Dubai steps up ICT drive

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A raft of innovation-oriented projects worth some Dh300bn ($81.7bn), along with new legislation on government data sharing, is gaining pace in Dubai.

Dubai’s plans were in the spotlight during the emirate’s Innovation Week, a seven-day event launched on November 21 aimed at putting innovation at the heart of the broader push to create a knowledge economy.

News of the projects, which will be rolled out under the emirate’s National Innovation Strategy (NIS), came just weeks after a new law was announced paving the way for non-sensitive government data to be made more widely accessible.

Smart ambitions

Issued in mid-October, the Dubai Open Data Law sets out the terms for increased sharing of non-confidential information between government agencies and the public by means of an integrated platform.

The legislation is seen as a key plank in the Dubai Smart City (DSC) initiative, launched in February, which plans to integrate all government services and facilities with smartphones by 2021. The programme is expected to create opportunities for greater innovation and entrepreneurship, while also reducing costs by streamlining service delivery.

In early December a series of related laws and decrees were unveiled, creating several key oversight bodies to manage the transformation process, including the Dubai Smart City Office.

Speaking after the ratification of the Dubai Open Data Law, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s crown prince and the head of the DSC project, said the legislation marked a pivotal step in attracting investors who were looking to become part of Dubai’s digital economy.

“The new law will unify Dubai data and remove the last legal obstacles for those interested in investing in the digital economy,” he said.

Industry players have reacted positively to the open data framework, which is expected to encourage greater commercialisation of ICT, in line with the growing trend of the so-called industrial internet, which seeks to integrate physical devices and machinery with networked sensors and software.

Dalya Al Muthanna, president and CEO of GE Gulf, told OBG that the industrial internet could grow to be twice the size of the consumer internet.

“We are at the beginning of the next industrial era. Digital capabilities are building the future at faster speeds and lower costs with better outcomes and higher productivity,” Al Muthanna told OBG.

“The industrial internet will be the tool of tomorrow to help us better bridge the physical and analytical worlds,” she added. “It is about the value of interconnectedness across people and assets, and the digital platforms that will enable that connection.”

E-development opening doors

Implementation is already under way, with a smart application designed for Dubai Land Department (DLD) marking one of the latest additions to the initiative.

 Unveiled in mid-October on Twitter during the opening of GITEX Technology Week, the new Mashrooi app provides information from the DLD’s property management system on master developers, sub-developers, projects and escrow accounts.  

The data, designed to assist real estate developers and investors, categorises developers by location, developer name and number, and project type, allowing investors to perform an independent assessment of developers’ capacity, technical aspects of other projects and images of work currently under way.

Dubai’s residents are already tapping into the government’s existing e-initiatives, under the Dubai Now app. The app, which was rebranded from MDubai, brings the e-payment initiatives under one umbrella, including electricity bills, traffic fines and telephone bills.

Transactions via the programme’s mPay platform more than doubled year-on-year in the first nine months of 2015 to reach Dh230.68m ($62.8m), according to Dubai Smart Government. The emirate plans to have at least 1000 smart government services in place before the end of 2016.

A smooth rollout of the law could be beneficial for Dubai, according to Jeroen Schlosser, managing director of global interconnection and data centre firm Equinix MENA. “Dubai could become a flagship ICT city, inspiring other smart city projects in the region and accelerating broader acceptance of this approach,” he told OBG.

Industry players also see scope for the initiatives to be expanded further, into the private sector.

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