The MBR Smart Majlis programme places innovation in your hands

Fittingly launched via Twitter, Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Majlis is an online platform that crowdsources bold solutions for Dubai’s development. Initiative Manager Mohamed bin Obood al Falasi tells Vision how the unique programme is transforming the emirate from within

I have an idea. It involves collecting all the used cooking oil discarded by Dubai’s many restaurants and converting it into biodiesel. I think it’s a good idea, but what to do with it? Up until October 2015, the answer was not very much. During that time, however, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched, via Twitter, his eponymous Smart Majlis, an online platform designed to crowdsource innovative solutions for Dubai’s development. In the 18 months since the programme’s development, more than 43,000 such lightbulb moments have been submitted to the portal and reviewed by government departments. Many of them are now in development.

“The aim is for Dubai to be the most innovative city in the world,” says Mohamed bin Obood al Falasi, Initiative Manager at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Majlis, who oversee operations at their Emirates Towers headquarters. “Historically, the majlis is an official place for people from different neighbourhoods and different social classes to come and discuss concerns, requests and ideas,” he says. As a boy, Sheikh Mohammed frequently attended his father Sheikh Rashid’s majlis. “There are now so many communities here in Dubai and the population has increased,” says al Falasi. “The platform will enable us to gather all the people’s ideas and comments to help shape the future of Dubai.”

The MBR Smart Majlis is a slick solution, and part of a growing trend for cities to crowdsource some of their most innovative ideas. The portal allows registered users, of which there are now almost 16,000 from all over the world, to submit innovative ideas for streamlining the city, as well as more prosaic feedback on issues like broken traffic signals, or a fallen tree. These submissions are then directed to 40 government departments, all of whom have a dedicated team assigned to reviewing and deciding whether or not to take the idea further. 

“His Highness supervises the results,” says Al Falasi. “We [at the Smart Majlis] monitor what happens to each idea, and see which government departments approve lots of ideas but don’t execute them – that’s a red flag – as are departments that don’t approve anything. Those departments are then offered more training.” 

Every government department has a budget for innovation, and those entities seen to be doing the most to drive progress are ranked, with special commendation going to the five top performers. Equally, those people whose ideas become reality are recognised by Sheikh Mohammed himself.  

“His Highness’ Smart Majlis receives ideas from everyone,” says Al Falasi. “You never know where the good ideas are going to come from.”

Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Majlis awards ceremony
The Smart Majlis crowdsources ideas, allowing local innovators to enact real change in the emirateImage: The Executive Office

Ideas in development from Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Majlis:

Infrastructure

• An online platform is currently being created by Dubai Land Department to review contractors and consultants within Dubai’s busy construction industry.

• A solar-powered parking facility is being piloted at Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA)’s main office, in which solar panels form part of the parking structure. The power generated can then be used to light the car park at night and to charge electric cars. DEWA has also committed to using new solar materials with the latest technology in their future buildings.

• Rather than using men to do the dangerous job of inspecting Dubai’s many power lines, drones are now being trialled, thanks to a submission by an Emirati woman.

Business and entrepreneurship

• An initiative has been launched by the Executive Council that aims to use the UAE’s retired population by encouraging them to become board members and to provide mentoring for the younger generation.

• A scheme has been approved that aims to give young, local entrepreneurs a leg-up by reducing the cost of advertising on roads and cars by 50 per cent.

Education 

• A scheme is being trialled by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in schools whereby child-size operating theatres and dental surgeries are set up, complete with props, in which children can play. The aim is two-fold: to inspire children to want to work within the health sector and to reduce the common childhood fear of going to the doctor or dentist. 

• “7 Signs” is an initiative that aims to raise awareness of sign language in schools, and therefore in future governments.