Towards the world’s happiest city
Aisha Bin Bishr, first woman to lead the Smart Dubai Office as director general, launched in October 2014 the Happiness Meter, a system enabling residents to express their satisfaction levels at every city interaction touchpoint.
This system, extended to all digital customer interaction channels (mobile applications or web-based widgets), was the first step of a smart city strategy based on a broad use of city data to listen residents’ needs and increase the levels of happiness with city services offered by public and private actors in Dubai. All the data collected contribute to track happiness levels across the city in real time in the framework of the Happiness Index, fueled by 6 million votes since the beginning of the initiative. The Happiness Meter is reporting a real-time happiness index of 90% for city services but it is still not enough. “We are now working on initiatives that will analyze the residents’ emotions and sentiments as well. Our goal is to increase Dubai’s Happiness Index level to 95% by 2021” explains Bin Bishr.
While most of the cities adopting smart city strategies just focus on the use of ICT for urban development and economic growth, Dubai firmly decided to focus on residents’ happiness as Dubai is doing with its Smart Dubai initiative, aimed at becoming a benchmark to smart city transformation for the emerging world.
Collectively these actions not only clogged up traffic and enraged car drivers, but also created what Heinrich best describes as a ‘political tsunami’, generating massive media exposure across the country, predominately in favor of the bike activists.
Because of this media exposure, together with the fact the group was able to engage 1,300 volunteers and set up over 200 survey boxes across the city, in just three weeks, the group collected over 105,000 signatures.
“Using technology as an enabler, we are providing the city with the right tools and policies that will help make life better and happier for all of the city’s residents and visitors”
Bin Bishr, who is part of a new generation of women assuming leadership positions in United Arab Emirates with a strong background on ICT and public management gained at national and international level (Bin Bishr holds a PHD in Management, Science, Technology and Innovation from Manchester Business School).
An extensive exercise to understand the current state of smart technology in Dubai was the departing point to map all the existing smart services and initiatives which contributed in the last decade to increase the efficiency of the Dubai local government. “Our goal is to continue to increase the efficiency of our government services to create even better experiences in the city and to expand this framework to the private sector so all the residents, business owners, city leaders and even tourists can benefit” highlights Bin Bishr.
The success of the Happiness Index led to the creation of new initiatives, such as the Happiness Agenda announced in May 2016 to guide Dubai to prioritize happiness in its smart transformation through a methodological and science-based approach aimed at maximizing the happiness impact in all the different sectors of the city action.
“While happiness is the vision that guides our smart transformation, data is at the heart”
that is made clearly visible by the Dubai Data Initiative, which is promoting a collaborative approach to opening and sharing city data. “We are working with a team of more than 200 Data Champions from government entities and the private sector to prepare the most impactful city data for opening and sharing early next year”. All open city data are currently shared on the Dubai Pulse open platform, which is a digital aggregator for the data produced at urban level and facilitates the collaboration between public and private institutions, as well as with developers and residents.
“Dubai is looking to transform the whole city, not just one district or industry. It would be impossible to accomplish such an ambitious transformation working alone or working in silos” underlines Bin Bishr.
Getting different entities to work together around the Smart Dubai platform was quite challenging at the beginning, admits Bin Bishr, “but thanks to Smart Dubai’s efforts over the past three years this mindset is changing and we are seeing increased interest in collaboration across all the sectors in the city”.
Dubai is on the forefront of innovation also in terms of urban application of technologies which are going to completely reshaping people’s daily behaviors. In 2016 the city announced the Dubai Blockchain Strategy with the aim of achieving 100% government transactions on the blockchain by 2021. The creation of an international blockchain system will be beneficial not only for residents but also for tourists, who will be able to use this system for visa approvals or to take a taxi. “People do not easily embrace change – says Bin Bishr – When the Internet was launched, it revolutioned the way the world interacted with each other and conducted business. Blockchain will do the same for transactions, but getting people to get used to the new way of life and adapting blockchain and other upcoming technologies in their every life will take some time”.
I love Dubai because…it is my birthplace and city of upbringing but also because of its dynamic and visionary leadership understanding their people’s needs, able to anticipate future trends
I believe Dubai…will always be a place where dreams are made a reality
My second favorite city (after Dubai) is…Paris, even as the world progresses every day, I would appreciate how Paris always ensures to preserve their history and culture
Smart Dubai www.smartdubai.ae
Dubai Blockchain Strategy www.smartdubai.ae/dubai_blockchain.php
About AISHA Bin Bishr by Simone d’Antonio.