Secrets from Dubai: How smart initiatives saved $1 billion


By Philip Bane, Smart Cities Council

Director General of the Smart Dubai Office Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr  keynoted the international plenary session moderated by Leocadia Zak, Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, at Smart Cities Week, September 29th.

When I first met Dr. Aisha BinBishr in 2015, she asked me, “What took the Council so long to come to Dubai, as we have been using the Council’s Readiness Guide for the past three years?”

While it would be great for the Smart Cities Council to take credit for some of Dubai’s remarkable achievements, I suspect that while sincere, she was being polite – as Dubai, the bustling, ultra-modern city of 2.5 million in the United Arab Emirates already boasts a growing list of smart city credits – free citywide Wi-Fi, a mobile government initiative, parking apps, smart healthcare programs among them. Just review the longer list at the end of this article.

Dubai’s efforts have put it on the map as one of the top smart cities in the world. A long time trading and financial hub, in 2014 Dubai International Airport became the busiest in the world with more than 18 million passengers, overtaking 16 million at London's Heathrow – all because of its modern facilities and the fact that it is situated just 8 hours flying time from two-thirds of the world’s population.

But it's not done yet. Dubai will host World Expo 2020 and will use it as a platform to unveil its vision of leveraging the Internet of Things to become the world's most connected and sustainable city. Organizers say the Expo will create 277,000 new jobs in the UAE, bring 25 million visitors and spur an economic infusion that could reach $40 billion.

The Smart Cities Council is thrilled to have Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr keynote at Smart Cities Week as we are planning to have her spend time with U.S. and European city leaders to explain how Dubai has achieve these remarkable achievements.

Smart Dubai: Real Impact
Social: Car sharing and smart parking apps improve mobility and reduce both costs and emotional stress associated with driving on congested roads; free citywide Wi-Fi provides 24/7 Internet access; open data promotes transparency and opportunity for citizens; smart apps and government health insurance help ensure all residents have access to medical care; improved mental well-being from living in a society focused on happiness.

Financial: Dubai Government saved $1.09B between 2003 and 2015 by adopting smart initiatives; $1.5 was saved for every 27 cents spent; efforts to streamline urban mobility and free citywide Wi-Fi are attractive to business; encouraging public-private partnerships drive economic growth and value; motion detecting smart streetlights reduce operational costs.

Environmental: Smart parking app was downloaded 120,000 times in first six months with usage reducing congestion, emissions and fuel usage; motion detecting smart streetlights lower energy use and carbon impact; 97% of Dubai water and electric customers receive their bills digitally, helping the utility eliminate over 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions since 2012 and reducing the number of trees required for paper bills.


Philip Bane is managing director of the Smart Cities Council, which helps cities use technology to become more livable, workable and sustainable. The Council is awardingReadiness Challenge Grants to five U.S. cities to help them use technology to become more innovative, inclusive and investment-ready. Learn how to apply.



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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

Jason Axelrod

Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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