UNLOCK: Exclusive Interview with Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr Director General Smart Dubai Office

Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr Director General of Smart Dubai Office, talks to UNLOCK about Dubai’s Blockchain Roadmap and Achievements. In the interview she discusses the importance of Dubai’s Blockchain Strategy not only for Dubai but for the global development of Blockchain as a whole.

Bin Bishr explained the importance of the Blockchain Government implementation strategy. As she stated, “ First we will create greater efficiencies as some figures show that at least 25 million hours will be saved by decreasing the amount of paper being processed. It will also decrease tons of CO2 emissions but more importantly create an efficient seamless way for transacting services.”

This is just the beginning. Last March Smart Dubai Office chose IBM and Consensys as strategic partners and advisors for Blockchain implementation. Today Smart Dubai Office has already rolled out Blockchain sandboxes that governmental and semi-governmental entities can use to pilot use cases. As Dr. Bin Bishr explains, “By October 2017 we will have a fully fledged Blockchain platform offering Blockchain As a Serviceto our government and semi governmental entities. We have in cooperation with IBM and Consensys identified 17 vertical use cases, taking Blockchain out of the financial sector and moving it to more city wide services that include healthcare, education, real-estate, starting businesses, energy, mobility and others. These will be implemented in 2018.” Bin Bishir adds, “We aim to use Blockchain during EXPO 2020 to seamlessly open borders with other countries through Blockchain digital identity solutions at our airports.”

Today Dubai is positioning itself as a leader in Blockchain something that has not been witnessed historically in the MENA region when it comes to technological innovation.  Dr. Bin Bishr believes that Dubai, the UAE can play a leading role when it comes to the nascent Blockchain technology. As she states, “Today Blockchain, what we like to call the Internet of Transactions, is at the same stage that the internet was in its beginnings. While usually the ME cities wait until developed countries have decided which protocol to use or what standards will be set, we are working with both protocols, HyperLedger and Ethereum because we believe Dubai can shape the future of this technology within Smart Cities. When it comes to Blockchain we believe we are advanced enough to shape it, and so we can lead in both implementation and planning. This is why we are working with both protocols to make the best out of both mixtures.”

But why does Dubai believe it can succeed even though there are definitely challenges when it comes to any nascent technology? Dr. Bishr clearly attributes the eventual success to Dubai’s and the UAE’s leadership. As she explains, “Our leaders are our champions. H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council is a strong believer in Blockchain and wants Dubai to be the Global Capital of Blockchain with full governmental applicable transactions by 2020. Once our leaders decide the rest follow suite, the only challenge remaining is in fully understanding how to implement Blockchain solutions efficiently, and this is why we have endeavored to build horizontal applications on Blockchain example of Blockchain as a Service and vertical applications in the most applicable cases.” She adds, “Blockchain is part of a collection of projects, Dubai Future Foundation strategy, UAE Innovation strategy, 10X strategy and the Smart Dubai implementation.”

Dubai has even bigger plans than just implementing best Blockchain solutions. It wants to be the hub for Blockchain ecosystem. Dr. Bin Bishr adds, “We want to attract startups, entrepreneurs, Blockchain companies to set up in Dubai. With initiatives such as the Global Blockchain Challenge, our accelerators we are already attracting Blockchain entrepreneurs who see the city as a place to pilot their systems in an open platform.”

Dubai is also building talent internally as well as attracting it. Bin Bishr states, “we are strategically partnering with education institutions locally and internationally such as Mohammad Bin Rashid School of Government, Rochester Institute of Technology, Dubai University, and Sheikh Hamdan Smart University to provide many courses and increase the talent skill ser for the new economy. We graduated batches of students in Data As A Science, Happiness As a Science. In addition we jointly developed the first Smart City Degree with RIT, the first of its kind as well as Masters Degree in data sciences. We have even worked with LinkedIn on an economic graph giving us more insight in the skills that are needed for the job market in Dubai to help us focus on that and attracting the needed talents.”

Finally Dubai aspires to be a thought leader when it comes to Blockchain, and for this reason it is supporting and participating in the forums that will increase the awareness and understanding for Blockchain. Dr. Bin Bishr is looking forward to the UNLOCK Blockchain forum www.unlock-bc.com . She states, “We see Blockchain beyond bitcoin and fintech so we are working with organizers on designing agendas and forums, to attract the best international thought leaders to talk about Blockchain in other areas of our lives across various verticals. This is why strategic partnerships such as the one we have developed with UNLOCK Blockchain Forum are important to us, we are looking forward to having it here in Dubai to spread awareness on Blockchain as a transaction platform for government and cities.”