JOHANNESBURG - The Smart City Dubai example offers South Africa how to improve efficiencies for both tourists and locals by reducing costs, red-tape via unnecessary paper work and wasted hours.
Earlier this year President Cyril Ramaphosa bore the brunt of a South African backlash after his State of the Nation Address when he announced it was time for South Africa to consider building a smart city.
"I dream of a South Africa where the first entirely new city built in the democratic era rises, with skyscrapers, schools, universities, hospitals and factories..."
"Has the time not arrived to build a new smart city founded on the technologies of the 4th industrial revolution? I would like to invite South Africans to begin imagining this prospect," Ramaphosa said.
However, as South African battles an all-time high unemployment and an energy crisis the idea of a smart city seems far from reality.
South African departments have also been slow to introduce current technological solutions, leading to inefficiencies, which curtails growth and development .
In a media session in Dubai, UAE, Smart City Dubai's director of marketing, Alia Al Mur, explained that the city's vision to be the happiest city on Earth, contrary to being the most technologically advanced city in the world.
"For us we look at what are the people's different needs from a holistic point of view, how they interact with the government, how the process works and how easy it is. We try to measure people's happiness by looking at their needs and how they can be met," she said.
To enable this vision, Al Mur said Dubai would be paperless by next year.
People in Dubai would have one smart identity that nullifies repetition by other departments for documentation, called Dubai Paperless Strategy 2021.
Launched in February, the strategy seeks to digitise all internal and external government and consumer transactions, rendering them all 100 percent paperless.
Government entities would stop issuing or requesting paper documents from customers for all transactions, while government employees will also stop issuing or processing paper in key or supporting internal operations
Smart Dubai identified more than 1300 city services that residents and visitors needed on a daily basis.
Smart Dubai connected all the entities on Dubai Now, which had reduced the number of times individuals need to travel to customer service centres for unnecessary documentation annually from 23 to nine, saving 28 hours per year.
The Dubai Now application, which offers 88 services that is a digital app with 33 entities, acts as a one-stop shop with a core focus to serve the end user – residents and visitors of Dubai.
In a statement it said, "For example, when you first move to Dubai, one of the things you look forward to is the ability to drive in Dubai. To get to this goal, it typically necessitates over seven transactions with five different government entities; this includes taking driving lessons, obtaining a driving license, financing and buying a vehicle, acquiring insurance and finally getting the necessary parking permits.
It said that Smart Dubai Government (SDG), a establishment established in 1999 and within the Smart Dubai Office, had saved the Dubai government $1.2 billion over the past 13 years, through shared infrastructure and shared smart services for 50 government entities.
"Today, the Dubai government is saving $5.6 for $1 spent by SDG.
"Our goal is to leverage emerging technologies such as Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and Open Data sharing to continue to increase the efficiency of our government services to create even better experiences in the city — and to expand this framework to the private sector so that all residents, business owners, city leaders and even tourists can benefit."
Al Mur said government jobs were not being lost as the government was upskilling people to meet the new job requirements.
* Disclaimer, Philippa Larkin was recently hosted on a media trip to Dubai by the Dubai Tourism and Commerce.