Dubai in the United Arab Emirates already is a bustling cosmopolitan hub, complete with awe-inspiring attractions, luxury amenities and a good deal of urban engineering and social planning that leads to quality of life for residents and visitors; and now the Smart Dubai Office (SDO) is literally working toward the goal of a technical utopia with something called the Happiness Agenda.
Although there aren’t a lot of specifics in some of the communications put out about this effort, the SDO’s Happiness Agenda seems to be aimed at transforming utilities, transportation systems and other infrastructures to boost the happiness of people living in the city.
SDO officials recently talked about “supporting Dubai's transformation into a smart city through the adoption of a globally unique, science-based approach that puts the happiness of the public at the forefront of its priorities.” The group says the plan is “aimed at positioning Dubai as the smartest and happiest city in the world” and that it aspires to “create the opportunities that will lead to happiness across the city by allowing Dubai inhabitants the ability to access services in a 24/7 easy, efficient, convenient and seamless way, thereby creating a high level of satisfaction and happiness in their life.”
Officials discuss strategic categories, titled Discover, Measure, Change and Educate, that help to focus on fostering a “sustainable level of happiness.”
“We are always guided by the approach of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, to boost Dubai's competitiveness and support the goals of its strategic plan to ensure the provision of the highest rates of happiness and well-being for Dubai inhabitants,” Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, said in a press statement.
So what's behind these groundbreaking initiatives?
Mike Toney has a few ideas. Toney holds a master's degree in international business, focusing on the Middle East, and is a military veteran with four tours to Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt. He also authored "Liberty of Nations: 10 Ways to Make America More Safe and Secure".
“Dubai is one of the most progressive, tolerant, and tourist-friendly nations in the region.” Toney told the Gulf News Journal. “The fact that they’re pursuing this program shows they’re engaged and interested in keeping their citizens, if not ‘happy,’ then at least content enough to discourage trouble.”
Also, he said, big investments in infrastructure are practical for Dubai, in an oil-rich country traditionally awash in assets.
“They have a surplus of cash,” Toney said. “They don't want to be seen as inactive.”
Also, Toney said, noting the end of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast and renew their commitment to spiritual purity, the project could also be seen as a manifestation of one of the five pillars of Islam called zakat or alms-giving.
“It’s a great example of the royal family truly providing zakat to its citizens.” Toney said.