Where is the “happiest” city on earth? A sheik in Dubai believes he is building that city.
We are making Dubai the happiest city on earth by embracing technology innovation making Dubai a more seamless, safe, efficient and personalised city experience for all residents and visitors. Smart Dubai 2021
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum believes Dubai will be the “happiest” city on earth because it will be a “smart” city.
Sheikh Maktoum is not the only wealthy person on earth working on the idea of a “smart and happy” city. Billionaire Bill Gates and Blockchain magnate Jeff Berns are also working on their versions of smart cities. Can they do it? Can these wealthy people build cities that are truly “smart” and “happy” or might we need to look somewhere else to find a really SMART and HAPPY city? Let’s take a closer look.
First question: what is a “smart” city?
To understand something as large as a “smart city,” let’s begin with something smaller — something you may be holding in your hand right now — a “smart phone.” Why is your phone “smart?” Is it because your phone makes “phone calls” to friends and family? The phone my grandmother used 70 years ago did that, so it must be more than that. IBM invented and manufactured the first smart phone in the early 1990s. It linked to the Internet in 2001 and has grown in ability and popularity in the last 20 years.
One definition of a smart phone is “a mobile phone that performs many of the functions of a computer, typically having a touchscreen interface, internet access, and an operating system capable of running downloaded applications” (Oxford Languages). That’s certainly more sophisticated than the old-fashioned phone my grandmother used when I was a little boy. Smart phones are small computers that connect to the Internet and also make phone calls and send text messages.
Question: have smart phones made you happier? Some people would say yes; others would say no. Being “connected” has positives and negatives. Might that be similar to what we find in a smart “city?”
Dubai is one of almost 140 cities in 48 countries around the world that claim to be building “smarter.” Other smart cities include:
- Hong Kong
- Washington D.C.
According to About Smart Cities key drivers to making cities smart include:
- Standard industrial and digital sectors that cover Sensors production
- Internet of Things coverage
- Green and sustainable energy sources usage
- Gesources used for city infrastructure, traffic management, and construction
The criteria for selecting smart cities is two-fold:
- Cities should be of small or medium size
- They should be covered by accessible and relevant databases
In answer to the question, why smart cities, we find this explanation:
Against the background of economic and technological changes caused by globalization and the integration process, global cities face the challenge of combining competitiveness and sustainable urban development simultaneously. Very evidently, this challenge is likely to have an impact on issues of Urban Quality such as housing, economy, culture, social and environmental conditions. Global Smart City Strategies
Let’s look more closely at what Dubai is doing to build a smart city as an example. You can click on links above to read about other smart cities.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Smart City vision of Dubai is to make Dubai “the happiest city on Earth.” It is on track to conduct paperless transactions by this December (2021). It delivers city services through apps and encourages gathering and sharing of data “to develop and customize services for customer happiness.” It collects road tolls through RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and transport service payments through Nol smart cards (a credit-card sized contactless smart card that contains a stored value).
Here are some of the smart city achievements and goals for Smart Dubai:
- Smart Dubai Office has more than 130 initiatives in partnership with government and private sector entities (e.g. Dubai Data Initiative, Dubai Blockchain Strategy, Happiness Agenda, Dubai AI Roadmap, Dubai Paperless Strategy)
- Smart Dubai Index is a set of indicators that will highlight the achievements of Smart Dubai and illuminate future opportunities
- Paperless Strategy to build integrated paperless government infrastructure that would eliminate more than one-billion pieces of paper per year
- Dubai Blockchain Strategy for three strategic pillars: Government Efficiency, Industry Creation, and International Leadership
- Dubai Happiness Agenda includes the Happiness meter which represents a measurement of the happiness goal. A centralized data dashboard shows a map of happiness across the city each day through happiness metre touch points. Those points relate and rank customer experiences within industry sectors and geographic areas. The Dubai Government uses a Happiness Portal to measure the happiness of Dubai’s residents and visitors.
- Dubai Smart City Accelerator supports startups that are developing innovating solutions to help make the city smarter and deal with challenges from congestion, waste and energy for the purpose of improving the quality of people’s lives using smart buildings, smart transportation, intelligent logistics, smart lifestyles, and smart planning and maintenance (e.g. IoT and Connectivity, Urban Automation and Mobility, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Open City Data, Sustainable Cities and Living, Smart Government, Smart Retail Industry)
- Services 1 Centre provides a platform for co-creation and delivery of government services using artificial intelligence (AI). It delivers integrated government services as bundles (e.g. wedding bundle, new born bundle, business bundle) without the need for customers to visit other government service centres.
