Dubai and London can exchange information to improve quality of life in ‘smart cities’

Speakers at last week’s three-day Government Summit said technological advances could help “smart cities” exchange information to make life easier for people.

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DUBAI // Cities such as London and Dubai could share information and data about residents to improve quality of life.

Speakers at last week’s three-day Government Summit said technological advances could help “smart cities” exchange information to make life easier.

“Most Emiratis come to London often and are familiar with the city,” said Sir Edward Lister, chief of staff and deputy mayor for policy and planning in London.

“We could exchange information between London and Dubai to ensure greater quality of life.”

Mayors from Seoul and Barcelona also discussed how data was being collated to improve transport and internet services in their cities.

Sir Edward said building smart cities was about changing “the way we do things”.

“The population is rising in London. We are using technology to make the concept of smart cities work. To use the underground, you no longer buy tickets from a person but from machines. It is efficient and faster. We are not using cash the way we used to.”

He said the city had popularised the use of bicycles and was now looking into the use of electric bicycles to reduce traffic congestion.

“We are using car sharing. We are limiting the number of car parks in apartments and office buildings. We can’t go on with this number of cars in an old city like London or, for that matter, in even a modern city.”

A number of key initiatives were announced at the summit, including residents being able to use their mobile phones to deal with government departments and make payments by May next year.

"We are working with the central bank and the Emirates Identity Authority to make it possible to use your phone as a credit card and ID," said Hamad Al Mansouri, deputy director general for information and eGovernment at the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority.

Experts said driverless cars were already available and would change the face of global transport by 2020. Cars will be fitted with 360-degree real 3-D vision using radar, laser and cameras to navigate city streets.

The Roads and Transport Authority chief, Mattar Al Tayer, reiterated calls for a federal law to limit ownership of private vehicles and promote the use of public transport, especially among young people.

Mr Al Tayer said international consultants had been appointed to examine the infrastructure and extend the Red Line of Dubai Metro to Al Maktoum International Airport.

There are plans to appoint consultants for advice on crowd management, increase the number of buses and taxis and create a unified control centre for the entire infrastructure network to ease pressure on the RTA's transport system in the run-up to Dubai Expo 2020, when 25 million visitors are expected to be in the city.

Government leaders also urged staff to excel. “I will tell all the ministers and government heads, if you can’t be an exceptional minister, you won’t have a future in this government,” said Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.

Officials called on Emiratis to stop relying on government jobs and look at entrepreneurship for a stable future, but refrain from taking unnecessary loans.

“We cannot risk becoming a country of just government employees,” said Hussain Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality. “It is dangerous to have expectations that all jobs are government jobs.

"My advice to the young generation is to not take loans unless you are in dire need," said Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs. He disclosed that the Government had spent Dh2.5 billion last year settling personal debts.

In what was seen as the strongest call to push able citizens into work, the Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Al Roumi, said Emiratis should stop thinking social assistance was an acquired right.

“We encourage people to take training programmes to employ them. But they refuse to work even if they can get more from their jobs than from social assistance.

“They think they deserve this money. But there are more needy people. This is a negative thing.”

More than 3,600 delegates and 60 speakers on government, business, transport and education attended the summit at Madinat Jumeirah.

pkannan@thenational.ae

malkhan@thenational.ae