Dubai is becoming a smart city – The Global App Summit 2014

Written by Arusha Imtiaz ·  3 min read >

Mobile App revolution has also taken Dubai by storm. After Travel, Trade and Tourism, Dubai is adding another ‘T’ to it’s success factors – Technology. Recently, I got a chance to attend the second edition of The Global App Summit, which is supposedly the biggest mobile app conference in the Middle East; though in reality it wasn’t very big. For some reason, I expected it to be bigger. Anyway.. It was held in Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai on the 1st and 2nd Oct, 2014. Various mobile solution providers, mobile app developers, entrepreneurs, experts, venture capitalists and students attended the event to celebrate the power of mobile app technologies. The theme of the event was mobile applications and how they are transforming the current business landscape.


Conference didn’t start on time, which made me feel like attending any event back home. However the schedule of the event was interesting. There were several keynote sessions, workshops, an exhibition and a private pitch zone which fostered the sharing of ideas, built networking opportunities and gave useful insight on the latest mobile trends. Unexpectedly the turnout was low, but the occupied seats, exhibited a great show and seemed quite excited about the changing digital landscape. Industry leaders from across the globe discussed the future of mobility, conceptualization & execution of mobile app ecosystems and the new trends in mobile technologies including wearables, IoT, and the Smart City.

The discussions at the conference, more or less revolved around the impact of mobile technologies and how it has shifted the control from the business owners to the end users. We live in an exciting era where thousands of mobile apps are being built every month. Competition is high and only 50% of the companies that were listed in Fortune 500 in 2009, are still there. The sole reason for this is the fact that many companies failed to recognize the power of mobile technologies. This mobile storm has now empowered the people and given a voice to the end user, who now expects an engaging and differentiated mobile experience regardless of location and time. Thus business units need to realize that these informed and demanding end users cannot be satisfied just by simple solutions that allow the convenience of business practices at their fingertips. They expect a personalized experience.

“Mobility is a given, it’s all about personalization now” – Vikram Chadha from du Telecom.

At the exhibition, on the other hand, tons of mobile apps and solutions were presented which backed the discussions happening at the events. Apart from IT solution providers like IBM, Microsoft, TBI, Nischint; teams of some leading mobile apps like Task Spotting, Dubizzle, Mobogenie, The Entertainer, icflix, etc also registered their presence, giving a high level picture of the ME mobile app footprint. After seeing this great display of mobile innovation I can say that Dubai is not just busy making skyscrapers, but is serious about technology as well. Pakistan on the other hand is still not sure whether to implement electoral reforms or not.

So much happened at the summit which I just can’t do justice to in one blog post but for me the highlight was the ‘smart city’ initiative taken by Dubai govt. Idea is to provide quality lifestyle to its citizens and the cherry on the top is the free wifi zone that they will be launching soon. Their vision is to create a happy smart city with the people at the centre of the ecosystem. For smart cities you first need to have smart governments said Tarek Hajjiri Director, Legal Policy, DEC. This is perhaps the reason why Pakistan blocked Youtube while Dubai is busy linking their government services and the public at all touchpoints through smart devices.

In a nutshell, this summit turned out to be a platform for the businesses, thought leaders, individual developers and the public to gather and share the latest mobile app technology trends. My takeaways from the event were that with 1/5th of internet population now on mobile, the potential in mobile technologies is not even questionable anymore. Internet of things is the future and mobility is driving towards it, period! Unfortunately like many other things Pakistan lags behind the rest of the world in terms of technology maturity as well. But considering the recent launch of 3G/4G, there is a lot that can be done now. We need more entrepreneurs that are enthusiastic and passionate about technology and its time that govt starts playing its part. We must shift our focus away from making metro buses, flyovers and underpasses and start investing in technology initiatives before it’s too late.

We can become a smarter city. Smarter in comparison to what we currently are. You want to make a flyover? Fine! Deploy the technologies that will help you forecast the traffic for 20 to 25 years from now and plan accordingly. It’s about time we switch our gears from reactive to proactive approach and start considering smarter initiative instead of short term goals. Lets be smart! Let’s become a smarter Pakistan!


Written by Arusha Imtiaz
Arusha is the founder and COO of an education startup mySMACED- A smarter education platform, connecting homes to schools. Profile