Smart Government and the UAE: the happiness of citizens is the ultimate goal

While the United Arab Emirates has adopted a development vision based on a free-market economy and the promotion of the private sector, it also recognises the Government’s fundamental role in ensuring the well-being, happiness and self-improvement of citizens. The fact that the country embraces a free-market economy does not mean that the Government should forgo its responsibility of providing essential services such as healthcare, education and housing.

To ensure that these services are delivered, the Government needs to reform the way it functions. Otherwise, it cannot efficiently and effectively compete with the private sector. The Smart Government initiative was launched in 2013, by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. The primary aim of this initiative is to ensure the happiness of all UAE citizens. Sheikh Mohammed describes Smart Government as one that never sleeps (working 24 hours, 365 days a year), is as welcoming as a hotel, provides fast delivery and strong procedures, is innovative and adaptive, serves the citizens at any time and everywhere inside and outside the country, improves lives and responds to expectations.

We cannot separate the Smart Government initiative from Sheikh Mohammed's vision about the role of government in general. He reflected on this in 2015, writing in a column that "In this age of rapid change, those who lag behind become irrelevant in a heartbeat. Countries, whose governments grow old, face the same fate as outdated companies. Their choice is simple: innovate or become irrelevant." He concludes that when governments innovate, they set an example for society to innovate as well. Sheikh Mohammed invited government departments to adopt the best practices and mechanisms of the private sector. In other words, ministries need to be more entrepreneurial to stay up to date.

In response to the need for reform, Sheikh Mohammed launched the annual World Government Summit in Dubai in 2013, which brought together senior officials, experts, specialists and stakeholders interested in global government affairs. This is one of his numerous initiatives to develop Government work and benefit from international expertise. He has adopted further initiatives to advance the work of government departments and to transform them into effective and efficient institutions. Such efforts include the Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation, the Government Creativity Lab, the Mohammed bin Rashid Government Excellence Award, and the Emirates Programme for Excellence in Government Services.

Achieving sustainable development depends not only on geographic location, abundance of natural and financial resources and demographic factors. It also depends on an environment conducive to development, which primarily consists of an effective government, a creative and smart administration, mechanisms that promote investment and entrepreneurship, and an advanced and sophisticated system of services covering all fields.

The UAE has been aware of these prerequisites since the time of the late Sheikh Zayed. Under the leadership of his successor, Sheikh Khalifa, the President, the country has become a pioneer in government reform in the Arab world, the region and beyond. Many countries have learned and benefitted from the country's experience in reform and have explored avenues of collaboration. The fact that the World Government Summit attracts such a large international attendance is evidence of this.

The Smart Government initiative, in addition to the other initiatives designed to build a modern effective government that efficiently adapts to surrounding changes, is part of the UAE vision for the future. In this context, the Government of the Future was announced in 2016 by Sheikh Mohammed. In October, the government underwent a reshuffle, introducing new ministry portfolios to consolidate the ways of dealing with future challenges, nominating a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, a Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and a Minister of State for Food Security. Sheikh Mohammed said that this reform would focus on "future skills, future sciences and future technology as we prepare for the [UAE] centenary to ensure a better future for our generations," adding that "we want the UAE to become the world's most prepared country for artificial intelligence."

The importance that the UAE has placed on reforming its Government and enhancing its role in the development process reflects an advanced development vision. This need for reform has been confirmed by international events and developments, particularly in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. Subsequently, experts have called for an increase in government influence, recognising that it acts as a safety valve at the political, security, and economic levels. The UAE strategy in this regard is characterised by its balance and the provision of an environment that encourages competition between the government and the private sector. The country ensures that neither of the two prevails at the expense of the other and that each party fulfills its responsibilities, especially those that the other party cannot assume. Many developing countries, seeking to shift from a command economy to a free-market economy, face a serious problem of marginalising the role that the government plays in development. These countries contend that a command economy can cause economic distortions and disruptions that undermine national stability and security, especially when development goals are not fully achieved.

The UAE has adopted a strategy that promotes economic openness and an environment for the private sector to operate freely. The country has also reformed the functions of government so that it can compete with the private sector. These efforts – including the Smart Government and the other pioneering initiatives – all play their part in making the UAE unique.

Dr Jamal Al Suwaidi is the director general of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research


Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

The specs: 2018 Ford F-150

Price, base / as tested: Dh173,250 / Dh178,500

Engine: 5.0-litre V8

Power: 395hp @ 5,000rpm

Torque: 555Nm @ 2,750rpm

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Fuel consumption, combined: 12.4L / 100km

Milestones on the road to union


October 26: Bahrain withdraws from a proposal to create a federation of nine with the seven Trucial States and Qatar. 

