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Fri 19 Oct 2018 01:28 AM

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Dr Aisha Bin Bishr: Steering Dubai's smart transformation

The director general of Smart Dubai on how the Smart Data platform will serve as the backbone to the emirate's eventual digitalisation

Dr Aisha Bin Bishr: Steering Dubai's smart transformation
Smart Dubai office has launched a total of 130 initiatives with the objective of making Dubai the happiest city on earth. (Photo by Rajesh Raghav/ITP Images)

What are the key Gitex announcements Smart Dubai made this year?
We are very proud to announce the  UAE Pass. Of course, we have the UAE ID (Emirates ID) but the digital ID and digital signature we unveiled will be one of the foundations that any city needs to transform in its embrace of the future.

We are working with our partners to make this a national initiative, so instead of something just for Dubai, we will be the national operator of the UAE Pass. At the exhibition, you will also see a number of proof of concept solutions concerning blockchain and AI that are available today.

How has this year fared in terms of Industry 4.0 technologies?
This year was one of real transformation for us. Many of these technologies have matured significantly like the language behind the blockchain and AI. By 2020, you will be able to see many applicable government applications that rely on these technologies. I’m happy with the pace of transformation so far; no other city in the world has such a dedicated transformation agenda.

One of your milestone achievements has been the Metro, the world’s largest automated rail service. What else would you say will be a similar success?
The smart platform that hosts the city’s data. It is already live, and today many of the emirate’s open and confidential data sets are hosted on the platform. Now we’re moving from simply hosting these data sets to utilising them.

We’re focusing on data science now to see what we can do with data in terms of modelling and algorithms. The Dubai Data Establishment is in fact ahead of the game in terms of proof of concepts and projects, many of which you can see at our pavilions, which rely on big data that is being generated from systems and the Internet of Things. Then there is the AI we are developing on top. 

The director general of Smart Dubai, Dr Aisha Bin Bishr

It’s important to understand that without data you cannot operate AI or even the blockchain. So this smart platform is really the digital backbone of the city and pivotal to the eventual transformation of the city. In the last few years, I’ve seen this goal progressing from being an idea, to strategy, blueprint, a physical platform and today applications.

Technologies like blockchain, AI and big data all require investments in human capital. Are you doing this?
Last month we partnered with Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and launched a Data Science master’s degree programme. This is parallel to many other executive diplomas that the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government has introduced to educate government employees as well as the private sector in how to make sense of these technologies.

We work with many local private sectors such as Majid al Futtaim, Emirates and a number of others, all of whom are keen to understand how Industry 4.0 tools can help them in their own industries.

The global and regional economy is a bit shaky. Do you think this will affect the uptake of these technologies?
One of the things we’ve done with Smart Dubai is to invest in the Smart Data Platform and these technologies on behalf of all government entities. If they were to do it by themselves, it would have been very expensive, especially considering that these are all nascent technologies. In our programme to have a centralised platform for all, this will expedite the implementation of these advanced technologies.

A common concern is whether we should be careful in our pursuit of AI. What are your thoughts on that?
We are already using AI in our phone devices and our systems. But even in machines and robots, it is the responsibility of every human to learn how to survive.

Top Smart Dubai initiatives

Smart Dubai office has launched a total of 130 initiatives with the objective of making Dubai the happiest city on earth. Some of the key initiatives include:

Startup support
In line with the government’s strategy of transforming the UAE into the new testbed for startups and entrepreneurs, a number of programmes were introduced such as the Global Blockchain Challenge, Dubai Smart City Accelerator, and Dubai Future Accelerators.

Happiness agenda
Happiness is the stated primary goal, which Smart Dubai says will be achieved by addressing the fundamental needs of residents and visitors.

AI lab
By integrating the power of machine learning to integrate AI into government services and city experiences, citizens’ overall quality of life will be improved resulting in boosted happiness levels and visitor satisfaction.

Dubai is preparing to be the first city to be fully powered by blockchain by 2020 by using three strategic pillars – government efficiency, industry creation, and international leadership.

Dubai government will go completely paper-free by eliminating more than one billion pieces of paper used for government transactions each year.