Dubai is definitely becoming a futurist city in the world with the introduction of the fastest land transportation system in the history of mankind (the Hyperloop), flying taxis (due to launch in July 2017), Museum of the Future and a recent innovative ministry, called the Ministry of Happiness. My recent visit to this ‘always vibrant’ city was memorable as I went up to the 50th floor of the Emirates Tower, where the Prime Minister along with other Ministers have their offices. Every floor of the government offices has a big board on happiness. The Minister of Happiness mentions:

“The role of the government is to create an environment where people can flourish – can reach their potential – and choose to be happy.”

While I went to visit the Government Innovation Center of Dubai, I had a chance to look at the Dubai Future Accelerator, which is located on the ground floor of the Emirates Tower, along with a shopping arcade. It’s open to the public and anyone can visit it without obtaining any prior approval.

The Dubai Future Accelerator is an intensive 12-week program hosted by the Dubai Future Foundation and the government of Dubai. The program is designed to identify emerging technologies and businesses with the potential to address the world’s most pressing challenges and opportunities. The government of Dubai through this accelerator supports them in developing solutions, test prototypes and, if successful, deploy across Dubai.

The government of Dubai has set a Dubai 10X Vision, which aims to make Dubai 10 years ahead of any other cities in the World. As officials put it, “Our mission is to turn the future, which was once a theoretical concept, into a reality in which Dubai can act as a global leader”. In response to this vision, one of the initiatives of the government is to open the Museum of the Future in 2019, which will invite people on a trip to the year 2035 — to see how technology could evolve to enhance our bodies and minds, explore what role it might play in our social and family lives, and discuss how it could be used to manage complex social and economic systems. The Museum will focus a lot on Artificial Intelligence and Humans-Robots interaction for future good.

At a recent conference in Dubai, speakers stated that the next biggest crash won’t be financial but social. Due to the high increase of automation (25% increase in automation from 2019), many people will be jobless, which will create a huge social crisis in the world. Governments have a major role to play to tackle this social crash. Governments around the world should prepare for disruptions, support high risk project, R&D and startups.

One approach could be for governments to build Innovation Labs where new ideas (from the citizens as well as from others) can be funded to develop prototypes, test and look for ways to scale up through Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Such labs will bring together policymakers and other stakeholders, including citizens, to explore innovative solutions to complex problems and design new products and services. Some good examples of Government Innovation Labs include:

• MindLab (a Danish government innovation lab jointly run by the Danish Ministries of Business and Growth, Education, and Employment and Odense Municipality);
• The UK government’s Behavioral Insights Team (undertakes experimental approaches to public interventions and policy making);
• The Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation, Dubai ( has interactive sessions and workshops that use innovative methods and tools to inspire innovative ideas and find solutions to the challenges that the Government entities face).

How to kick start a Government Innovation Lab?

First of all, we need visionary leadership from the head of government, who would like to solve pressing challenges with innovative thinking and intervention. Once the Leader endorses, a proper strategy needs to be developed. The Lab can initially focus on certain area/ministry and slowly scale up to other areas. Funding needs to be tagged with such lab as any testing of new ideas requires financial resources.

There has to be a good engagement model — engaging end consumers to the ideation, prototyping and testing process of new products and services. Engagement should spread across public and private sectors, academic institutions, etc. For the ideation phase, online platforms can be created to continuously engage citizens. Open Ideas competitions can be organized where panels of judges will go through the submissions and identify the winners.

The government needs to bring in partners from the private sector once a prototype has a successful test result. To commercialize or manufacture the new product, a substantial amount of funding is required.

Overall, a government needs to be pragmatic and understand the risk of future disruptions on their current socioeconomic structure.

The Singapore government has built dedicated ‘horizon scanning’ units for assessing future trends, and shaping their policies to plan ahead.

Where do we stand in this context? Can the government of Bangladesh create a dedicated unit under the Prime Minister’s Office to look into establishing Innovation Labs across government agencies?

Naguib Chowdhuryis currently working in a Development Bank as Innovation Specialist.