Cities around the world are increasingly transforming into ‘Smart Cities’ as rapid urbanisation is exerting growing pressure on traditional infrastructures.

The Smart Cities initiative, which integrate digital technology to optimise the efficiency of city operations and services, is now a global trend because of the economic benefits it offers, including the potentials to boost economic development of global cities by over 5% and deliver at least US$20 trillion in additional economic benefits by 2026, according to a recent paper by ABI Research on the ‘Role of Smart Cities for Economic Development’.

Cities are now undergoing rapid transformations by taking advantage of the enormous opportunities that smart technology offers in developing a more sustainable society. From Singapore – which developed a system that allows drivers to save up to 60 hours a year through autonomous taxis – to Chicago, turned into a smart region with more than 500 sensors and where the traffic lights, street lighting and rubbish containers are all connected to the internet, the cities of the future are gradually emerging.

Smart Qatar

Realising the enormous potentials of the Smart Cities initiative as one of the key factors to accelerate the achievement of all pillars of Qatar National Vision 2030, the ‘Smart Qatar’ initiative, also known as TASMU, was launched by Qatar at the 2017 edition of Qatar Information Technology Conference and Exhibition (QITCOM) – the largest Information and Communication Technology showcase and event in Qatar.

TASMU, which emphasises harnessing the power of technology and innovation to drive sustainable economic diversification while improving the quality of life and enhancing the delivery of public services in Qatar, is focused on five priority sectors -Transportation, Healthcare, Logistics, Environment and Sports. The initiative is expected to generate significant revenue for Qatar’s growing economy and boost its development by over 5% while delivering at least US$11 billion, out of a projected US$275 billion nominal GDP, by 2022.

Internet Connectivity

Doubtlessly, the backbone for smart cities is internet connectivity and Qatar has done extremely well in this regard. With the launch of the 5G telecoms on a commercially available network globally in May 2018, Qatar cemented its position as a world leader in high-speed broadband access for households and businesses.

The country has consistently topped the list of the ‘highly-wired’ nations. It was ranked number one in the world in internet penetration (99%) for the January 2017 to January 2018 period, according to ‘DIGITAL IN 2018’ Insight report published by ‘We Are Social and Hootsuite’ authored by Simon Kemp. The latest annual report released by Northwestern University in Qatar on Media Use in the Middle East survey also indicated that Qatar has one of the world’s highest internet use rates with a saturation level at 95%.

The market size of the Internet of Things (IoT), a fundamental component of the smart cities initiative, is growing exponentially in Qatar with sales projected to reach US$573 million by 2022, compared to US$172.5 million in 2018, while the monetary value of smart homes in Qatar is estimated to rise to US$344 million, according to data from Statista, within the same period.

Statistics from Qatar’s Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) indicated that the ICT sector is one of the major beneficiaries of the Smart Qatar initiative. Qatar’s ICT market, which was estimated to be around US$3.9 billion in 2017, is expected to grow by 2.3% per annum to reach US$4.4 billion in 2021. Figures from the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicted the software market in Qatar to reach some QAR1.55 billion (US$412 million), the IT service market to more than QAR1 billion (US$275 million) and the infrastructure market to more than QAR800 million (US$220 million) by 2021. In terms of growth, the cloud service segment is predicted to be the major gainer in this sector, witnessing a massive increase of up to 226% with spending expected to be in excess of US$111 million.

Msheireb Downtown Doha and Lusail City

In the real estate sector, Qatar’s model concept of smart cities is gradually turning into a reality with the Msheireb Downtown Doha and Lusail City projects at advance stages of completion. The US$5.5 billion Msheireb Downtown Doha is a mixed-used development project occupying 310,000 square metres in the heart of Doha. It is regarded as the world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project and the first downtown regeneration project embedding smart city technology and connectivity right from the start. The project, which is aimed at addressing a range of smart city pillars including smart economy, smart living, and smart environment has won numerous awards including the Prestigious Smart City Award in Barcelona in 2018. It is also among the 2019 nominees for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Lusail City also known as ‘Qatar’s Future City’, is a US$45 billion smart city infrastructure being developed by Qatari Diar, the real estate arm of Qatar Investment Authority. When fully completed in 2020, the project will provide a switched on, high-technology environment comprising both wired and wireless communication networks to offer advanced services. The total estimated population of Lusail will eventually reach 450,000 people including 250,000 residents, 190,000 office workers and about 60,000 employees in retail stores.

Smarter Healthcare and Education

In healthcare, digital patient records and tele-medicine are helping evolve Qatar’s healthcare market, through cost-time optimisation and improved patient care. As Qatar’s healthcare providers rapidly adopt a wide range of connected solutions, the country’s healthcare market is set to grow by 50%, from US$6 billion in 2016 to US$9 billion by 2020, as indicated by a report from Alpen Capital investment bank. The country’s investment in smart technology in its healthcare sector has paid off as Qatar is currently ranked 5th best in the world and the first in the Middle East in terms of life expectancy, health outcomes, and investment in health infrastructure, according to Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank.

Education also ranks among the top sectors that have been impacted by the country’s smart cities’ drive. Through the e-education and e-accessibility initiatives such as the eLearning Portal and the accessible Qatar National Library, self-learning has become much easier as the populace gets faster access to information.

Overall, Qatar is not resting on its laurels in its commitment towards achieving a diversified economy that is predicated on technology and information.

QITCOM 2019 will be held this week at the QNCC starting on 29 October until 1 November. This event is the biggest ICT showcase in the country. Click on the link below to learn more about the event.  

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