Visiting Dubai feels like strapping into the cockpit of a rocket and taking off. The sheer audacity of creating a destination for visitors from around the world in what is historically a rather empty stretch of desert - and pulling it off within a lifetime - has to be applauded. The pain of rapid development is felt quickly when spending time in town, and the shallow sheen of consumerism is not nearly enough to drown the feeling of guilt of traveling around in an air-conditioned bubble on the back of migrant workers.
The scale and speed of development in the UAE is unlike anything I ever experienced. Singapore comes to mind as a model for successful top-down nation-building in geographic blind spots. Considering models of governance different from democracy sound unimaginable to some. It seems obvious (to some) that the population knows best and that selecting our public representatives every four or five years a given right. Only by experiencing different models of governance can we actually reach a representative conclusion about which approach is ideal, and places like the UAE prove to me that every alternative should be considered.
I visited Dubai half a dozen times between 2017-2019 in delivering workshops to public officials from across all Emirates. Working together with the Prime Ministers Office under the World Government Summit initiative, we offered training to approximately 500 participants over two years.
Sessions were focused on presenting a selection of emerging technologies within the context of patterns of technological development. Each session was presented with a unique selection of technologies, for example around healthcare, education, mobility or AI. The organization would then invite 100 participants from various government and public sector functions to join our training and receiving accreditation.