Dubai: stimulating a new data economy

‘While happiness is the vision that guides Smart Dubai’s city transformation, data is at the heart’, says Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General of Smart Dubai Office and CEO of Dubai Data Establishment. He tells Vision five reasons why Dubai is ahead of the smart data game

The sustainable future of our planet will be determined by what happens in its cities. A report published in July by the World Council on City Data (WCCD) found that 80 per cent of global GDP is generated in urban centres, so it is city data – on anything from how people travel, what they eat, what they spend and how and why they access healthcare – and how that information is gathered, shared and assessed, that will light the road ahead.   

Dubai has adopted the concept of sustainability as a central pillar in its plans, and launched one of the world’s most ambitious data initiatives to help commit to that agenda. The news in July that the city has been chosen by the United Nations as the Local Data Hub for the MENASA region (Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia), then, came as no surprise.  

Under the agreement, forged between the Dubai government and the WCCD, which comes under the umbrella of the United Nations, Dubai is now part of a global network of nine Local Data Hubs (other cities include Buenos Aires, Johannesburg and Haiphong) that have been tasked with gathering standardised, globally comparable city data in order to tackle worldwide, national and local issues, and to help create a sustainable environment for future generations.  

On a global level, these ‘hubs’ will help drive progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which set out an ambitious and transformative vision of an inclusive and sustainable world, free of poverty and hunger, by 2030. Locally, the agreement feeds into Dubai’s own 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, as well as the Dubai Plan 2021; a set of six strategic and development aims for the city that includes creating a “smart and sustainable city” by 2021. 

Dubai’s conversion to a ‘smart city’, under the aegis of Smart Dubai, will see it use smart technologies as a way of improving how the city functions as well as residents’ and visitors’ enjoyment. 

“While happiness is the vision that guides Smart Dubai’s city transformation, data is at the heart,” says Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General of Smart Dubai Office and CEO of Dubai Data Establishment. 

Vision looks at the steps Dubai has already taken towards stimulating a new data economy for the city:

Dubai Declaration
When Dubai hosted the Global Cities Summit in March, the meeting of international and regional leaders from over 50 cities culminated in the adoption of ‘The Dubai Declaration’, a commitment by the city’s leaders to using city data to work towards the creation of “sustainable, resilient, smart, inclusive and prosperous cities of the future.”

Dubai Data Law
One of Smart Dubai’s key initiatives is the implementation of the Dubai Data Law led by the Dubai Data Establishment; one that governs open and shared data for the public and private sector, and which Al Nasser describes as “the most comprehensive and ambitious data initiative in the world today.”

Smart Dubai 2021
Smart Dubai 2021 is a plan for the near future that will have technology at its heart. “We will simplify processes to use less paperwork,” says Al Nasser, “make services available digitally so people do not have to get in their cars and drive to a customer service centre; improve the efficiency of our infrastructure using Internet of Things to reduce waste or leakage; and deploy new, sustainable technologies for energy and water management.”

Dubai Pulse
Dubai Pulse is a digital platform that will hold all relevant data pertaining to the city. It will offer a real-time view of city data and operations; data that will assist government heads and authorities in making real-time decisions and developing initiatives. 

Dubai Data Curriculum
The specially-devised Dubai Data Curriculum, hosted in partnership with the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government, ensures that data specialists from both the public and private sector are trained in how to lead and deliver the government’s data initiatives.