Dubai to extend roll out of free Wi-Fi in all of emirate

Dubai expects to offer free Wi-Fi across the emirate by the end of next year as the Government steps up efforts to make doing business ­easier for entrepreneurs encumbered by excessive red tape.

Wi-Fi UAE, launched last year by Smart Dubai and the operator du in 200 locations in the emirate, is now avail­able across 300, including its public transport network.

“Two weeks ago we saw Dubai’s taxis offer free Wi-Fi and within a year it will be everywhere across the city,” said Aisha bin Bishr, the director general of Smart Dubai, at the Gitex Technology Week exhibition yesterday.

The initiative was initially scheduled by the end of next year to cover 90 per cent of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, according Smart Dubai’s website.

“We hope to see the UAE offering free Wi-Fi once the scheme has been tried and tested in Dubai,” she said. “We offer [bandwidth of] 512kbps, which allows people to connect to social media and use WhatsApp, but you will not be able to watch videos or technology which requires higher speeds.”

According to Skype’s website, this bandwidth should be fast enough for video calling.

“This [extension of free Wi-Fi] could be a huge boon to small business,” said Nabila Popal, a regional research manager for technology analysts IDC. “The amount of SMEs that now use WhatsApp as a business platform is massive and growing daily. It not only enhances SMEs but facilitates business generally as few people now react to email but interact on social media immediately.”

As part of the government’s efforts to improve the ease of doing business, its mob­ile app, DubaiNow, will also become a one-stop shop for government and private sector services from next year. DubaiNow works as a conduit for 24 government entities offering 55 different services, from paying your Dewa bill to registering a marriage. The new push into the commercial sector has resulted in 2,400 retailers registering for the app and will allow users to also buy cinema tickets and book a restaurant table. “We have had 180,000 downloads of DubaiNow but the private sector offering will make it an indispensable mobile application,” said Ms bin Bishr.

She said the app will help to reduce time currently lost from excessive red tape.

“The efficiencies of the inter-connectivity between government agencies and private business will make the days of waiting for hours with endless reams of documents a thing of the past,” she said. “Our job is to make sure the infrastructure between apps and agencies is a seamless one. Why should every government agency need a copy of your passport and visa when it has already been uploaded. Dubai now has 31 policies dealing with data privacy to ensure the security of the project.”

The World Bank’s ease of doing business survey ranks the UAE 31st overall, but only 60th for starting a business, three places lower than last year’s ranking.

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