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Transforming AlMadinah AlMunawara into a smart city

The 2nd edition of Smart Cities World Forums was held on December 11th at the Meydan Hotel, Dubai, UAE, under the theme “Building the SMART Future”. The event offered the attendees the opportunity to know more about all aspects of smart cities and meet leaders in this particular field. Smart Cities World Forums spoke to Eng. Mohammed Alsharif, Program Director Madinah Smart City, AlMadinah AlMunawara Development Authority, who explained the Authority’s role in accelerating digital transformation in the Kingdom.

Why did you choose to attend the 2nd edition of Smart Cities World Forums’ “Building the SMART Future” conference?

Almadinah Almunawara Development Authority (MDA) chose to participate in this year’s edition of Smart Cities World Forums’ conference to showcase the digital experience of Almadinah Almunawara and its digital transformation journey in the framework of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Attendees were all VIPs coming from ICT companies in the Middle East. Participants presented their experience and the obstacles hampering cities’ transformation process. The networking experience was excellent and exceeded all expectations.

What are the main projects that the MDA is currently working on in terms of smart cities?

AlMadinah AlMunawara has put in place a visionary plan in the framework of Vision 2030 in order to win the race with the other Saudi cities. Our main goal is for AlMadinah AlMunawarah to be, by 2020, one of the top 3 smart cities in conformity with the IEEE and the ITU standards.

We have already kicked off our master plan with NXN and we are striving to implement the transformation plan aiming at achieving the shift from a traditional city to a smart digital city.

In your opinion, how important is governments’ role in establishing smart cities in the world and the Middle East in particular?

Governments play a significantly important role in this regard. Efforts to establish smart cities are coupled with numerous challenges at the level of the infrastructure, data sharing and awareness. Governments’ support to such initiatives expedite the transformation process.

For instance, Dubai is considered the benchmark for the Middle East region. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid had been a leader in this regard and was able to reach the target of becoming a smart city.

Governments have to foster smart city initiatives given their ability to facilitate the most basic needs such as the quality of life and the cost of the maintenance.

How do you see the impact of Saudi smart cities on the whole Kingdom?

In the case of Saudi Arabia, a study targeting the five main cities has forecasted a very positive impact. Smart cities will generate SAR11billion and will create 23,000 new jobs, which is of a great importance for the KSA in order to decrease unemployment rates.

Five years ago, this was a mere dream. In the next five to ten years, digital transformation will be a necessity. Therefore, we have to be ready to translate the dream into a reality.

What are the main goals and plans that you intend to achieve in 2019?

We are planning several projects for 2019. AlMadinah AlMunawarah is one of the top destinations in the Islamic World. The number of visitors reached 10 to 12 million per year and is expected to reach 30 million by 2030. That is why we have taken it as a pilot city where we have implemented several smart solutions. In the coming years, we will monitor the flow of data and assist stakeholders and provide them with the right KPIs in order to help them in their decision making processes.