Throughout the pandemic, we’ve become more reliant than ever on technological advancement and more hopeful that innovation will lead us to a better future.
We’ve come to appreciate the value of digital connectivity and how intrinsically it’s linked to the smooth functioning of modern life. We have also recognized the need for this to be balanced with physical interaction and prioritizing our well-being. Meanwhile, one simple truth became clear: collaborative efforts towards innovation — across all aspects of business, society and governance — will play a fundamental role in how we build a healthier and more resilient world.
The UAE is carving a path in this regard, true to our history of unrelenting advancement. District 2020 aims to contribute to this journey as a blueprint for a human-centric smart city, that embraces technology and innovation to unlock human potential, while placing people at the heart.
The UAE has long prioritised digital innovation and technological adoption in developing a competitive economy and growing its human capital.
The agenda of the annual UAE Innovates 2021 week seeks to build on the nation’s deeply ingrained culture of innovation by exploring past great strides forward for the UAE and the creative transformation that is to come. With a firm focus on future readiness, the UAE is today a champion of innovation as the answer to accelerating the economy, reshaping cities, and redefining how we live and work so society grows more resilient to whatever the future holds.
To achieve this, the UAE has shaped an environment that nurtures creative thinking and unlocks economic and social value from an increasingly knowledge-based workforce. The opening of innovation platforms throughout the country, the growing adoption of advanced technologies such as blockchain, IoT and AI, and the recent offer of citizenship to global talents are tangible examples of this. Not only do these steps contribute to its innovation-driven economy, they attract and retain educated Arab youths and the brightest expat minds to collaborate and create breakthroughs that lead society forward.
And to foster such collaborative innovation while connecting a determined, impassioned youth with innovators worldwide, the UAE is playing host to the next World Fair. Expo 2020 will showcase the latest innovations and breakthroughs from more than 200 participants, providing a platform to spur the exchange of knowledge and ideas with the mission of paving the way to progress in areas that will lead to a more sustainable future for all.
As the future evolution of Expo 2020, District 2020 will carry the mission of the World Expo forward as an innovation ecosystem. It will continue as a platform for global Fortune 500 companies, small and medium businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs, innovators, and enablers to collaborate on ideas that elevate industries and society at large. Offering an urban lab, the ecosystem will act as a test bed for such ideas — fertile land for new thinking to produce new approaches to mobility, energy production, healthcare and so much more.
Bringing together global minds and global innovation-driven companies to collaborate and ideate; create new job opportunities; and embrace the potential of advanced technologies will spur sustainable economic growth and competitiveness. With this in sight, District 2020 is actively curating the environment for these businesses and talents to pioneer new solutions, within a human-centred community that is dedicated to enabling them to thrive.
They will come together to drive forward advancements across high growth sectors with a focus on sectors that are shaping the future of urban development, such as smart cities, smart logistics and mobility, digital healthcare, and the advanced technologies underpinning them. The benefits of this will be twofold: Stimulating economic progress and new advancements, while empowering citizens to live in a more connected, balanced and healthier urban environment.
While the pandemic and its economic fallout has forced nations to look at how to build more resilient economies, it has also led many in the population to prioritise health and wellbeing. As a result, governments and city planners have moved to revaluate how to use technology, apply digital innovation, and adopt methods such as hybrid working to build a better environment to live and work. Smart cities are part of the answer, integrating as they do intelligent analytics with the built environment to optimise how residents and visitors navigate the city and interact with its infrastructure, and how utilities are used and resources consumed.
District 2020 will repurpose Expo 2020’s infrastructure to create a blueprint for a human-centered smart city that is purposely designed to unlock potential, within a progressive and tech-enabled urban environment and innovation ecosystem. Devices, data and advanced ICT infrastructure with its physical infrastructure, will be integrated with innovative applications of the latest technologies — and in particular, IoT — to address challenges, improve services, and enable the community to function both smarter and more sustainably. For example, autonomous vehicle (AV) routes that reduce pollution while providing efficient mobility, and IoT sensors and networks in buildings for smart monitoring of energy and water use in real time.
At the very core of this approach is human centricity, that prioritizes social interaction, collaboration, and a balanced lifestyle. For cities and societies, being human centric means to constantly evolve as the needs and priorities of humans shift across generations and in response to events like a global pandemic. Technology innovation that is human-centered, therefore, provides the tools for positive change. This combined with inventive ideas and cross-industry collaboration will allow us and authorities to continue to find ways to evolve a city’s inner workings quickly, sustainably, and cost effectively to keep up with the new demands of residents and employees.
With many essential facets of society — including healthcare, sustainability, and mobility — in the spotlight, human-centered innovation and technology will help societies to bring about swift and lasting positive change, making sure humanity emerges from the pandemic stronger than before.