Smart Cities Public Services and Digital Adoption

Lynn Bizri, Apr 26 2017

As smart technologies propagate around the globe, the movement to apply innovative and sustainable solutions to the most pressing problems within modern cities has given rise to the concept of a smart city. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines a smart sustainable city as “an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, environmental as well as cultural aspects”.    

The smart city market has witnessed considerable growth over the past few years driven by the need to improve the quality of life for urban residents by managing urban complexities, reducing urban expenditure, and increasing energy efficiency. Euromonitor International has estimated that the global market potential of smart cities will reach $3.3 trillion by 2025. Rapidly expanding and ageing populations, coupled with urbanization and industrialization, have led governments to embrace the concept of smart cities to address urban challenges.

SMART CITIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Euromonitor International expects that half of the global cities to emerge as “smart” by 2025 will surface from emerging markets and the Middle East. The Middle East is advancing in the smart cities race, and the region is likely to see major gains due to significant initiatives launched by governments and private sector developers.

Some of the smart developments and initiatives that have been launched across the region include Lusail City in Qatar, KAEC in Saudi Arabia, and Silicon Park and Dubai Design District in Dubai – as part of the broader platform of Smart Dubai.

The Smart Dubai initiative was introduced in 2014 to establish Dubai as the smartest city in the world by 2017, and has chosen happiness as the measure of success of its smart city endeavors with its articulated vision to become the happiest city in the world. This is aligned with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, vision where technology plays a vital role as an enabler to achieve this goal.

The initiative aims to encourage collaboration between the public and private sectors to achieve targets in six strategic dimensions: smart life, smart transportation, smart society, smart economy, smart governance, and smart environment, each of which will leverage the strong ICT infrastructure the city is currently developing.

Within these six dimensions, the strategy includes the implementation of over 100 initiatives in areas such as transport, communications, infrastructure, electricity, economic services and urban planning, and a plan of 1,000 services to transform the government and the private sector into getting smart.  

An integral component of Smart Dubai’s program relies on the Smart City Platform, providing the infrastructure and design tools necessary for smart services in the city.

The Smart City Platform works through four distinct layers: infrastructure (sensors and smart machines are connected and can collect data); data orchestration (data is securely collected, managed and stored from different sources, and made accessible); services enablement (data is processed with analytics, allowing applications to interact with the data); and application (applications are developed using city data).

THE STUDY: OBJECTIVES AND METHODOLOGY

ArabNet - in partnership with the Smart Dubai Office and with the support of OnDevice Research - has launched this study to examine UAE residents overall engagement with public services and to assess Dubai residents’ adoption of Dubai government apps. The study investigates UAE residents’ channel preferences for a variety of services, factors influencing digital channel adoption, frequency of public service center visits, and Dubai residents’ level of engagement with Dubai government mobile apps.

All questions related to public services and digital channel adoption in general were analyzed at the overall United Arab Emirates’ level. However, Dubai government mobile app usage in specific was filtered by Dubai residents only.

CONSUMER CHANNEL PREFERENCE – OVERALL UAE

CHANNELS Used for PUBLIC SERVICES – overall UAE

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The majority of UAE respondents go in person to finalize governmental-related services and financial services (such as renewing residence permits, trade licenses, and paying credit card bills / loan payments / government fines).  UAE respondents also look for convenience and speedy servicing and are more likely to pay their government bills and fines through an app / website. 

CHANNELS Used for Each Public Service – specifics UAE

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Booking lifestyle services (such as food) tend to be done over the phone / voice calls. Even with the traction of services like Talabat, Uber, and Careem, the phone / voice call is still the most used channel for booking a taxi or ordering food. Bookings for entertainment and leisure activities (such as events and travel) are mostly conducted over app / website channels.

Drivers of Internet Usage before / After Conducting In-Person Services – overall UAE

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The top reasons for using the internet before or after conducting an in person service are for more administrative purposes, for example to check working hours or timings, to check on processes, or to follow up on the status of a service.

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Frequency of Public Service Center Visits – overall UAE

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Majority of UAE residents claim to rarely visit public service centers (around 80%) while the remaining respondents visit service centers between once a week to once or twice a month.

DIGITAL CHANNEL ADOPTION OVERVIEW – OVERALL UAE

PERCEIVED BENEFITS OF DIGITAL CHANNEL ADOPTION - UAE

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The key perceived benefits of digital channel adoption are time efficiencies and convenience. This clearly indicates that UAE residents are constantly looking for speed, and flexibility in services.  This is true across gender and all types of occupations.

MAIN BARRIERS FOR Digital Channel Adoption – overall UAE

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The main barriers to digital channel adoption are associated with procedural systems, frameworks and trust. The majority of respondents only go in person when a service is not available online or requires their presence. Another barrier is security concerns related to trust and information sharing. Moreover, having support staff to handle any service related activities is a barrier to adoption of digital channels for Emirati nationals. When it comes to other nationalities, lack of trust and preference for personal interactions trumps digital channel adoption.

GOVERNMENT MOBILE APPS OVERVIEW – DUBAI

Government MOBILE Apps ADOPTERS VERSUS NON Adopters – DUBAI

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Utility mobile apps that offer a wide range of features - such as DEWA and RTA Dubai - witnessed higher adoption rates among Dubai residents as they are increasingly looking for consolidated services. Younger age segments are more interested in location-based services (Wojhati), while the older age groups increasingly focus on functional / utility apps like DEWA. Higher income groups are higher adopters of functional / utility apps; whereas lower income groups are higher adopters of entertainment and leisure apps.

To find out more, download the detailed report here

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