In the next in our exclusive series of interviews with the 2017 Energy Digitalisation Summit Middle East speakers, Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General, Smart Dubai Office & CEO, Dubai Data Establishment shares his views on the digital transformation of the energy industry.

 

What is driving innovation in Digital Transformation – strategy, technologies or both? How is Smart Dubai driving innovation in Digital Transformation?

Smart Dubai is on a mission to make Dubai the smartest and happiest city in the world. Interconnectedness is one of the main pillars of our strategy: Dubai is already a highly connected society as residents use online services and social media quite actively. Our objective is to address the majority of residents’ everyday needs through digital services rather than traditional ones, thus making their lives easier and happier. This includes healthcare, education, culture, housing, entertainment, community, and volunteering services among others. 

We want all residents to be able to conduct their transactions and address their needs through easy-to-use online services, whether making online doctor’s appointments, obtaining lab results and sharing with other healthcare providers easily, registering and pay for school or university courses online, or obtaining licenses and permits for various activities.

To that end, Smart Dubai, along with its affiliate organisations – the Smart Dubai Government Establishment (SDG) and Dubai Data – as well as its public- and private-sector partners, has gradually rolled out 137 initiatives and 1,129 smart services that give the city’s inhabitants access to its cutting-edge facilities using smart, interconnected systems.

Our mandate is basically to implement Dubai’s Smart Transformation Agenda, a five-year strategy covering the 2017-2021 period that outlines an ambitious roadmap for all components of the city: government, companies, society, individuals, resources and infrastructure.

Our portfolio of services and initiative is an all-encompassing collection of projects and programmes that serve to accelerate Dubai’s transformation into the ultimate smart city. These include the Dubai Pulse data platform – the digital backbone of the city – which compiles all available data from both the public and private sectors. The new platform provides access to three layers of data: the first caters to the public and is free, while the second offers a thorough analysis of the data (in exchange for a fee) to be used for academic, professional, commercial and economic purposes. The third and final layer includes data accessible exclusively to Dubai Government entities. Smart sensors distributed throughout the city will ensure these services are provided seamlessly, allowing all residents to connect with their city. 

Dubai Now, meanwhile, provides fast, seamless and paperless services to the residents of Dubai, allowing them to finish transactions and paperwork via smartphone, without the need to physically visit government centres. The Dubai Data Establishment also launched the Data Leaders programme, which enlists representatives from 40 government agencies in the Emirate of Dubai. These Data Leaders are embedded in all government agencies; they contribute to decision-making, implementing the latest data-related technologies, in an effort to transform Dubai into a fully-fledged smart city.

Furthermore, the Smart Dubai Office is working to implement the Dubai Blockchain Strategy with the goal of making the Dubai Government the first in the world to conduct 100 percent of its transactions via an online encrypted database by the year 2020. This allows people to conduct their transactions from the convenience of their smartphones, saving them time and energy to focus on the things they enjoy doing. This serves our goal of spreading happiness in the community, all the while reducing paper waste and carbon emissions.

On another note, Smart Dubai is working to harness the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. We already have AI-enabled services, most notably “Rashid” (formerly known as “Saad”). “Rashid” reflects the important and effective role of artificial intelligence in offering official and reliable answers to customers’ questions, and providing them with the necessary procedures, steps, documents, and requirements to open a business in Dubai – all according to the extensive database of Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED). 

We have also debuted our very own robot receptionist – “Farah” – the first of its kind in the Middle East. “Farah” features a touch-screen panel where visitors to the office can check in, automatically alerting the employee they are meeting of their arrival. Its sophisticated programming means that it is capable of performing a range of duties relevant to the traditional receptionist role. 

How will the customer journey be impacted by Digital Transformation?

Following in the footsteps of the UAE leadership, Smart Dubai puts the people of the emirate at the heart of all of our initiatives and projects. The main motivation behind our efforts is to optimise customer satisfaction and spread happiness among the citizens, residents and visitors of Dubai. We don’t look at technology as an end but rather a means to spread happiness and make people’s lives easier and more enjoyable.

Our initiatives have been well received by the public in Dubai and we’ve seen palpable enthusiasm from citizens, residents and visitors alike to make use of our high-tech offering, which seeks, first and foremost, to make their lives easier and happier, saving them time on repetitive everyday tasks, and allowing them to spend it doing something productive that they enjoy.

We put the bulk of our services and applications to the test during the “Day Without Service Centres” initiative, which was organised in collaboration with Dubai’s Department of Finance in October 2017. The initiative encouraged people in the emirate to conduct their government transactions – particularly, the ones requiring monetary payment – using Smart Dubai’s advanced payment gateways. The initiative, where 34 different government entities took part, resulted in the successful completion of 31,070 transactions worth AED54.84 million through smart government services, exceeding the daily average for October 2017, which hovered around 28,460 transactions with an average value of AED42.17 million. 

What are some key indicators of better measuring/assessing customer’s satisfaction along this journey?

Making sure our services are well received is something we are highly committed to and, as always, we use all technological capabilities at our disposal to make sure we’re on the right track. We’ve launched a dedicated index to help us gauge just how happy the people of Dubai really are with our offerings. The “Smart Happiness Project Assessment Tool”, developed in collaboration with a prominent Oxford University professor, serves to ensure that citywide smart technology projects achieve maximum impact on the city’s happiness, allowing us and other entities to adjust projects for maximum longevity and impact and aim for sustainable long-term happiness in a smart Dubai.

Is Big Data really the new oil?

Data is at the core of all smart technologies. Opening data and allowing individuals and institutions to access and share it is paramount for a successful smart city. 

Smart Dubai commissioned a Dubai Data Economic Impact Report to provide the Dubai Government with insights into the potential economic impacts of opening and sharing data. It demonstrates the potential contribution of open and shared data to the Dubai economy in terms of Gross Valued Added (GVA), which is directly linked to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The study estimates that the opening and sharing of government and private sector data will potentially add a total of AED10.4 billion Gross Value Added (GVA) impact to Dubai’s economy annually by 2021. Opening government data alone will result in a GVA impact of AED6.6 billion annually as of 2021. This is equivalent to approximately 0.8% to 1.2% of Dubai’s forecasted GDP for 2021.

The Smart Dubai City strategy 2021 calls for a data-driven government, where data will be used as a strategic asset to the benefit of the public, as well as the government itself, as the Dubai Open Data Law increases operational efficiency by reducing data-access costs. 

The Dubai Data initiative is spearheaded by our affiliate, the Dubai Data Establishment, which seeks to streamline and upgrade the exchange of data between government departments, between the public and private sectors, and between government agencies and their customers, in a bid to foster deeper cooperation, empower decision makers and boost Dubai’s economy. A notable initiative in that regard is “Dubai Pulse”, which compiles all available data from both the public and private sectors. The new platform provides access to three layers of data: the first caters to the public and is free, while the second offers a thorough analysis of the data (in exchange for a fee) to be used for academic, professional, commercial and economic purposes. The third and final layer includes data accessible exclusively to Dubai Government entities. Smart sensors distributed throughout the city will ensure these services are provided seamlessly, allowing all residents to connect with their city. 

Dubai Data also launched the Data Leaders programme, which enlists representatives from 40 government agencies in the Emirate of Dubai. These Data Leaders are embedded in all government agencies; they contribute to decision-making, implementing the latest data-related technologies, in an effort to transform Dubai into a fully-fledged smart city.