Smart Dubai has published a report titled ‘COVID-19: City Experience Resilience and Impact Report’, which offers a holistic view of the impact caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and outlines its effects on smart services.
The report is an initiative from Smart Dubai and aims to facilitate the formulation of a post-COVID-19 strategy, as per the directions of the wise leadership. It was compiled by the Happiness Agenda team at Smart Dubai, in collaboration with Smart City Specialists represented by both the Smart City Experience (focusing on city services) and Work Environment Specialists (focusing on human resources).
They represented 20 government, semi-government, and private sector entities. The study focused on three different subjects: employees, corporate operations, and services provided to customers and employees alike.
The Dubai Government demonstrated a high level of resilience in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report revealed, which has helped the emirate avoid any reduction in the quality of experiences and services being offered to residents and visitors. On the contrary, some of these services saw marked improvement. The study went on to highlight the challenges and opportunities brought about by these exceptional circumstances.
Her Excellency Dr Aisha bint Butti bin Bishr, Director General of Smart Dubai, asserted that the COVID-19 outbreak has led everyone to view challenges differently and to think of ways to transform them into opportunities, building a brighter future for the UAE. H.E. quoted His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, who said, “Anyone who thinks that the world after COVID-19 will be the same as the one before it is mistaken.”
“The pandemic had confined people to their homes at very short notice,” Dr Aisha explained.
“Educational training for students and work across the city, both at government and private sector entities, were conducted remotely and world governments found themselves facing unprecedented challenges. Dubai and the UAE were no exception. All entities in Dubai immediately sprang to action to preserve the government system that has allowed the UAE to earn its leading international status over the years.”
“This report constitutes of a collection of inputs from Smart Dubai and its partners in the public and private sectors,” H.E. Dr Aisha continued. “Our objective from this project is to implement the directives of our wise leadership, abiding by the words of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who said, ‘the new reality compels us to develop a proactive and comprehensive approach that understands our current reality, forecasts other challenges and offers solutions to address them.’”
“As restrictions on movement in Dubai and the UAE are gradually eased, we sought to examine the impact this unprecedented crisis has had on the experiences of customers and employees in the emirate of Dubai,” H.E. Dr Aisha said. “Given that the impact of the crisis is still at a very dynamic stage, we evaluated its effects through accurate studies into the methods that cities employ to cope with global changes. We have released this report, complete with 34 takeaways and eight clear recommendations that we hope will support policymaking in the post COVID-19 era to improve quality of life, and happiness of Dubai’s residents and visitors.”
The report concluded that the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak on services in Dubai was limited, where numerous organisations reported that their infrastructure and services were effective and adequately prepared for digital operations and providing services online, while others managed to digitise any remaining offline services quickly and provided them for immediate use online.
In the ‘Remote Work’ section, the report revealed that the safety of employees was a top priority for introducing such systems.
Meanwhile, the positive outcomes of remote work included the added flexibility that employees found in their new working conditions, as well as increased productivity and concentration. Furthermore, remote work has created new opportunities in terms of office space designs, which means that future office plans are bound to change, allowing for more flexibility and efficient use of space. Call centres were able to immediately absorb the large volume of calls from customers.
Overall, a new, online work culture has emerged within institutions, one where call centres bridge the gap and tend to people who need someone to help them. Digital transformation was seen as a challenge, but urgent demand prompted organizations to accelerate innovation in order to provide all services over the Internet. This rapid response was manifested through the speed at which officials collaborated and adapted to the changes as the pandemic accelerated in pace.
Participants in the report identified new opportunities brought about by recent transformations, including more flexible work options for mothers and women in general, in addition to time and cost-saving processes. These opportunities have emerged as a direct result of the recent developments in infrastructure, and of the digital services provided by government, semi-government, and private sector entities in Dubai.
The city-wide digitization of services over the past 20 years has enabled the emirate to respond to such global crises with strength and flexibility, guided by the UAE’s wise leadership and its vision to maintain control and prosperity even during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The report offered a set of key recommendations that underlined Dubai’s preparedness to shift from a traditional work environment to working remotely, seamlessly and for an indefinite period of time. The ‘New Work Culture’ section of the report reveals that entities’ focus is now placed on productivity and output, whilst also ensuring their employees lead a balanced life, both physically and psychologically.
The report concluded that “adopting empowering technologies” is fundamental for a resilient smart city (such as UAE PASS, the national digital identity). As for digital transformation, the study stressed the importance of working on sustaining and improving digital services and infrastructure.
The section on ‘Information Clarity’ called for spreading awareness and common knowledge about currently prevailing circumstances, while ‘Design Quality’ serves to enhance the long-term efficiency of systems. Last but not least, the report highlights the concept of a ’resilient city’, which relies on a sustainable and holistic vision to overcome any future crises.