UAE Towards Its Goal To Become A Fully Blockchain-powered City By 2021

UAE Implementing Blockchain Strategy

In January 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution UAE (C4IR UAE), Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) and the World Economic Forum jointly published a whitepaper. The report is titled ‘Inclusive Deployment of Blockchain: Case Studies and Learning from the United Arab Emirate.’ It investigates seven blockchain case studies to increase awareness about the common challenges and success factors involved while deploying the technology. This will enable other countries and companies to gain insights into the best practices before they implement the technology. It will help them realise the full potential while minimising the risks. 

Going in line, the World Economic Forum is working on designing tools and resources to support organisations and encourage accountable blockchain deployment. It is accomplishing this task through its global multi-stakeholder community. And hence, the UAE is playing a vital role in building this initiative. The country is sharing its real-world lessons and analysis of blockchain projects so that others could benefit from tried-and-tested practices. The findings, in the report, focus on the essential requirements across both technical and non-technical drivers of blockchain deployment success. 

Revealing the Outcome

In addition, the whitepaper also throws light on the Dubai Blockchain Strategy of 2016 and the Emirates Federal Blockchain Strategy of 2018. By considering the statistics, it indicates that UAE could save over US$3 billion (AED11 billion) by implementing advanced blockchain technologies. Clearly, the UAE government can eliminate 398 million printed documents and 77 million work hours annually by using blockchain to process regular transactions. At present, more than 80% of the public and private sector entities are already using the technology in the country.

As part of the report, C4IR UAE surveyed over 100 stakeholders from more than 60 governmental and non-governmental entities actively exploring or implementing blockchain. 

Eventually, three main findings came to light. 80% of the public sector entities said that identifying the applicable blockchain solution in the early phase is most important. For larger organisations, the key success factors were associated with the outline of the project scope. Thoroughly identifying the roles and responsibilities is also essential. Education and alignment with stakeholders were seen as the biggest challenges in the public sector. Whereas regulatory uncertainty was a fundamental concern for the private sector. 

More about the seven case studies are discussed in the context ahead. 

Seven Blockchain Case Studies At A Glance 

(Private Sector)

Case Study 1: DP World 

DP World, a world leader in global supply chain solutions is introducing a digital platform for global trade. It is collaborating with stakeholders along the value chain for new free-zone customer registrations and digitising certificates required for exit/entry through national ports. This ensures that they have the right foundations to perform the full implementation. Taking the global trade form ahead, progress will be measured by key metrics. These include participating members, shipments and documents recorded in the blockchain, and the number of purchase orders. In addition, average lead time from shipping request to cargo arrival targeted shipping lanes will be considered. 

Unique project management requirements and regulating on subjects of governance and operations was a challenge. Providing a single view into all processes and maintaining active stakeholder engagement were the success factors.

Case Study 2: Emirates Airlines (EA)

Emirates Airlines boasts an award-wining loyalty programme called ‘Emirate Skywards’ with more than 25 million members. The members earn Skyward Miles (a redeemable reward) with a variety of Emirate partners including airlines, hotels, car rentals etc. Hence, EA is looking to save time and costs of the onboarding loyalty partners. The aim is to enhance brand perception and improve the loyalty programme by connecting customers with blockchain.

Moving the technology to production and engaging with stakeholders was a challenge. Adopting the innovation-based approach and guidance from the UAE government has played an active role in promoting blockchain. The implementation yielded greater transparency, enhanced security and decreased fraud. 

Case Study 3: Emirates NBD (ENBD)

Emirates NBD is a leading banking group in the Middle East that is working on dealing with the sizable challenge of cheque fraud using blockchain. So the organisation began by applying blockchain technology to improve the risk and security management process with cheques. After launching the initial pilot in 2017, ENBD registered over 1 million cheques on the blockchain. Since March 2018, it witnessed a 99% reduction in cheque fraud. 

Convincing stakeholders about the technical feasibility and outlining ROI; the asynchronous process of data finalisation are the biggest challenges. Determining a clear roadmap at the earliest and constant engagement with stakeholders are the success factors seen by ENBD. 

Case Study 4: Etisalat Digital (ED)

Etisalat Digital, a unit of Etisalat promotes digital transformation by helping enterprises and government become smart by leveraging the latest technologies. The goal of ED is to implement blockchain in the verification layer of invoice financing. Fraud is detected by identifying duplicate invoices between the network of participant banks. Coordinating among many stakeholders and meeting requirements of all participating members were key challenges.  

Following an inclusive approach and approaching and engaging onboard banks into a single platform were seen as the success factors. The later was especially successful as ED is a non-financial external provider and facilitator. 

(Public Sector)

Case Study 5: Abu Dhabi Digital Authority (ADDA)

ADDA is involved in developing a government blockchain platform. It enables a secure and trusted data exchange tool between Abu Dhabi government bodies and external organisations. Going ahead, ADDA applied a multipronged strategy to the implementation of blockchain platforms. At the ground level, it raised awareness regarding technology and adopted a top-down approach for the implementation. 

Lack of clarity on standards, interoperability and other technical issues; awareness and expertise across organisations proved to be the key challenges. Whereas identifying the essential benefits of blockchain and applying modularity for solution sustainability were the success factors. 

Case Study 6: Ministry of Health & Prevention (MOHAP)

In the effort to develop effective healthcare systems and services, MOHAP focused on securing organ donation. Additionally, the purpose included improving accessibility of organ transplant treatments and preventing illegal trading of organs. Therefore, a blockchain-based application called ‘Hayat’ was launched in January 2019. Till date, thousands of registered donors recorded their will on the app and all hospitals permitted to administer transplants. The initiative is expected to save MOHAP over $20 million and reduce cost and hassle of driving to registry centres for citizens.  

Adopting smart contract as a legal digital contract and the cultural impact of smart contracts were the biggest challenges. Applying a phased approach matching blockchain maturity and the UAE government’s strategy were the success factors. 

Case Study 7: Smart Dubai 

Smart Dubai launched ‘Dubai Pay’ a centralised payment gateway that allows UAE residents, visitors and businesses to pay online for government smart services. In 2018, over 10.4 million transactions were recorded amounting to US$4.3 billion. However, as each entity has is own books and records, it resulted in substantial cost and time where bookkeeping process was maintained manually. This is where Smart Dubai applied blockchain. 

Shifting from centralised to decentralised deployment and the technical and business costs were challenging. Identifying a clear pain point and constant engagement with stakeholders proved to be the success factors. 

Smart Dubai’s Next

Smart City’s Blockchain Execution In The Business Sector

Smart city development in Dubai is constantly taking the city a step closer to its 2021 vision to become paperless. As a part of this, Smart Dubai recently announced the implementation of 24 blockchain use cases across eight industry sectors. These include commerce, education, health, finance, real estate, tourism, security and transportation. The department worked with government and private sector partners to develop the use cases in line with the mission to embrace advanced technologies.

Over 100 blockchain businesses are already thriving in Dubai. The smart city’s blockchain market grew by 24% in 2018 which exceeded the global average of 19%. With the rapid advancement, it is likely that Dubai and the UAE, as a whole, will accomplish technological goals earlier than predicted.