Smart sustainable cities - The Official Portal of the UAE Government (2023)

What is a smart sustainable city?

According to ITU, a smart sustainable city is 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 and environmental aspects.

In 2016, the ITU, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the UN Habitat launched the initiative ‘United for Smart Sustainable Cities’ (U4SSC). The U4SSC developed a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) for Smart Sustainable Cities (SSC) to establish the criteria to evaluate the contribution of ICT in making cities smarter and more sustainable, and to provide cities with the means for self-assessments in order to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The State of Play of Sustainable Cities and Buildings in the Arab Region-2017

The State of Play of Sustainable Cities and Buildings in the Arab Region Report (PDF 26.19 MB) is a compilation of the main public policies, programmes, case studies, organisations and initiatives associated with sustainable city and building practices in twelve countries in the Arab region. Read about the UAE’s current situation with respect to sustainable cities from pages 79 to 86.

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Smart sustainable cities in the UAE

The UAE Government aims to ensure sustainable development while preserving the environment and to achieve a perfect balance between economic and social development. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are planning and developing several smart sustainable cities.

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Smart city index

For the second year in a row, Abu Dhabi and Dubai have been ranked as the smartest cities in the Middle East and North Africa region, as per the Smart City Index 2021.

While Abu Dhabi is ranked 28, Dubai is closely behind at 29, out of 118 cities. Compared to 2020, both the emirates climbed up 14 places globally.

The top three smart cities are:

  1. Singapore (1st)
  2. Zurich (2nd)
  3. Oslo (3rd).

About the Smart City Index 2021

International Institute for Management Development and Singapore University of Technology and Design released the third edition of the annual IMD-SUTD Smart City Index (SCI).

The index reveals that city-dwellers’ perceptions of how technology is helping to address urban challenges, have been highly affected by the pandemic and its acceleration of digital transformation.

About 15,000 residents of 118 cities across the globe were surveyed in July 2021. They were asked how their respective cities were doing in the areas of health and safety, mobility, activities, work and school opportunities, and governance.

Download the Smart City Index 2021 (PDF, 30 MB).

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Efforts in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030 aims to shift the base of its economy from natural resources to knowledge, innovation and the export of cutting-edge technologies. This would result in the diversification of the economy by finding a number of new economic alternatives. A major step forward along this strategy is to develop a smart city.

Developing appropriate infrastructure, while preserving the environment, forms the third priority area in Abu Dhabi Economic Plan 2030. The Government will ensure the development of a professionally designed and well-managed urban environment in the emirate’s towns and cities, complete with world-class traffic and transport systems. Masdar City is one such example of a smart sustainable city, regionally and globally.

Masdar City

In 2006, Abu Dhabi initiated the planning of Masdar City. The master plan of Masdar included major components such as:

  • optimisation of solar energy through maximising efficiency gains
  • integration of all aspects of city life by providing minimal use of transportation
  • limiting height of construction and buildings
  • providing high quality of life in an efficient ecosystem and environmentally smart way.

Masdar Cityrepresents the first attempt in the Middle East to build a sustainable city. Masdar City aims to reduce the use of energy, water and generation of waste. It uses a combination of technology, architectural designs and solar power to run. Using minimum energy is one of its primary steps to conserve the environment.

For example, the use of low-flow showers and smart water metres ensure reduction of water wastage. The architecture of Masdar City ensures that streets and houses are cooler than they would be otherwise. In addition, the use of high-efficiency appliances conserves energy.

Masdar City houses the headquarters ofInternational Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future.

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Zayed Smart City Project

In 2018, the Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities in Abu Dhabi has launched the pilot phase of the five-year plan for Smart Cities and Artificial Intelligence (2018 – 2022) named Zayed Smart City Project. The project will manage the infrastructure by using information technology and the internet of things. Read more about Abu Dhabi’s efforts to transform into a smart city.

Efforts in Dubai

Dubai Plan 2021 aims to make Dubai a smart and sustainable city. Dubai’s Smart City project adopts a strategy that calls for the transformation of about 1000 government services which focus on six key sectors namely: transportation, infrastructure, communications, economic services, urban planning and electricity. Dubai implemented many initiatives on the above six sectors, which fall under these categories:

  • open and easy access to data
  • smart transport
  • optimising energy resources
  • smart parks and beaches
  • police smartphone apps
  • newmaster control room.

Another initiative for smart cities transformation in Dubai is to incorporate all government bodies and turn them into a single entity, in order to provide comprehensive services to customers in an easy and efficient manner. Currents projects within this initiative involve using smart applications and devices across three tracks:

  • Smart life, which deals with health, education, transport, communications, public utilities, and energy services
  • Smart economy, which deals with developing smart companies, port services, smart stock exchanges, smart jobs
  • Smart tourism, which deals with providing a smart and convenient environment for visitors to the emirate, including visa, flight, smart gates, and smart hotel services.

Read more on what Dubai has done in transforming into a smart city.

Following are some of the smart sustainable cities under construction or in function in Dubai.

The Sustainable City

The Sustainable City was recognised as the happiest community in GCC at the first Gulf Real Estate Awards instituted by the Dubai Land Department. The Sustainable City is implemented in DubaiLand. The mixed-use township runs on solar energy produced indigenously. The residences, offices and other properties are equipped with appliances that save energy. The township is car-free and features 10,000 trees and house organic farms.

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Dubai Silicon Oasis

Silicon Park (SP) project articulates Dubai’s Plan 2021 to transform the emirate into a smart city. As of January 2016, Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) had succeeded in reducing cumulative energy consumption by 31 per cent exceeding the target set by Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 of 30 per cent. Read about DSO’s efforts in developing a fully integrated sustainable (PDF) and happy community through collaboration, innovation and technology.

Dubai South District

Dubai South District is the venue of Expo 2020. Sustainability is one of thethemes of Expo 2020. Half of the electricity used by Expo during the event will come from wholly renewable sources, with half of this generated on the site itself. The vast majority of the material used in permanent construction on the site will be re-used in building infrastructure.

Desert Rose City

Desert Rose City will come up in the Al Ruwayyah area along the Dubai-Al Ain road. This too is a mixed-use property. Its design, in the shape of the desert rose flower, would help reduce electricity consumption. It will run on renewable energy that it will produce itself. It would also have a waste recycling facility. 20,000 residential units of Desert Rose City will be for Emiratis and 10,000 will be for expatriate residents.

Sharjah Sustainable City

Sharjah sustainable City is thefirst fully integrated, net zero energy community aims to create a world class sustainable and happy community in UAE.

Updated on 13 Jun 2022

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