December: Ahmed Al Suwaidi visits New York to discuss potential UN membership.


March 1:  Alex Douglas Hume, Conservative foreign secretary confirms that Britain will leave the Gulf and “strongly supports” the creation of a Union of Arab Emirates.

July 12: Historic meeting at which Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid make a binding agreement to create what will become the UAE.

July 18: It is announced that the UAE will be formed from six emirates, with a proposed constitution signed. RAK is not yet part of the agreement.

August 6:  The fifth anniversary of Sheikh Zayed becoming Ruler of Abu Dhabi, with official celebrations deferred until later in the year.

August 15: Bahrain becomes independent.

September 3: Qatar becomes independent.

November 23-25: Meeting with Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid and senior British officials to fix December 2 as date of creation of the UAE.

November 29:  At 5.30pm Iranian forces seize the Greater and Lesser Tunbs by force.

November 30: Despite  a power sharing agreement, Tehran takes full control of Abu Musa. 

November 31: UK officials visit all six participating Emirates to formally end the Trucial States treaties

December 2: 11am, Dubai. New Supreme Council formally elects Sheikh Zayed as President. Treaty of Friendship signed with the UK. 11.30am. Flag raising ceremony at Union House and Al Manhal Palace in Abu Dhabi witnessed by Sheikh Khalifa, then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

December 6: Arab League formally admits the UAE. The first British Ambassador presents his credentials to Sheikh Zayed.

December 9: UAE joins the United Nations.


Favourite car: Koenigsegg Agera RS or Renault Trezor concept car.

Favourite book: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes or Red Notice by Bill Browder.

Biggest inspiration: My husband Nik. He really got me through a lot with his positivity.

Favourite holiday destination: Being at home in Australia, as I travel all over the world for work. It’s great to just hang out with my husband and family.



The Breadwinner

Director: Nora Twomey

Starring: Saara Chaudry,  Soma Chhaya,  Laara Sadiq 

Three stars

Diriyah project at a glance

- Diriyah’s 1.9km King Salman Boulevard, a Parisian Champs-Elysees-inspired avenue, is scheduled for completion in 2028
- The Royal Diriyah Opera House is expected to be completed in four years
- Diriyah’s first of 42 hotels, the Bab Samhan hotel, will open in the first quarter of 2024
- On completion in 2030, the Diriyah project is forecast to accommodate more than 100,000 people
- The $63.2 billion Diriyah project will contribute $7.2 billion to the kingdom’s GDP
- It will create more than 178,000 jobs and aims to attract more than 50 million visits a year
- About 2,000 people work for the Diriyah Company, with more than 86 per cent being Saudi citizens

Fringe@Four Line-up

October 1 - Phil Nichol (stand-up comedy)

October 29 - Mandy Knight (stand-up comedy)

November 5 - Sinatra Raw (Fringe theatre)

November 8 - Imah Dumagay & Sundeep Fernandes (stand-up comedy)

November 13 - Gordon Southern (stand-up comedy)

November 22 - In Loyal Company (Fringe theatre)

November 29 - Peter Searles (comedy / theatre)

December 5 - Sinatra’s Christmas Under The Stars (music / dinner show)


Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

BeIN Sports currently has the rights to show

- Champions League

- English Premier League

- Spanish Primera Liga

- Italian, French and Scottish leagues

- Wimbledon and other tennis majors

- Formula One

- Rugby Union - Six Nations and European Cups


Director: Mohamed Kordofani

Starring: Siran Riak, Eiman Yousif, Nazar Goma

Rating: 5/5

How to help

Send “thenational” to the following numbers or call the hotline on: 0502955999
2289 – Dh10
2252 – Dh 50
6025 – Dh20
6027 – Dh 100
6026 – Dh 200

The essentials

What: Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

When: Friday until March 9

Where: All main sessions are held in the InterContinental Dubai Festival City

Price: Sessions range from free entry to Dh125 tickets, with the exception of special events.

Hot Tip: If waiting for your book to be signed looks like it will be timeconsuming, ask the festival’s bookstore if they have pre-signed copies of the book you’re looking for. They should have a bunch from some of the festival’s biggest guest authors.



Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures


Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

The specs

Engine: Twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8
Power: 542bhp
Torque: 770Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Price: From Dh1,450,000
On sale: Now