Dubai wants to be the world's first blockchain-powered government

Dubai could see $1.5 billion in savings per year from moving to paperless government

Ramy Caspi
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Dubai, the “city of the future,” is quickly achieving its goal of becoming the world’s first blockchain-powered government to utilize the technology for all transactions.

By 2020, the emirate wants all visa applications, bill payments and license renewals, which account for over 100 million documents each year, to be transacted digitally using blockchain.

Dubai's plan to implement blockchain in as many government services has been hailed by the World Economic Forum in a new report.

Blockchain, which originates from digital currency bitcoin, works as an electronic transaction processing and record keeping system that allows all parties to track information through a secure network, with no need for third-party verification.

The goal of Dubai’s government is to conduct a majority of the emirate’s business using blockchain, which it expects will make government services more efficient and help promote enterprise in Dubai as it will become easier to do business there.

The Transformed Role of Government in the Blockchain Era

According to Smart Dubai, which is conducting government and private organization workshops to identify services that can be best enhanced by blockchain adoption, the strategy could save 25.1 million man hours, or $1.5 billion in savings per year for the emirate. Much of this enhanced productivity will stem from moving to paperless government.

Smart Dubai expects the public and private sectors to collaborate and start rolling out blockchain pilot projects this year.

Dubai’s blockchain strategy presents challenges due to lack of technical skills and infrastructure to support all the technology's functions. To address these challenges, the city will have a shared platform, called Blockchain as a Service, to help Dubai government agencies use blockchain in various projects.

In June, 2017 the Dubai government signed a new agreement with U.K.-based blockchain startup ObjectTech to create digital passports for entry at Dubai International Airport. Aiming to end manual passport verification, the partnership hopes to create the world’s first ‘gate-less border.’

UAE retail banking giant Emirates NBD is due to implement the distributed ledger in an attempt to prevent cheque fraud and boost their authenticity with the best digital security systems available.

Aiming to radically transform how people, buy, sell and lease real estate, Dubai Land Department (DLD), the government agency tasked with overseeing land purchases and approving real estate trades, in October, 2017 launched a blockchain-powered system to help secure financial transactions, electronically record all real estate contracts, and connect homeowners and tenants to property-related billers, such as electrical, water and telecommunications utilities. 

Our aim is to unite all real estate and department services on a single platform,” said Sultan Butti bin Mejren, director general of DLD, in a press statement. "This initiative is still in a stage of infancy. In the near future, we will see many partners joining blockchain to improve their client services, including banking, mortgages, and utilities and maintenance operations."

The adoption of blockchain in real estate, is only a first step. In October, the emirate also launched its own blockchain-based cryptocurrency, called, emCash, that people can use to pay for government and non-government services. “A digital currency has varied advantages – faster processing, improved delivery time, less complexity and cost,” said Ali Ibrahim, Dubai Economy deputy director general, in a press statement. “It will improve ease of business and quality of life in Dubai.”

Meanwhile, with the government giving the green light for a citywide blockchain payments system in Dubai, it looks as though the nation is on track to becoming the world’s first country that is powered by the blockchain.