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“We believe in Cooperation, Commitment, Communication”

Mohammed al zaffin


Mohammed al zaffin
director, dubai gis center, uae
[email protected]
The Dubai GIS Center was established at Dubai Municipality in the year 2001 with objective of generation and maintenance of geospatial data for all of Dubai Emirate. The GIS Center aims to service all departments inside Dubai Municipality, outside government organizations and public organizations with GIS related tasks. In this candid interview Eng. Mohammed Al Zaffin, Director of the GIS Center shares his views with [email protected] Middle East

Dubai Municipality is perhaps one of the few municipalities in the Asian and Middle East region that has established an active center for GIS. In what ways has the Dubai GIS Center proved to be beneficial to the Municipality?
The Dubai Municipality has benefited greatly since more than 80 per cent of its data is related to land, and GIS makes it possible to deal with such data most effectively in an integral manner. The standards for data and technology instituted by GIS Center help in clear communication of geographic data among municipality and its consultants and clients.

The GIS Center helps Dubai Municipality to utilize data stored at various organizations of the Government integrally online as well as provide Municipality data to authorized users on the high-speed GIN. The Center enables departments to adopt mobile work solutions with real data. GIS and Remote Sensing techniques have enabled Municipality in the fields of hydrological assessments, environmental monitoring, coastal zone management, etc. It has been a major factor in Dubai Municipality maintaining its leadership role. The GIS data is an excellent backbone to e-Government services provided by Dubai Municipality. It’s adding value to other’s effort. It acts as frame enabling data-sharing among all users.

What have been the key impediments on the path towards bringing GIS into the municipal services domain of the Emirate?
We should rather look at the challenges faced than at impediments! The very first step was to bring an awareness of GIS, from concepts to uses, to all departments of Municipality and their clients. Then we created an integral and homogeneous mapping system for the Emirate, suitable for GIS needs. Next came the streamlining and automation of the technical and administrative workflows of departments. The most interesting aspect was in establishing cooperation and communication with all government authorities for the benefit of all.

In line with the policies and practices of Dubai Municipality, GIS Center encourages partnership between the Center and private companies in bringing the advantages of GIS to the public domain. The Center has established constructive relations adopting suitable Memoranda of Understanding with academic institutions in the UAE as well as with professional GIS organizations outside the UAE for enhancing the impact of GIS in our region.

Please tell us something about the Enterprise GIS established by the Center? What is the philosophy behind it?
The Enterprise-wide GIS is performing its specified role as mandated by Law No.6 of 2001. It provides 24×7 access and functionality to all users on the government network. Our Mission Statement given below, to make GIS data an assured basic utility for the Emirate, may express the philosophy briefly.

“To provide a true ENTERPRISE-WIDE GIS using Web-GIS technology in harmony with Dubai e-Government vision and make spatially-referenced data easily accessible to employees of the Government of the Emirate of Dubai.”

What is the role of Center for GIS in the development of NSDI in the UAE? May you elaborate on the manner in which the NSDI is taking shape?
The Center leads the efforts towards NSDI in setting up spatial data standards and spatial data exchange protocols , such as presently with GIS Basemap Project. The NSDI will be a joint evolution effort of all major spatial data players in the UAE.

What steps are being taken by the Center towards making GIS a public utility?
GIS Center has made Municipal data available 24×7 to authorized users. In near future professional consultants and contractors will be able to use GIS data and functionality on the Internet for their work needs. It is expected that our web site “Explore Dubai” will soon be available with all state-of-art functionality for the public use. The data is being priced to encourage its use among all. The concept of integration of applications, which provides utility and not only data, is now being put into practice. Thus GIS data gets into the daily workflow of user departments.

e-Government is fast becoming the key driver of Dubai’s economy with the successful implementation of various projects. What role does the Center play in these ventures?
Dubai GIS Center is an integral part of e-Government system. We provide online real-time access to geo-referenced data for all authorized users on the GIN (Government Information Network – broadband fiber-optic secure net). We familiarize all user entities on effective solutions using GIS for their workflows. We collaborate not just provide data (to add value, emphasis on sharing resources etc.).

What steps do you think needs to be taken to promote the usage and awareness of GIS in the Middle East region in general and Dubai in particular?
Supporting the Map Middle East 2005 conference at this time is one of our steps in this direction. Working with academia and related professionals in the UAE will be part of our efforts for this. Introducing GIS awareness at schools and colleges through annual campaigns and competitions is also considered.

“There is no quicker path to comprehensive development than cooperation in the fields of IT and communication”: This is one of the famous statements of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. In light of this we would like to know the future plans of Dubai GIS Center?
In total compliance with the statement of His Highness, Dubai GIS Center plans to take cooperation to all levels of working and decision-making in the government as well as in the public spheres of life. Our efforts to sign viable Memoranda of Understanding with all strategic partners in government as well as in private business is aimed at this.

Dubai GIS Center believes in and practices “COOPERATE – COMMIT – COMMUNICATE”.

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