• Law an important milestone for Dubai smart city initiative
  • Private sector and individual compliance will be optional
  • Similar federal law under way

A draft law that mandates the sharing of data among government, private sector and individuals in Dubai is under review, with the final law expected to be approved before the end of 2015.

The proposed law sets into motion the legal framework necessary to accomplish Dubai’s vision to become a smart city.

The draft law proposes a centralised data classification system or registry. For instance, data sets that carry minimum to no confidentiality risks, such as weather forecasts and public transport schedules, will be opened up to the public. Other data sets that carry high privacy, security and confidentiality risks, such as individual health records, can only be shared with very specific limitations, for example if an emergency situation, such as a virus outbreak, arises.

Abdullah al-Madani, CEO of corporate technical support services at Dubai Roads & Transport Authority (RTA), explained that sharing of data will be imperative among government entities and could remain optional among private sector companies and individuals. “In addition to creating new job opportunities and revenue streams, particularly for application developers, the main objective of this law is to improve the living standards of residents and contribute to a happier society as envisioned by Sheikh Mohammed [bin Rashid al-Maktoum],” Al-Madani said.

The RTA offers several apps, ranging from the top-up of the wireless toll (Salik) and public transport payment cards (Nol) to smart parking and renewal of vehicle registration and driving license. Opening up its data will allow greater participation from the private sector to develop apps based on RTA data.

“Transport for London (TFL), for instance, has hundreds of available apps. Of these, only 5 or 10 may prove to be successful in terms of user adoption and willingness to pay for the service in exchange for convenience. But this is what an open data platform is all about,” added Al-Madani, who also heads the Dubai Open Data Committee, which drafted the law and prepared an open data strategy and roadmap for the emirate.  

Once the open data law is approved, start-ups or individuals may develop apps based on live data coming from the RTA’s Dubai Metro schedule, which until today remains restricted from the public.

The sharing of data by the private sector and individuals will be done on a voluntary basis and will be governed by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to ensure that those who use or provide access to the data in exchange for a fee will comply with the legal framework.

A similar draft law is also under review on the federal level and could be approved about the same time as Dubai’s open data law.

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