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Technology is not the answer, it is just a tool - happiness is the answer, said Her Excellency Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, Director-General of Smart Dubai, who spoke to Telecom Review ahead of Mobile World Congress 2017, where she will be giving two keynote speeches, highlighting Dubai's approach to smart cities.

Why is Mobile World Congress an important platform for Smart Dubai?
Mobile World Congress brings together ministers, mayors and smart city industry leaders from around the world. We believe it is crucial to showcase the Smart Dubai initiative and our developments to all who are attending, as other cities may learn from this approach which will lead us to work towards a goal of increasing happiness levels not only in Dubai, but across the world.

What topics will you discuss at Mobile World Congress this year?
This year at Mobile World Congress I will be giving two keynotes. The first titled 'Paving The Way For Smart Cities' which is part of the Ministerial Program at the congress, and the second one is titled 'The Fourth Industrial Revolution' which is part of the main congress. During both presentations I will be highlighting Dubai's approach to smart cities and discuss the three things we know about technology and the future of smart cities:

  1. The technology of the future is already here and it is now time to act, not plan. Dubai has already leveraged the development of latest technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain technology and artificial intelligence (AI) and has launched the Smart Dubai Platform, Dubai Blockchain Strategy and Saad, Dubai's first cognitive artificial intelligence advisor.
  2. The public is already using such technology and we need to work together. Nothing can be achieved by working in silos, thus we are working together with public and private sector entities to create the best initiatives and services using the latest technologies.
  3. Technology is not the answer, it is just a tool - happiness is the answer. Our vision at Smart Dubai is to make Dubai the happiest city on earth. By using technology we hope to make everyday experiences safer, seamless, efficient and impactful to make lives overall much happier for all residents and visitors.

Can you highlight some of Smart Dubai's recent/most significant achievements?
Happiness Meter:In order to become the happiest city, we knew that we would need a way to listen to everyone in the city, and understand their current levels of happiness regarding city services. Only with this data, would we be able to introduce new programs to increase happiness across the city and achieve our vision. With this in mind, we developed the first Happiness Meter prototype in October 2014, to capture customer satisfaction levels at every city interaction touchpoint.

The Happiness Meter is now available for both public and private sector entities and on all digital customer interaction channels; encompassing web-based widgets, mobile application plug-ins, and tablets installed at customer service centers and other interaction touchpoints. Data collection from Happiness Meters power an analytics dashboard for the city to track happiness levels across the city in real-time. We call this the Happiness Index. In the past year, over 500 Happiness Meters were installed at government customer interaction touchpoints, and recorded over 6 million votes from customers across the city, achieving a Happiness Index of 90 percent for Dubai.

DubaiNow:DubaiNow is the unified hub for the city services you need. DubaiNow is already available for iOS and Android, and the DubaiNow web portal has just launched in beta. DubaiNow is unifying 55 digital services from 24 government departments, private sector entities and humanitarian establishments in a single user experience. DubaiNow gives you instant access to the city services you need now, all in a single, simple interface.

For example, using DubaiNow you pay all your bills and fines with a single tab, thanks to its integrated, data-sharing platform. With DubaiNow, users can assemble a personal dashboard for all their city services needs; from weather and prayer timings to bill payments and vaccination schedule reminders for your children's health.

Saad:This is the next evolution in our ongoing efforts to make accessing city services easy, fast and convenient. Using artificial intelligence, Saad has been trained by DED and SDG to provide all the official information you need to know about starting a business in Dubai.

Benefiting from natural language processing, Saad can walk clients through the procedures, required documents and other actions necessary to start a new business in Dubai with simple, clear and reliable instructions. Saad continually learns from every interaction, meaning Saad is always getting better at answering your questions quickly and reliably. Soon, Saad will be expanding to other governments services. Saad will ultimately become your personal assistant for all Dubai city services.

Smart Dubai Platform: The Smart Dubai Platform will become the digital backbone for our smart city; uniting city infrastructure, open and shared data, enabling services, and citywide smart applications. The Platform will become the central 'operating system' for Dubai, improving efficiency, decision-making, and experiences across the city. The Smart Dubai Platform is the most comprehensive in the world today, spanning all city dimensions - not just one sector or district. The Platform was collaboratively built to benefit the whole city - it has been custom-architected for Dubai, not off-the-shelf from a vendor.

The Platform unites all city layers: infrastructure, data orchestration, service enablement and applications.  Implemented in partnership with our strategic platform partner, du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company), the Smart Dubai Platform is further evidence of our collaborative and agile approach to city transformation.

Blockchain:Blockchain technology is a new, powerful tool that is already shaping the future of the internet with simple, safe and secure transactions. Blockchain technology is already generating value, with $1.1 billion dollars invested in 2015 alone, and 600 new companies who are actively working on Blockchain. Recently, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, launched the Dubai Blockchain Strategy, which will be led through a collaborative partnership between Smart Dubai and the Dubai Future Foundation to achieve the city's twin goals of impacting people's happiness and delivering the future.

The Dubai Blockchain strategy is built on three pillars of government efficiency, industry creation and international leadership. By 2020, we aim to achieve 100 percent government participation on the blockchain - saving the city 25 million productive hours each year, and over 115 metric tons of carbon emissions, just on paper processing alone. We will also aim to spark thousands of new business opportunities with the technology.

Through the Global Blockchain Council, which was founded in Dubai earlier this year, we will also be creating an international network through which tourists from up to 27 can enjoy seamless entry and experiences within Dubai, benefitting from the Blockchain. Dubai will be the first city to lead an implementation of Blockchain technology that will go beyond financial transactions, to unlocking opportunities and enriching experiences in all city dimensions.

What are you most looking forward to at Mobile World Congress this year?
Today, every major city is working in the 'smart city' landscape to some extent. With the knowledge and talent around the world, I am eager to see what smart city developments have been made in other parts of the world, so we at Smart Dubai too can learn from them and implement these initiatives in Dubai, in our pursuit to make Dubai the happiest city on Earth.