 United Nations agencies in the field of smart sustainable cities. In 2019, Smart Dubai was recognized as the first city in the world to implement the U4SSC KPIs for Smart Sustainable Cities successfully.

Her Excellency, Dr. Aisha Butti Bint Bishr Director General of Smart Dubai, is chairing the SDG11 Global Council and holds the cities chair in the Global Happiness Council.

Dr. Aisha is also a member of the Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization in the World Economic Forum.

Last but not least, Smart Dubai has launched its Smart Cities Global Network that has attracted more than 360 members from all over the world to share knowledge and expertise in smart cities.

Our select engagements and participation in international bodies allow us to jointly develop and use international standards, share best practices, and plan for upcoming technologies that will shape the future of cities.