HE Huda Al Hashimi, Deputy Minister of Cabinet Affairs for Strategic Affairs, UAE Government, explains why governments must adopt an agile mindset in an age of rapid environmental, economic, and social change.
Innovation is a fuel that powers the most successful private-sector organisations. Their relentless pursuit of new products, processes and systems in a bid to compete has made private companies synonymous with agility, progression and proactivity. By injecting the same level of innovation into the public sector, governments can drive efficiency, reduce expenditure and navigate crises.
The pandemic has left some countries and governments at sea. It has exposed the need for more resilient government models that can act quickly and decisively. Technology such as big data analytics, drones and artificial intelligence can inform and support decision-making while also helping to implement policies and measure their success.
“Government innovation is the foundation of every development and an engine of creating the future,” says Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai. “I believe that the UAE has a lot of experience and expertise to share in this field.”
In January, the UAE was ranked first globally for its Covid-19 response and resilience by the Pandemic Resilience Index 2022, which is funded by US-based advocacy group Consumer Choice Centre. And as we emerge from the health crisis, our economy is also demonstrating a solid recovery.
One of the main reasons for our ability to manage crises is our efforts to innovate within the public sector. This commitment is channelled in the form of the UAE’s dedicated innovation arm, the Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation.
Placing creativity at the very heart of our policies and strategies, we have been able to develop the mechanisms, processes and systems that can enable quick, informed and proactive decision-making.
This culture of innovation is best demonstrated by UAE Innovates, a nationwide festival of innovation. Comprised of a series of events across the country, the annual initiative is in fact one of the largest of its kind in the world. It celebrates and recognises public sector innovations and the individuals and entities behind their implementation.
Some of these innovations represent the very first experience visitors have of the UAE when they arrive: for example, Your Face-Your Passport, which comprises eye-scanning technology to provide seamless travel through 122 smart gates across Dubai airports. Pre-registered travellers in the system can pass through via an eye scan without needing to present their travel documents, a process that takes just five seconds.
UAE Innovates supports the government’s ongoing efforts to cultivate a culture of public sector innovation and position the UAE as a global hub for creativity and a nurturing environment for developing and implementing projects to enhance the public sector. By galvanising the country’s efforts under one of the world’s largest innovation festivals, we have been able to motivate employees and stimulate healthy competition within public sector entities, both on a local and federal level.
Over the course of seven years, UAE Innovates has celebrated and spurred many novel ideas and some truly groundbreaking innovations.
Some of the simplest but most impactful were implemented during the health crisis over the past two years. During the pandemic, for example, the Department of Health Abu Dhabi, in co-operation with the UAE University, created a mathematical model of the dynamics of the spread of Covid-19, contributing to pre-emptive plans to address the pandemic. The Ministry of Interior also used police sniffer dogs to detect the virus. Using their sense of smell, dogs were trained to detect the sweat of the infected person. The examination takes less than three minutes and immediate results give 92 per cent accuracy.
One innovation that particularly touched people’s lives was Virtual Global Doctors. The Ministry of Health and Prevention created a remote medical consultation service with doctors outside the UAE to help patients and doctors to obtain a second consultation for critical cases.
These recent innovations, some of which are winners of the UAE Innovates Award, are an example of creatively paring human knowledge and experience with ingenuity and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to help the government capably execute two of its priorities – improving services and protecting citizens.
In this era of rapid climatic, social and economic change, the need for capable and robust governments has never been so great. Societies around the world can all benefit from simple concepts and grand innovations that leverage advanced technologies.
First, however, governments must ensure they have built a foundation upon which innovation can flourish. Initiatives such as UAE Innovates are more than a celebration of forward-thinking entities and talents. They are a fundamental part of a country’s innovation ecosystem and have the power to help inspire and drive a better future and improve lives. Ultimately, initiatives that support innovation help to produce the tools for governments – and societies – to not only weather challenges but thrive in the face of change.
In all today’s uncertainty, that makes them more valuable than ever.