Dubai takes aim at the private sector to build citywide data transformation

Younus Al Nasser, CEO of Dubai Data Establishment discusses how Dubai plans to get the private sector involved in data economy initiatives

Dubai’s data plans aim to get the private sector to participate in the data economy, says Al Nasser.
Dubai’s data plans aim to get the private sector to participate in the data economy, says Al Nasser.

Dubai has taken another step on its digital transformation journey, with the launch of a new strategy and policy initiative to integrate private enterprises into the city’s data plans.

The Dubai Data Private Sector Strategy and Policy has been created to provide the framework and tools to create a complete city-wide data ecosystem, that includes public and private data. The strategy includes four components of governance and regulation; technology and operations; commercialisation; and people and engagement, along with a detailed roadmap for how the process will proceed.

Speaking to SmartCities Arabia, HE Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General at Smart Dubai, CEO of the Dubai Data Establishment (DDE) said that the private sector strategy is intended to build on the success of the government data initiatives.

“It has been three years since the launch of the Dubai Data Strategy... with the public sector we have been able to achieve great milestones with publishing a lot of data, with classifying and inventorying a lot of information. However this journey has to continue also with the private sector as we are operating on the city level, we are transforming the entire city,” he said.

Al Nasser said that developing the private sector strategy has taken place over the past eight months, in collaboration with the private sector entities. Smart Dubai has hosted workshops, with over 60 participants from 25 entities, with over 20 qualitative reviews conducted to identify pain points and challenges for the private sector.

With the private sector included, Dubai’s data economy has an estimated worth of AED 9.6bn ($2.6bn) he added.

Around the four pillars of the strategy, Al Nasser explained that in regulation and governance, the aim is to extend the existing regulations that have been implemented for the public sector to the private sector. Draft regulations have been created with the private sector.

The DDE has also hosted an initiative around AI ethics, which will help guide the implementation of AI related to data usage.

In the second pillar, technology, the aim is twofold, both to include private sector entities in Dubai Pulse, the government’s centralised city data sharing platform, and also to look at models of decentralised data that may be more appropriate to the private sector.

The Dubai Pulse platform, which was assembled with best of breed tools including machine learning and AI, includes hosted data sets along with analytics tools so that users can access the data and immediately start working with it.

Data is held in Pulse in a mixed model, with some data sets open, and some shared – meaning they are not publically available, but are shared among government and authorised entities. At present there are 295 datasets ingested into Pulse, 119 open, 185 shared.

Al Nasser said the initiative is exploring technical ways in which data sharing can be enabled in a decentralised model.

“We would like the private sector to retain its competitiveness, we would like them to maintain the confidentiality that they have in a decentralised manner, so that is one of the pilots that we are working on this year, to see what are the capabilities of the technology.

“It is a new way of creating a data market, where we keep the data with the owners themselves, the private sector organisations, but we come together around one data marketplace. This data can be exchangeable across organisations, through technology such as blockchain, that gives confidentiality and ownership of data, but also more importantly allows very clear, well documented agreements between the different parties on how to exchange data.”

In the third pillar, commercialisation, will also be linked to how data can be exchanged with monetary value, and the means of putting a value on data and in creating value from the data which is available.

For engagement, DDE will utilise some its successful programs from the public sector, such as the data champions model, which appointed individuals within government entities to identify data sets, and prepare them for sharing. In the private sector model the data champions will act as liaisons with DDE and also as champions within their organisations to promote the value of data sharing.

The government will also provide workshops and other training to help develop private sector data talent and build capacity.

“We believe by implementing our focus around those four pillars, we will transform Dubai entirely, both public and private sector, to become data driven,” Al Nasser said.

The program will initially focus on retail, real estate, finance and tourism sectors, but will be open to all.

“We wanted to start with the most mature market sectors, we welcome other sectors to participate with us in the initiative. What we want to achieve from it is to make sure the entire private sector becomes data driven, we know data is an essential pillar for the economy in the future, and we are just preparing them for a better future. We welcome everyone to be part of this initiative.”

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