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Dubai commits to blockchain e-government



UAE state becomes first to place technology behind bitcoin at the heart of administration – while Singapore forms new agency to support digital services

Two major global city states have announced big public commitments to developing digital government in the past few days.

Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced last week that it is taking a radical approach in making all of its public sector paperless and based on a secure blockchain by 2020 at the latest.

The news was followed by a slightly less ambitious but still wide ranging decision by Singapore to set up a new government agency to help drive the digital transformation of the Asian nation’s entire public sector.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai, outlined the state’s plans at the launch event of its e-government push.

He told delegates that all government documents should be created digitally and secured on blockchain by 2020 as part of a drive for the emirate to become an international leader in e-government.

Blockchain emerged initially to provide a public ledger of bitcoin trades, and has been developed to provide a mechanism to check on the validity and audit a chain of transactions. It involves the use of blocks of timestamped transactions, all of which are linked into a chain.

Three pillars

Dubai's blockchain strategy will be built on "three pillars”: government efficiency, industry creation and international leadership.

Its government expects the elimination of paper will make it more efficient, with the creation of a digital layer for city transactions allied to new business opportunities for the private sector, taking in real estate, banking, healthcare, transportation, urban planning, smart energy, digital commerce and tourism.

UAE’s minister of cabinet affairs and the future, Mohammed al Gerwagi, said: "Users will only need to log in their personal data or business credentials once, which will then be updated and verified in a timely manner through the blockchain network in all government and private entities, including banks (and) insurance companies.”

Singapore’s government said its new technology body, named GovTech, will work with other agencies to develop “forward thinking” and “leading digital services” to support Singaporeans. It wants the agency to also work with industry and citizens on the use of data science and analytics and technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning in public services.

As part of the initiative, Singapore has also announced a raft of digital moves, including the creation of a new National Trade Platform, which it says will enable businesses to streamline their operations and processes through data analytics.

It will be accompanied by MyInfo, a consent based platform for citizens to opt into a system that will collate their personal data on a single-sign-on platform to save on having to repeat the entry of data for different government organisations. There will also be a national parent portal for tracking the progress of children through the school system, and a big refresh of existing open data work.

IoT and analytics

The agency is also framed as a major player in ongoing efforts around smart infrastructure and the use of internet of things technology through a Smart Nation Platform. It is being developed to help public agencies with their deployment of sensors, data sharing and data analytics to support smart city work such as urban planning and incident response.

“Technology is playing a disruptive role in many sectors, and government must tap on it in new ways to deliver better value to citizens,” said Jacqueline Poh, the new body’s chief executive.

“The formation of GovTech marks a new chapter in the way we use technology to improve the wide range of services and touchpoints that the public sector has with our citizens and businesses.”

Image by Serge Bystro, CC BY 2.0 through flickr


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