Sponsored: Collaboration is key for the development of smart cities
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Sponsored: Collaboration is key for the development of smart cities

Sponsored: Collaboration is key for the development of smart cities

There is a growing demand for smart solutions in the region

Gulf Business

Just about every operating unit of every organisation has already been disrupted in one way or another by emerging digital trends, and this calls for greater collaboration across all lines of business if the quest for digital transformation is to be a truly successful one.

But this demand for enhanced collaboration is not the sole preserve of private sector businesses, and nor is the pursuit of true digital transformation and the myriad opportunities it brings. Indeed, digital transformation – or DX as we call it at IDC – is now informing a wide range of government strategies across the GCC region, and nowhere more so than in the development of smart – or connected – cities.

With IDC forecasting global smart city ICT spend to exceed $1 trillion in 2025, and related investments in the world’s emerging economies (including the Middle East) tipped to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15 per cent over the coming five years, it is little surprise that the smart city concept is currently one of the hottest topics in the region.


And while high-profile smart city initiatives such as Smart Dubai and Masdar City continue to make headlines, the development of such purpose-built ‘greenfield’ megaprojects is not the only game in town.

That’s because there is also growing awareness of the role that smart technologies can play in raising the standards of existing cities, with a particular focus on areas such as energy management, resource management, transportation, and the provision of citizen services.

Indeed, deliberations on how to utilise technology to make it easier to live in a city, visit a city, navigate a city, and do business in a city are now central features of discussions between municipality leaders and their advisors across the Middle East.

All cities face challenges around population growth, traffic congestion, urban sprawl, regional economic competitiveness, and public satisfaction, and there is also an overall need to
efficiently manage urban services and transactions.

All these factors – and more – are giving rise to demand for smart solutions. But communicating the financial impact of such technologies remains the greatest challenge facing vendors and channels looking to exploit opportunities in this space. This is because until potential customers fully understand the financial impact, it is difficult for them to justify the upfront investment that is required.


That said, urban planners in most GCC cities already understand the importance of integrating technology into the city-planning phase. Indeed, in their role as planners for new cities or new districts within existing cities, most of them are now including smart city infrastructure and features in their blueprints.

This integration not only helps them as planners to optimise land usage, but also as city operators. And the role of these cities in driving true digital transformation throughout the wider populace must be central to any successful government-led initiative.

From an operations perspective, a reduction in costs, improvements in the delivery of city services, increased satisfaction of citizens, and optimised usage of municipal resources are the most tangible benefits a municipality can reap from a well-planned smart city programme.

By definition, smart cities focus on enabling improved economic development, sustainability, innovation, citizen engagement, and the development of an ecosystem of partners that work together to fundamentally change and improve the quality of life for the city’s residents. These goals are inextricably linked to the delivery of clear environmental, social, and economic benefits for all involved.

Such benefits can be realised through the use of technology to optimise monitoring, analysis, and operations of city management functions. However, as things currently stand, very few smart city implementations in the region have so far demonstrated tangible benefits in terms of energy consumption, optimisation, and improved quality of life for tenants.


One of the main challenges remains the difficulty of integrating comprehensive smart city services with citizens’ devices and facilitating usable data collection. Indeed, technology solutions for smart cities rely mainly on interconnected systems that collect, store, and analyse information captured from sensors and other connected devices.

The difficulty here is that to be truly effective, this complex infrastructure requires seamless collaboration across the entire ecosystem of stakeholders – from federal governments to municipalities to developers to private building owners to environmental organisations, and even to regular citizens.

So whether we’re talking specifically about smart city developments or more broadly about the overarching quest for digital transformation, the key to success is the ability to bring diverse stakeholders together to develop common goals.

This, in turn, facilitates discussions on how creating new processes, policies, and financing mechanisms to drive more widespread technology adoption can benefit the
whole community or organisation in question, as well as each individual participant or department.

At IDC, we believe such collaboration is the foundation for developing and executing strategic investment plans. And, ultimately, the creation of a fully functioning innovation ecosystem is the surest way to ensure a ‘win-win’ solution for all.

To download IDC’s full report on the topic, click here www.idcdxinsights.com 

Jyoti Lalchandani is group vice president and regional MD at IDC Middle East, Turkey and Africa


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