On Oct.31, 2018, Dubai, in a partnership with IBM, launched the first government-backed blockchain platform in the Middle East. The blockchain platform was formed with the aim of digitising the everyday services of businesses and residents of the Emirates.
The platform is part of Dubai’s Smart Dubai Initiative that seeks to ensure that government services are paperless by 2021. Blockchain technology facilitates instant transactions and is convenient for faster payment of utility bills and government services.
Speaking after the launch, the Arab News reports that Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office said:
“Dubai has been a pioneer in blockchain technology since its inception, while other major cities around the world were reluctant to embrace it for city-wide implementation,” said Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office”.
She then added that:
“The Dubai Blockchain Strategy set a clear path for the emirate to have the world’s first fully digitized government by 2021”.
Commenting on the launched platform, Amr Refaat, General Manager at IBM Middle East and Pakistan reportedly said:
“Through the new service, these organizations will have the ability to transition their blockchain developments into full-scale production.”
An Ambitious Emirate
In the last few years, Dubai has piloted several blockchain technology initiatives and launched a couple of proof-of-concept initiatives. Notably, the concepts have been tried in energy, transport, roads, health, and education.
On 23 Sept. 2018, the Dubai Department of Finance, working with Smart Dubai Initiative launched a blockchain- driven system for reconciliation and settlement of payments. According to a press release, the system was to replace the use of manual reconciliations which was slow. Knowledge and Human Development Authority and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) were the first government agencies to pilot the blockchain
Under the new platform, the “Dubai Pay Blockchain Settlement and Reconciliation System” will be the first project to take a course. The project will enable government entities to carry out their transactions with banks and other financial institutions in real-time. Previously, financial institutions took 45 or so days to process payments.
According to Refaat, IBM recently worked with Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED) to unveil its unified corporate registry. Elaborating on the registry developed using IBM’s blockchain, Refaat reportedly said:
“The aim of the registry is to digitize the process of issuing business licenses and exchanging commerce information for business owners, investors, entrepreneurs, and startups, enabling them to conduct transactions digitally in real-time and in a trusted and secure environment.”
Refaat elaborated how IBM has also worked with Dubai Airport Freezone Authority (DAFZA) to automate and transform the free zone commercial licencing and renewal process. He elaborated that:
“Through IBM Blockchain, they can manage digital blockchain transactions and accurately and quickly verify documents, enabling businesses to establish operations in the UAE in a time efficient manner”
Admittedly, the initiative by Dubai government will enable it to save a lot of time and costs for both its citizens and for itself.