Complex Made Simple

Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government highlights ‘Bringing Smart Cities to Life’

Participants at 6th Smart Cities Forum Stress Implementing Smart Cities Infrastructure.

Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG), a research and teaching institution focusing on public policy in the Arab world, today discussed the need to implement smart cities infrastructure at its sixth Smart Cities Forum organized under the theme ‘Bringing Smart Cities to Life’.

Drawing an audience of public and private sector decision makers, the session was headlined by Ahmad Julfar, CEO, Etisalat Group and Professor Luis Muñoz, Head of the Network Planning and Mobile Communications at the University of Cantabria, Spain and advisor to the Spanish Government.

In his address on Dubai’s transition into one of the smartest cities globally, Julfar pointed out that when the smart city vision was first was announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, there was no mention of a key focus on technology. Furthermore, at subsequent meetings the Vice President and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, stressed the idea of making people happy and allowing businesses to achieve their desired objectives. Although the common perception that ICT is central to building global smart cities is valid, the fact remains that ICT is mainly an enabler to help achieve the wider objective of smart cities.

Julfar said that transitioning into a smart city will allow Dubai to compete with the best cities and destinations globally to live and work in. Dubai can also leverage its early beginner advantage to become a global reference for smart cites.

He added: “The UAE is currently ranked number one in fiber-to-the-home connectivity and smartphone penetration. We also occupy top spots across several ICT indicators. We have developed an advanced infrastructure capability that includes mobile, data center, networks, fiber-optic cables – this infrastructure is a huge opportunity. At the same time, we now need to address the challenge of creating efficient systems and a platform that can enable all concerned stakeholders to collaborate in providing smart services.”

For his part, Prof. Muñoz said: “The smart city is a complex ecosystem characterized by the intensive use of information and communications technologies (ICT) that aim to transform cities into attractive, sustainable and unique environments for innovation and entrepreneurship. The smart city seeks to engage citizens and companies, and foster strategic alliances between public and private sector to conceive, design, implement and validate sustainable initiatives.”

Citing the example of the city of Santander in Spain, one of the leading smart cities in the world, the presentation outlined how the collaboration between government agencies – local national and European authorities – industry, academia and the people collectively achieved a better quality of life in the city. He also highlighted the need to deploy sensors and smart devices within public and private infrastructure and utilities. In addition to the static sensors within the city, mobile sensors fitted on public transport vehicles are crucial to collect and measure data from within the city and outside.

Prof. Munoz presented a live demo on measuring and monitoring data received via the sensors to manage traffic and parking, carry out surveillance at parks, as well as inspect irrigation and urban services in real time.

Dr Ali Seba Al Marri, Executive President, MBRSG, said: “Integrated infrastructure is a critical pillar for any smart city. Collaboration between public and private sectors is essential to implement infrastructure that is capable of handling requirements of smart cities and delivering the necessary output. We need to work towards accelerating synergies between government authorities in charge of legislations, urban planning, telecommunications, transportation and private sector organizations involved in infrastructure, particularly telecom operators. Digital infrastructure is one of the most important factors contributing to achieving the smart city vision.”

The Dubai Smart Cities forum brings together industry experts and organizational leaders to share expertise, discuss challenges, and review best practices as part of joint efforts towards realizing the Dubai Smart City Initiative. The sessions are designed to update government officials and decisions makers with the latest developments in smart city projects from around the globe.

Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government is committed to promoting good governance through enhancing the region’s capacity for effective public policy. The School uses a four-pronged approach, which includes applied research in public policy and management, academic programs in public policy and administration, executive education programs and knowledge forums for scholars and policy makers.