Smart cities: Setting the roadmap for the region

UAE TRA representative at ITU talks about the future of smart cities in the region
aser Abdul Latif Bin Hammad, senior manager, international affairs, corporate development at the director general office at the UAE TRA, and UAE TRA representative at the ITU.
aser Abdul Latif Bin Hammad, senior manager, international affairs, corporate development at the director general office at the UAE TRA, and UAE TRA representative at the ITU.

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The UAE is set to lead the way when developing smart applications to become the smartest country in the region. The UAE General Authority for Regulating the Telecommunications Sector (TRA) hosted the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Forum on Smart Sustainable Cities in Abu Dhabi and established a roadmap to develop smart cities attended by ITU study groups and experts within the field of smart cities in the Arab region.

“We wanted to respond a call from the ITU. In 2014 during the World Telecommunication Development Conference, this organisation developed a global roadmap to promote broadband for sustainable development. The UAE was one of the supporters of this initiative and developing this road map for smart cities for the Arab region is a step forward. The ITU is also working with Dubai in order to transform global smart cities, as the city was selected to trial ITU indicators for smart cities ,” Naser Abdul Latif Bin Hammad, senior manager, international affairs, corporate development at the director general office at the UAE TRA, and UAE TRA representative at the ITU, told to CommsMEA.

Hammad considers this step a recognition from the ITU to Dubai, as the UN organisation sets the city as the model to follow in the world. “It is the city capable of being the smart city of the future,” he added.

“The roadmap sets some guidelines for the region and it aims to support and push the initiatives that will transform cities into smart cities in the Arab region,” he said.

Hammad believes that there are only a few smart cities in the region and adds that the Middle East is on the rise when building and transforming their cities. He said that now the UAE TRA’s role is to talk, deal and collaborate with international cities and promote, on behalf of the UAE, the creation of smart cities in the region. “We want to promote these initiatives and the ones proposed by the ITU,” he added.

“We work according to a mission set by the government itself, part of the UAE Vision 2021. It is set very clear that all the players in the UAE —government and private sector— have to work to achieve citizens’ satisfaction and happiness,” he said.

According to Analysys Mason, most state-owned telecoms operators in the Gulf are involved in smart city projects as solution and connectivity providers and most smart city projects planned in the Middle East are supported by political commitment and financial resources.

“These projects form an important part of national economic strategies that aim to demonstrate a country’s ambition to be at the forefront of innovation-driven development. High-profile projects focus mainly on brownfield cities, such as Dubai and Doha, which are aiming to become ‘smarter’. However, the region also has a number of greenfield initiatives such as King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia, Lusail in Qatar and Musdar City in the UAE, which have all been created using intelligent solutions for efficiency and sustainability,” said Karim Yaici, senior analyst at Analyst Mason in its report.

“In two years’ time, we expect that Dubai is going to fulfil the objectives of the project and will be able to cope with the international standards and criteria, to be, in the near future, one of the most important smart cities in the world,” he said about the city development specifically.

“Citizens’ happiness will not be able to exist if we [UAE TRA] do not tell citizens how these services can improve their lives. With smart applications, they can do all what they need in an easy and fast way without any obstacle or barrier. Of course, the society, the government office in Dubai and the TRA need to raise awareness. The UAE TRA is working with awareness programmes, campaigning to educate and raise the awareness among people to let them know that this [happiness] is the objective,” he concluded.

Dubai first city to trial ITU indicators for smart cities

The ITU selected Dubai as the city to test the key performance indicators developed by the UN organisation to assess the efficiency and sustainability of its operations.

The two-year pilot project will evaluate the feasibility of the indicators with the aim of contributing to their international standardisation.

The key performance indicators focus on the elements of a smart city that rely on information and communication technologies (ICT), offering a measure of progress relevant to ICT aspects of urban-development master plans.

“ICTs have great potential to improve the quality of life enjoyed by city inhabitants. Dubai’s experience will assist ITU in developing a standard means to measure the success of smart-city strategies, and I commend Dubai for its will to promote urban sustainability at the international level,” said Houlin Zhao, secretary general at the ITU.

Aisha Bin Bishr, assistant director general of the executive office of Dubai, member of the Smart Dubai executive committee and team leader of the smart city taskforce, said: “The Smart Dubai initiative is an ambitious one. We are transforming a thousand government services through innovative applications of ICT. The broad scope of the initiative makes for an excellent field trial of ITU’s key performance indicators as we have an opportunity to trace the efficacy of a wide range of ICT applications from root to maturity. Selecting Dubai to be the first city to assess the efficiency and sustainability of its operations using the key performance indicators developed by ITU is a challenge to showcase the achievement of our city in this field. We will work hard to make a successful pilot to open the doors for other cities to learn from the Dubai experience.”

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