Dubai and ITU to launch index to benchmark smart cities

Dubai is working with the UN agency, the International Telecommunication Union, to develop a set of key performance indicators against which it can measure its progress alongside other cities, revealed Dr Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of Dubai Smart City, during her presentation at today’s Smart City Event in Amsterdam.

While Dubai has developed its smart city strategy by benchmarking itself already against what other cities are doing, the UAE city has added an element missing from other cities.

“We differentiate our projects by adding happiness at the heart of our smart city strategy,” said Bishr in a talk entitled Towards becoming the happiest city on earth.

Happiness of its citizens lies at the centre of a plan which encompasses six dimensions: smart government, smart people, smart environment, smart economy, smart life and smart transport.

Bishr calls the challenges including putting in place a legal framework “an opportunity” as “we are working from a blank canvas”. Smart City Dubai now has an office to manage smart city initiatives and a separate department to manage data.

“Another challenge is the lack of a unified platform across the whole city,” said Bishr. “When you improve services separately in each sector, it tends to create silos and when you pull together data you see different islands, so we wanted to create a unified platform.”

The result is the Smart Dubai Platform which works across all departments providing access to an IoT platform and Cloud computing allowing partners to benefit from the enabling tools of the platform and allowing citizens to have a single identity across all government departments.

“Even start-ups can benefit as it is plug in and play and there is no need to build infrastructure themselves,” added Bishr.

Dubai is now focusing on measuring the impact of the what has been enabled by the smart city initiative. “Customer impacts are one of the main areas and we want happiness to be a part of this,” said Bishr. “I am delighted we have the whole city believing in this vision. “

Earlier, Hazem Galal, PwC’s Global Leader for Cities and Local Government, who has been working with the city of Dubai, unveiled the results of research which the firm has conducted with the World Economic Forum. They had talked to 300 experts on the biggest challenges facing cities.

“In the EU, it was social migration, climate change and economic development; in the Middle East, it is all about water scarcity; in Asia it is about urban planning rights; and in Latin America, it is economic development,’ said Galal.

In terms of tackling the challenges, Galal stressed that we need to take the context of every city into consideration. “The definition of a smart city, despite all the standardisation and efforts of ITU and others, means different things to different people.”

While technology is an enabler, what is key is the capacity to work with other stakeholders such as civil society, academia and the private sector. PwC is developing a diagnostic tool to assist cities in positioning themselves in terms of their smart development and collaborative relationships.

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