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Dubai gathers geeks to help make city happier

Dozens of techies, public and private sector employees gather at airport to come up with ideas to help visitors have a happier time

  • Members of one of the four international teams composed of leading international experts and 28 happiness heroImage Credit:
  • Members of one of the four international teams composed of leading international experts and 28 happiness heroImage Credit:
Gulf News

Dubai: This week, four teams of programmers, public and private sector workers have gathered for one goal: to make Dubai a happier place for travellers.

With the aid of patchworks of sticky notes, walls of whiteboard and countless cups of coffee, each team has until Thursday to deliver a tech-based prototype solution to a common problem.

Sunday marked the first full day of ‘Happiness Hack Dubai,’ which is organised by an initiative of Smart Dubai, a government body tasked with making the city the world’s happiest place.

Gathered in the arrivals hall of Dubai Airport’s Terminal 3, each team has an elite squad of programmers and tech engineers to help turn their ideas into reality.

Hackmasters, a London-based firm, has gathered together its tech team — referred to as ‘hackers’ — from across Europe.

“In Hackmasters, we’ve got Swedish, Ukrainian, Romanian, German, French Italian, Lithuanian, and Danish [hackers],” said founder Saher Sidhom. “There’s at least ten different nationalities.”

From Wednesday onwards, the tech team will deliver prototypes of the solutions. In the past, the techies have designed apps, wearable computers, sensors, and even drones.

One team, the Guest and Hotels group, is brainstorming ideas to help visitors personalise their stay in Dubai.

The second team, the Welcome group, is looking on how to make the city an easier place to navigate.

The Experience team is working on how to help people plan their trip, while the Ambassadors team is looking for ways to make Dubai a hub for tech entrepreneurs.

Happy together

“Happiness Hack Dubai shows the positive impact we can achieve for cities when we work together,” said Dr Aisha Bin Bishr, director general of the Smart Dubai Office. The five-day event is the first that Smart Dubai has launched.

“We are leading a new, people-centric approach to cities and industries that will establish Dubai as a model of collaboration and design thinking for the world,” she added.

Smart Dubai works to make the city a happier place by running what it calls a ‘Happiness Champion’ programme.

The programme sees each government department have one employee work to pass down ideas from Smart Dubai.

Twenty-eight of these volunteers were at the Happiness Hack, as well staff from Dubai Airports, Jumeirah Group, Du, and Etisalat.

Later this month, selected prototypes will be rolled out across different entities across Dubai — with the help of some 28 Happiness Champions.

In May last year, three months after federal authorities appointed the world’s first Minister for Happiness, Smart Dubai rolled out the emirate’s Happiness Agenda, which has launched this week’s event.[LINK: en.happinessagenda.ae]

Turning frowns upside down

The Agenda works by four core principles, referred to by their acronym, ABCD.

These are: A, for affective, or emotional needs; B, basic needs such as safety, ease of access; C, cognitive needs such as health, education, and relationships; and D, deeper needs such as a sense of purpose and meaning.

And Happiness Hack’s organisers hope that by the end of the week, they will be well on their way to seeing more smiles from the face of visitors.

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