Interview: Aisha bin Bishr

How is blockchain technology reshaping the public sector and its administrative procedures?

AISHA BIN BISHR: When the Dubai Blockchain Strategy was launched in October 2016 we understood it would be a key long-term technology for enhancing government performance. However, it is important to note that the technology is still nascent and more pilot schemes will be needed in order to fully understand the effects of its implementation. Nonetheless, we have isolated three key areas in the blockchain strategy. The first is to improve efficiency in government, which involves identifying and implementing blockchain solutions across all industry sectors. The second is to focus on attracting start-ups and supporting the blockchain ecosystem. This is being achieved, in part, through the Smart Dubai Global Blockchain Challenge, the latest iteration of which took place in April 2019 and attracted 700 applicants. The top-20 applicants were invited to Dubai to present their blockchain solutions to leading government and private sector companies.

The last area is to become a global thought leader for blockchain. In 2018 we launched the Dubai Pay Blockchain Settlement and Reconciliation System, our first live app using the technology. As a result of the app, processes that once took 45 days now take place in seconds. The pilot project originally involved just four government departments, however, due to its success, we hope to add 45 government entities to the platform by the end of 2019. Finance is just one industry where this technology can be used. We have identified many other areas where blockchain can be effectively implemented, such as urban mobility, where it could potentially be used to track the use of cars and the performance of vehicles over their life cycles.

However, as blockchain networks involve a lot of different partners, there remain a lot of questions that need to be addressed, such as: who will pay for the setup? Who will own the intellectual property rights of the data? To answer these questions and ensure clarity on best practices, we will soon be launching official blockchain implementation policies for Dubai.

In what ways will 5G infrastructure help Dubai meet its targets for sustainable economic growth?

BISHR: When it comes to digital transformation, 5G technology plays a crucial role. It is a technology with many uses, an example of which is self-driving cars, which are unable to operate successfully using 4G due to the amount of data being transferred with every movement. There is also a need for increased bandwidth in the emirate to support apps such as Dubai Now, a government initiative that provides residents with access to numerous smart services.

What strategies are being deployed to reach the goal of becoming a paper-free city by 2021?

BISHR: The Dubai paperless strategy comprises three core elements. The first is technology: we seek to understand and implement the best technologies in order to ensure all transactions are not only 100% digital, but provide a seamless and efficient user experience as well. The second issue is legislation, which involves improving frameworks to cope with changes that result from paperless initiatives. We are working closely with the authorities to amend existing laws or decrees to accept electronic documentation and signatures as proof of ownership and transactions.

The last element is cultural change. Once we have digitised all transactions and have successfully worked with the respective legislative committees to accept digital documents, we will start to operate city-wide workshops to teach the public about the social, economic and environmental benefits of going paperless, encouraging them to embrace this new way of interacting with city services. As a result of the Dubai paperless strategy and the 100% digitalisation of all government services, we expect to annually save over 130,000 trees, around 40 hours of work per person and over $10m.