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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 July 2018

Smart Dubai close to rolling out 20 blockchain-based services

Dubai aiming to be blockchain capital of the world, says director general of Smart Dubai

Aisha Bin Bisher, the director general, Smart Dubai Office, speaks at the Unlock Blockchain Forum. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Aisha Bin Bisher, the director general, Smart Dubai Office, speaks at the Unlock Blockchain Forum. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Smart City, the Dubai Government agency entrusted with making Dubai the world's happiest and smartest city, said it was close to rolling out 20 blockchain applications in a number of civic agencies including the Roads and Transport Authority in order to bring greater efficiency.

"Blockchain will improve people's experience," Aisha Bint Buti bin Bisher, the director general of Smart Dubai, told The National on the sidelines of Unlock Blockchain Forum on Sunday.

"The applications are in various fields, some of them are in RTA, road and transport, some of them are in energy, health and education. These 20-use cases are under pilot, and we are looking forward to see the results so we can scale it."

Ms Bisher said Smart Dubai had set a deadline for 2020 to roll out its blockchain strategy but it was likely to be able to do it in 2018. Already, she added, blockchain was being used in land registry transactions.

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Smart Dubai said last March that the move to blockchain, involving the use of highly secure distributed electronic ledgers, is expected to improve the delivery of basic government services, saving over 25 million productivity hours per year. The government agency partnered with IBM and Consensys who are acting as strategic consultants and advisers, Ms Bisher said.

Blockchain, a digital technology that is bringing about efficiency in data and financial transactions through the use of cryptography - techniques for secure communication - has been best associated with bitcoin, the cryptocurrency whose meteoric rise in value last year captured the world’s imagination. The technology behind bitcoin is being used in many areas of life, including finance, to deliver money and information safely and quickly. Increasingly governments in the Arabian Gulf are investing in the technology as a way to diversify away from relying too heavily on oil revenues.

"Investment in blockchain across the GCC and beyond is ramping up at an impressive rate as organisations recognise it for the disruptive technology that it is," Ramez Dandan, the national technology officer at Microsoft Gulf, said at the blockchain conference in Dubai on Sunday.

"We strongly believe in the technology's immense potential for enterprises of all scales and industries. It allows them to share business processes with suppliers, customers and partners, leading to new opportunities for multi-party collaboration and eventually exciting new business models."

The Dubai Land Department, Dubai Municipality, Dewa and the Department of Naturalisation and Residency Dubai are among those running blockchain pilot projects, it was reported last year. Meanwhile, Dubai Customs, Dubai Trade and government-owned ICT firm Dutech are working with IBM on Blockchain ledger projects.

“While others were still debating the prospects of this new technology, we went to work and today we are making Dubai the blockchain capital of the world and we have already begun," Ms Bisher said.

“Dubai broke ground when the world reluctantly approached this technology. Already blockchain is rewriting how we deal with city services. In just a handful of years, blockchain has transformed key aspects of our city.”