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Smarten up for a smart Dubai

Social media is a very active platform for our communities as they interact more and more with government

Gulf News

Today, there isn’t a unified definition for the term ‘smart city’. When looking at academic literature you will come across a multitude of definitions. So when creating the strategy to make Dubai a smart city, it was important to choose the definition that worked best and accurately represented the city’s soul — a happy city.

Having technology should simplify your life, make you more efficient and improve your quality of life, so this is the heart of Dubai’s vision in becoming a smart city.

Smart cities are about data and connectivity, with Big Data being the main component — providing structured and unstructured data. And as for social media, unstructured data is the name of the game. Harnessing the power that social media possesses is the key to giving you an edge when planning smart city initiatives and services. Having an edge in ‘smart city’ terms to have constant awareness of what is happening around you, and this is why having social media data embedded into smart cities is so important.


A global approach

As more and more cities move toward a smart city future, Dubai can learn from initiatives from around the world. Chicago, Boston, Singapore and London are great examples of smart cities. For example, in London, the Mayor’s Smart London Plan looks to use digital technology to help to address some of the challenges that the city faces. The plan ensures that data is collected from social media in order to be able to produce a report to understand what people really think about the city, including safety and general well-being, in order to improve the lives of its residents.

In Dubai, we look to other cities’ social media use to suss out best practices when developing and planning our own services. We then tailor our services to ensure that we’re using the best and most appropriate approach for our very own smart city.

Many technologies enable data to be aggregated from social media and then present the information in reports. The most important component is the data orchestration. When you mix together structured and unstructured data you can make the information available for innovators and start-ups so that they can continue to develop and innovate our city. This is why data orchestration is so important for any smart city, once you have a platform collecting the data, the sky is the limit on how you use it.


Looking to the future

Dubai is not far from becoming a ‘smart city’. We are working towards completing the first phase by 2017 and the second phase by 2020. When this is completed, residents will be able to connect to governments via social media and then this data can be used to become more proactive in the planning, running and managing of the city.

It is very important that we grasp the information that is in front of us to efficiently and positively add value to Dubai, or any other city in the GCC. Social media is a very active platform for our communities as they interact more and more with government. It is our job to ensure that society has a positive outlook on social media and that as a government, we embed it into all of our systems in our mission to become truly smart.


— The writer is the Assistant Director General the Executive Office, Government of Dubai, UAE.