Free Wi-Fi adds to city’s amenity

Dubai is taking another step towards its aim of being a ‘smart city’ – but the road is long

Public Wi-Fi creates a more connected and engaged community.
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Dubai is taking another step towards its aim of being a ‘smart city’ – but the road is long

The decision to provide free public Wi-Fi in Dubai fits in well with its vision to position itself as an efficient and progressive "smart city". As The National reported yesterday, the Dubai Government is planning to offer the service across the emirate by the end of next year, extending the existing free public Wi-Fi services provided by du in 300 locations, including the public transport network.

The move will create a more connected and engaged community. As noted by the director general of Smart Dubai, Aisha bin Bishr, the speed of 512kbps will allow people to connect to social media and use instant messaging applications. This means that users – including people who have no Wi-Fi connection at home or can’t afford a data package for their smartphones – will have a free option to keep in touch with family and friends, and to use the growing number of online services provided by the Dubai Government and private companies. By making access available to all, it will overcome the “digital divide” that has locked some people out of the online revolution.

Tourists and business travellers will also be able to enjoy internet connectivity while they are on the move without having to purchase a local SIM card, which can be a complicated process. However, the relatively slow speed of the free connection will mean that users won’t be able to watch videos or streaming services. In comparison, residents of Singapore benefit from a free wireless network that runs at speeds up to 5mbps. There may be more work to be done in providing affordable, high-speed internet packages that are tailored to the entrepreneurs that Dubai is hoping to attract.

The free Wi-Fi initiative is further proof that Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, is always looking ahead. Becoming a “smart city” is not just one set of initiatives and services, it is a long-term technological, organisational, cultural and regulatory transformation. This will not be an easy endeavour. But Dubai is serious about its pursuit, and it has proven over and over again that it’s up to the challenge.