- DubaiNow App to pay for utilities, transportation, religion (Islam), health, residency, security and justice, education and business
- Sustainable Cities that conserve energy and harness renewable energy using technology and architectural designs
- Smart Car Rental Service enables customers to rent cars for short periods not exceeding six hours via Smart Apps
Strategies that support the Smart Dubai plan include:
- Smart Dubai 2021 Strategy
- Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy
- Dubai 3D Printing Strategy
- Dubai Data Strategy
- Dubai Cyber Security Strategy
- Dubai Blockchain Strategy
- Dubai Internet of Things Strategy
- Dubai eCommerce strategy
Happiness at the Core
Happiness is at the core of the Smart Dubai Strategy. Here are some thoughts about that from the Dubai Smart City website:
Our strategy for a Smart Dubai has happiness at its core. As the city is transformed, we are using the Happiness Agenda as a one-of-a-kind, scientific, and systematic approach to raising and sustaining happiness levels and measuring the impact on our residents and visitors. We hope to discover people’s wants and needs, to inspire positive change, to build awareness and encourage self-reflection, and to predict the impact of happiness by using our city-wide Happiness Index. To help us achieve our goals, our Happiness Champions are a key part of this integrated system to spread happiness through all parts of our society. Leading the implementation of the Happiness Agenda, they are working as ambassadors across a growing range of government- and non-government entities, embedding happiness into the DNA of these organizations. Our ultimate aim is to create a happy, positive experience for all, one that is seamless, safe, personalized, impactful, and efficient.
Overall, the Happiness Meter presents the easiest interface towards the user who will mark one of three cases, (1) satisfied, (2) neutral, (3) dissatisfied, generating simple but most valuable output data for the hosting entity. Through its simplicity and ease of use, the Meter integrates seamlessly into the experience flow of residents and visitors of Dubai while creating meaningful data towards the goal of ‘making Dubai the happiest city on earth.’
Other “Smart Cities” also have happiness as an objective. Here are four other examples:
The ‘dynamics of the city’ and the ‘participation of citizens’ are the factors that make a city smart. A ‘smart city’ is the product of mankind’s agony and introspection on how to make life happier and fuller, and the output of both the city and the citizens by actively realizing and using state-of-the-art technologies. Moreover, a smart city has become the most useful method to enhance the quality of life of citizens and an efficient tool to resolve global urban challenges. Beyond its dominant status as the best global e-government in the world for seven consecutive years, Seoul is now leaping forward as a leading smart city in the world based on big data and new technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Seoul
The Songdo Knowledge and Information Industrial Complex contains world-class RFID/USN facilities and provides high-quality services based on sharing. The city forms the basis for establishing a cluster network of the RFID/USN industry, including inviting core corporations, accumulating support facilities, etc.
The U-City International Conference that has been held since 2008 provides the future direction of future cities, city regeneration models and shares the vision of a happy future technology city. By hosting international meetings related to U-IT and carrying out Songdo tours, the IFEZ is appraised to establish its status as a ‘Global Leading U-City.’ Songdo
City of diverse, vibrant, and inclusive economy — A City of sustainable infrastructure and resource management — A City of affordable homes and neighborhoods — A City of enchanting nature and diversity — A City of happy and healthy residents — A City of endearing character and local identity. Kigali
To make people happier, healthier, smarter and more prosperous, and the city greener, cleaner, more livable, sustainable, resilient and competitive. Hong Kong
The Happiest City on Earth – Really?
Can human beings really create “happy” cities? Happy cities would need to have happy citizens to fulfill that claim. Is that humanly possible given what we know about the human condition? I think most people will agree that cities in history have not lived up to the ideal of having happy citizens. Unhappy citizens can and have led to societal collapse through the ages.
GraceLife has another ongoing series, Warning and Lament: The Collapse of Civilizations, that is addressing the fact that most cities and civilizations have and will eventually collapse. Societies change dramatically because leaders and citizens are not able to build and maintain “happy” societies.
I do want to share some hope with you. There is a city in our future that will live up to and exceed the claim of “Happiest City on Earth.” We will share information about that very special City with you in the second part of our special series The Happiest City On Earth.
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