Thirst for innovation driving smart cities in the deserts of the Middle East

Drawing on the wide expertise of smart cities in the Middle East, Orange Business has established its Center of Excellence for Smart Cities in Dubai. The multidisciplinary team helps customers, partners and affiliates innovate and develop projects worldwide.

The Middle East is increasingly recognized as a hotbed of smart city innovation, with Dubai in the United Arab Emirates leading the way as the highest ranked city in the MENA (Middle East/North Africa) region. The latest Smart Cities index from a Glasgow University study ranked the city 14th in the world. It looked at 5,000 cities with a population of over 100,000 and assessed how cities are addressing social, economic and environmental challenges through technology.

It’s no great surprise that Dubai is leading the way. Annual smart city technology spending in the Middle East is rising and is set to double over the next four years with a concentration on Dubai and Riyadh. This is according to a report from KPMG called The Rise of Smart Cities – Digital Transformation in the Public Sector.

Orange Business is playing its part, with a range of major smart city projects, including consulting at Al Widyan in Riyadh – ranked among the top 20 construction projects in Saudi Arabia in 2019 – and at Silicon Park, the first integrated smart city project at Dubai Silicon Oasis. This is where we recently set up our new Middle East innovation hub and regional headquarters. It is our regional center of excellence for smart cities and a showroom for our range of capabilities and solutions.

Commitment to innovation is one of the drivers behind the region’s smart cities, and we see this very clearly at the Dubai Smart City Accelerator. We are one of the six partners and co-sponsors of the program that supports startups with mentorship, product modeling and preparation for market entry, working across industries, including urban automation and mobility, and smart government.

The new Middle East innovation hub is already attracting a lot of customer and partner interest, and this now includes our regional affiliates, too. We recently hosted a visit from the Orange Jordan executive committee team for a briefing on the Middle East business strategy, technologies and solutions portfolio (including IoT, M2M, SD-WAN and smart cities) deployed across the region for enterprise and smart cities clients.

The briefing was led by my colleague Enrique Estalayo, Head of Indirect Sales for Middle East and Africa, who highlighted our major smart cities project work in the region and also the support for the regional innovation ecosystem, which plays a vital role in meeting the need for continuous innovation in the smart city domain.

The Middle East hub is designed to stimulate innovative ideas and collaborative business opportunities among large enterprises as well as SMEs. It’s what the region expects from one of the world’s leading innovators.

The Middle East and especially the countries of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) are very active in digital business transformation and smart cities, to diversify their economies and build sustainable industries and cities. We are working here on regional smart city projects at the country, region, city, community and enterprise levels, including government services, public infrastructure and utilities, smart metering and traffic management, parking and driverless cars, district/building management, and personal apps for healthcare, retail, banking and the smart home.

It's all about bringing innovation to improve the quality of life for people living, working and visiting the smart city.

Isabelle Lurquin
Isabelle Lurquin has over 20 years’ experience in the telecommunications B2B market in key accounts and sales management, indirect sales, business development and marketing. She has worked for Orange Business IMEAR region since 2012. The region includes the geographies of Middle East, Turkey, Africa & Russia, as well as the indirect business with SITA, the Orange Business channel to the Air Transport Industry. Today, Isabelle leads the Sales, Marketing & Communication and the Indirect Business functions.