The Smart Dubai Office (SDO) announced the launch of its city-wide effort to implement blockchain technology in city services on March 14, and also announced its strategic partnerships for the project: US tech giant IBM and blockchain experts ConsenSys. Mr. Wesam Lootah, CEO of Smart Dubai Government, told Telecom Review cyber security regarding the technology is a "top priority".
In October 2016, Dubai announced the Dubai Blockchain 2020 Strategy whereby Dubai would be the "first city to be fully powered by blockchain technology," said Mr. Lootah at the press briefing. It is based on three pillars that center on implementing blockchain technology in government services, supporting the creation of a blockchain industry through empowering startups and businesses, and leading global thinking on blockchain technology.
"IBM has been selected as our strategic partner and ConsenSys as Smart Dubai's city advisor," said Mr. Lootah. "Together, along with us [Smart Dubai Government], the Smart Dubai Office will be embarking on this citywide implementation, working with over 20 of our strategic partners in the government across all sectors, including mobility, infrastructure, health, finance, and more."
"Blockchain is being looked as providing a trust mechanism without having a third party," Mr. Lootah continued. "When you look at the exchange of health records, for instance, you want to make sure that the data is going smoothly from doctors to hospitals without being tampered with or exchanged incorrectly. This is where blockchain can really add value - not only in making sure that the right parties have access to data in a timely fashion, but also to make sure that data has not been adjusted in any way."
Cybersecurity regarding blockchain technology is a "top priority" according to the SDG CEO. Being a very new technology, implementing blockchain securely is important, he said. "From a theoretical point of view, blockchain is more secure than any other system out there, because by the nature of the system it is distributed, so there is no single point of failure. It uses the best security that we know today, such as cryptography. However, we will be paying attention working with our partners in the Dubai Electronic Security Centre to make sure that the implementation passes all the requirements," said Mr. Lootah.
The announcement marks an "important step forward in our commitment to delivering Dubai's Blockchain Strategy announced late last year by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai," said H.E Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office. "We are working towards our goal of making Dubai the first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020," Dr. Aisha continued. "Collaborating with IBM and ConsenSys will help expedite this process, attaining Smart Dubai's overall vision of making every-day experiences more safe, seamless, efficient and impactful for all residents and visitors of the city."
Both IBM and ConsenSys are experts in the field of blockchain technology, bringing different specific expertise to the table, Mr. Lootah explained. IBM will be Smart Dubai's Blockchain Lead Strategic Partner to help run the project and educate Smart Dubai's partners about blockchain. IBM is "one of the leaders in the technology itself, so they will know where it will fit into society and where it can add value by drawing on the success of other blockchain rollouts," he said.
"IBM believes that blockchain will do for transactions what the internet did for information," said Takreem El-Tohamy, General Manager, IBM Middle East & Africa. "Dubai is at the forefront of adopting this transformative technology and our collaboration today demonstrates the government's confidence that blockchain solutions will transform government service delivery. IBM will work closely with Dubai government agencies to create cross-entity blockchain services based on a shared secured ledger that establishes accountability and transparency while streamlining business processes."
ConsenSys, Smart Dubai's appointed Blockchain City Advisor, also has "deep technical knowledge with their work on the Ethereum project," said Mr. Wesam, referring to ConsenSys Enterprise's Ethereum-based financial services and blockchain expertise.
Consultancy giant Deloitte announced plans in May 2016 to create a blockchain-based digital bank with the help of ConsenSys's blockchain consulting services. ConsenSys Enterprise is the largest Ethereum-based blockchain company in the world, and uses its blockchain subject matter expertise to accelerate banks looking to transform their processes.
ConsenSys advises firms on how to reimagine the core banking environment by consulting on the ways in which blockchain technologies can improve their traditional financial products and services, including the lending and savings areas. Blockchain technology allows for digital transactions to be more reliable and secure, providing real-time data and insights on physical assets.
"Once again Dubai has demonstrated its fast forward, yet prudent, approach to defining and delivering services on the blockchain," said Joseph Lubin, CEO & founder of ConsenSys. "In analyzing, selecting and offering government services on interoperable blockchains, Smart Dubai will dramatically reduce wasted time, effort and resources, and accelerate commerce locally by greatly reducing friction at the interface of business and government and in citizen services and will therefore serve as a model for the world's civic governance."
Over the coming months, Smart Dubai will conduct workshops with key Government, semi-Government and private organizations in Dubai to identify and prioritize the services that can be most enhanced by the application of blockchain technology. These workshops will also educate Dubai's public and private sector community on blockchain technology while highlighting its current and future potential.
After these workshops, the public and private sectors can work collaboratively to roll out blockchain pilots throughout 2017. Moreover, Smart Dubai will design and build a shared Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) Platform for Dubai Government entities to use for implementing their blockchain pilots and projects.
In support of the "Industry Creation" pillar of the strategy, SDO has also launched the Smart Dubai Office Blockchain Challenge in partnership with global accelerator 1776 in February 2017, which aims to identify the most innovative blockchain ideas from startups around the world and bring them to Dubai to deliver impactful city experiences for residents and visitors alike.
Moreover, SDO has launched in February 2017 the Smart Dubai Office Accelerator at the Dubai Future Accelerators with several promising start-ups currently working at the accelerator to innovate in the use of blockchain technology for shared Government services.