From 45 days to sec­onds: Smart Dubai and IBM’s blockchain project TECH­NOL­OGY

The National - News - - BUSINESS - ALKESH SHARMA

Smart Dubai and IBM have rolled out the Mid­dle East’s first govern­ment-en­dorsed blockchain plat­form, which slashes govern­ment payment pro­cess­ing times from a cur­rent av­er­age of 45 days to real-time trans­fers in­volv­ing en­ti­ties such as Dubai Elec­tric­ity and Wa­ter Au­thor­ity.

The Dubai Blockchain Plat­form, in­tro­duced yes­ter­day and built lo­cally in the UAE, is aimed at cre­at­ing the world’s first paper­less govern­ment by 2021, said Dr Aisha Bishr, di­rec­tor gen­eral of Smart Dubai.

“Dubai has been a pi­o­neer in blockchain tech­nol­ogy since its in­cep­tion, while other ma­jor ci­ties around the world were re­luc­tant to em­brace it for city­wide im­ple­men­ta­tion.”

Blockchain, which is the data­base tech­nol­ogy be­hind cryp­tocur­rency bit­coin, is a grow­ing list of blocks (or trans­ac­tions) which are linked with each other us­ing cryp­tog­ra­phy. This is a mech­a­nism for se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tions that cre­ates an open ledger which can record trans­ac­tions in a fast and ef­fi­cient man­ner.

Mid­dle East and Africa spend­ing on blockchain will reach $80.8 mil­lion (Dh296m) by the end of 2018, up from $38.9m in 2017, a rise of 107 per cent, ac­cord­ing the In­ter­na­tional Data Cor­po­ra­tion.

World­wide, the blockchain mar­ket is ex­pected to grow sig­nif­i­cantly in the com­ing years. The global blockchain tech­nol­ogy mar­ket is pre­dicted to reach $2.3 bil­lion in size from $339.5m in 2017, ac­cord­ing to Statista.

Dubai Pay Blockchain Set­tle­ment and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Sys­tem, the first cus­tomer of the Dubai Blockchain Plat­form, is the payment gate­way for most Dubai govern­ment en­ti­ties.

Dewa and Knowl­edge and Hu­man De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity are the first govern­ment agen­cies to join the new sys­tem – the two en­ter­prises have so far man­aged a to­tal of more than five mil­lion trans­ac­tions through blockchain.

How­ever, more govern­ment en­ti­ties in­clud­ing Dubai Po­lice, Roads and Trans­port Au­thor­ity, Dubai Health Au­thor­ity, Dubai Air­ports, Dubai Cus­toms, Dubai Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, Depart­ment of Tourism and Com­merce Mar­ket­ing, Dubai Courts, Dubai Hold­ing are ex­pected to join the sys­tem in the com­ing months.

A num­ber of banks and fi­nan­cial ser­vice providers are also likely to fol­low suit.

Dubai Pay Blockchain Set­tle­ment and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Sys­tem was launched by Dubai Pay last month.

Dubai res­i­dents who use the por­tal for pay­ments will not no­tice much dif­fer­ence in user ex­pe­ri­ence, but the com­ple­tion of the trans­ac­tion is more se­cure and much faster.

The plat­form is op­er­ated by com­puter ser­vices gi­ant IBM’s main­frame tech­nol­ogy, which is ca­pa­ble of run­ning more than 6.2 bil­lion web trans­ac­tions per day.

“When we start think­ing about a blockchain-pow­ered govern­ment, we need to think about se­cu­rity, re­siliency and per­for­mance,” Amr Re­faat, gen­eral man­ager at IBM Mid­dle East and Pak­istan, told The Na­tional.

“The IBM blockchain plat­form is the ideal tech­nol­ogy for these types of work­load be­cause it was de­signed, from the ground up, with se­cu­rity and re­siliency in mind.

“The IBM cloud environment in the UAE will pro­vide or­gan­i­sa­tions and govern­ment en­ti­ties with the abil­ity to host data and con­duct trans­ac­tions lo­cally.”

IBM has also worked with Dubai Air­port Free­zone Au­thor­ity (Dafza) to trans­form and au­to­mate the free zone com­mer­cial li­cens­ing and re­newal process.

Through the IBM blockchain, Dafza can man­age dig­i­tal blockchain trans­ac­tions ac­cu­rately and in real time.

Blockchain is steadily mov­ing to­wards be­com­ing a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar mar­ket by next year.

“We at Smart Dubai have suc­cess­fully em­bed­ded the tech­nol­ogy in nu­mer­ous ser­vices,” said We­sam Lootah, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Smart Dubai Govern­ment Estab­lish­ment, the tech­nol­ogy arm of Smart Dubai.

“With the launch of the Dubai Blockchain Plat­form, we will be one step closer to im­ple­ment­ing blockchain-pow­ered ser­vices and ex­pe­ri­ences into cit­i­zens’ day-to-day lives,” he added.

Dubai has been a pi­o­neer in blockchain tech­nol­ogy since its in­cep­tion, while other ma­jor ci­ties around the world were re­luc­tant DR AISHA BISHER Smart Dubai di­rec­tor gen­eral

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