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Dubai of the future: a synergy between a smart city and a green economy

While Dubai once pursued its vision through magnificent real estate, today it is harnessing technology to drive a revolutionary new vision for a smart city. Dubai is nothing if not ambitious and not even a pandemic can stop its large-scale plans.

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A slow return to normality 
As cities including Dubai have been hit hard by Covid-19, some may ask whether they have a future. Yet, time and again, they have shown that they rise like a phoenix from the ashes from crises. Embedding digital infrastructure into the fabric of cities means that in the future, millions of people and devices will meet as new 5G technology is rolled out. Built and developed by companies following environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles, the cities of the future will be smarter and more sustainable, enhancing the experience for both residents and investors alike.

We believe that it is inappropriate to dismiss the city model as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cities have shaped our world in the past and they will continue to shape it in the future.

Carsten Menke, Head of Next Generation Research

We see strong evidence that cities will remain the growth engines of the global economy. Urbanisation might have slowed because of the pandemic, but the trend remains and, now more than ever, it must be addressed with ‘liveability’ in mind.

Turning a vision into reality – Smart Dubai
Not just home to the world’s tallest building and the Arab world’s most important financial centre, Dubai is also assembling the world’s largest solar park and investing substantially in creating a state-of-the-art city through technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. These technologies have the potential to transform our cities; they are the tools to make them smarter and more sustainable. Key to the smart city is connectedness - information and communication technology across various areas such as traffic and transportation, water and waste, electricity as well as buildings. The common denominator across all of these is the generation of data, by cameras and sensors that is communicated across the cities’ networks and crunched by its computers. Using this data in the right way enables the city to become more sustainable as its resource footprint.

Continuing to prioritise people’s happiness as its ultimate success indicator, Smart Dubai has announced an ambitious roadmap to prepare Dubai to embrace the future and emerge as a world-leading city by 2021, in celebration of the UAE’s golden jubilee. By leveraging the potential of new technologies, Dubai aims to deliver customer, financial and resource & infrastructure impact spanning the six city dimensions of smart living, smart economy, smart governance, smart mobility, smart environment and smart people.

The UAE as a whole has come a long way in embracing and the utilising advanced technologies, establishing the Emirate as a global hub for technology and an exemplary smart city of the future.

Her Excellency Aisha bin Bishr, Director General, Smart Dubai

Smart Dubai 2021 continues a journey that began in 1999, when the government announced the first information and communication technologies (ICT) strategy. This was followed by the launch of Dubai Internet City, Dubai e-government, Dubai Smart Government and, in 2014, the Smart Dubai initiative. Government has not been alone on this journey; it has been accompanied by business. Beyond local business, cities often involve worldwide operating facilitators, such as big industrial or consulting companies, as they can share best practices from all over the world and tailor them to the local needs.

A technology leader
The results speak for themselves. While Dubai ranks 92nd globally in the 2020 Cities in Motion Index, compiled by Spain’s IESE Business School, it is fourth in the technology dimension. It is also number one for technology in the Middle East. IESE describes technology as “an aspect of society that improves the present quality of life and its level of development. In addition, technological development is a dimension that allows cities to be sustainable over time, and to maintain or extend the competitive advantages of their production system and the quality of employment.” The high level of digitisation by both business and government, which sets Dubai apart in the region, also makes it unique according to McKinsey.

Resource efficiency and local green economies in smart cities
In 2012, H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai, launched the Green Economy Initiative under the slogan ’a green economy for sustainable development.’ We have seen first-hand how environmental goals can be complemented by setting up smart cities that use technology not only to conserve natural resources, but also to convert them more efficiently. Technology can help ration the use of natural resources and improve the recycling of waste.

While the Masdar City in Abu Dhabi was the first smart sustainable city in the UAE, and among the first in the Middle East region, Dubai is not far behind. The Sustainable City in Dubai is already operational while Dubai South and Desert Rose City are in planning or construction stages.
 

The city has set many ambitious environmental goals. It has introduced a range of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a targeted 16 per cent by 2021. Among them, solar power from the new 77km2 solar park is being harnessed to increase the proportion of energy from renewable sources to seven per cent. Waste management is another important aspect when it comes to a city’s environmental footprint. Historically, the United Arab Emirates relied heavily on landfills while just a small share of waste was recycled. As a part of the vision for 2021, the country intends to reduce landfill use by 75%, and earlier this year the largest waste-to-energy plant in the world went into operation in Dubai. The plant has a capacity of 1.825 million tonnes of solid waste per year, which converts into electricity for around 120,000 households in the city. The city has already opened the world’s largest recycling facility for electronic waste, underpinning its commitment to the circular economy as a key pillar of its sustainability strategy.

Speeding towards a smart city future

Among the most exciting smart city developments happening in the UAE is the construction of a high-speed Hyperloop transportation service between the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Using advanced electromagnetic technology, the Hyperloop would be an environmentally sustainable mode of transportation with the ability to cover a distance of 150 kilometres in just 12 minutes.

Innovative projects like the Hyperloop make it easy to understand why Dubai and Abu Dhabi led the Middle East and North Africa region in the 2020 IMD Smart City Index, which ranks 102 cities worldwide. This recognition reflects the commitment and the progress the United Arab Emirates has made by laying down the digital infrastructure for developing into a smart nation.

The city of Dubai is embracing the circular economy.

Carsten Menke, Head of Next Generation Research

Julius Baer in Dubai
Julius Baer started its journey in the UAE in 2004 and since then has grown significantly with its firm footing in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) in Dubai. Being the oldest company in the DIFC is no small feat; however, the office is set for its next phase of growth and expansion with the move to a new iconic address – ICD Brookfield Place in the DIFC.

“It was a pioneering move by the bank to establish a presence in Dubai over 15 years ago which allowed us to be closer to our clients and show our long-term commitment to the region. Although we are attached to our Swiss roots that have a 130-year history, we also believe in being active in our international core markets for the long term. We are very excited to embark on this new phase of our growth and expansion by cementing our regional headquarters out of this premier development known for its environmentally conscious policies,” says Régis Burger, Head Middle East & Africa and Chairman, Julius Baer (Middle East) Ltd.

Special Report: Future Cities