How Dubai Is Turning Into A Smart City ‘Test Bed’ For

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For many years in the UAE, progress in digital health has been more like an undercurrent. But, lately it has become a tide, with all stakeholders fully invested and ready to catch the wave. Given its infrastructure capabilities, Dubai is leading in harnessing digital health knowledge and innovation from around the world to support and develop tailored treatments.

Digital health adoption is on the rise in the UAE. (Photo courtesy Getty Images)

For many years in the UAE, progress in digital health has been more like an undercurrent. But, lately it has become a tide, with all stakeholders fully invested and ready to catch the wave. Given its infrastructure capabilities, Dubai is leading in harnessing digital health knowledge and innovation from around the world to support and develop tailored treatments.

“The digital health startup scene has gained immense momentum in Dubai over the past year, as the city’s vision and drive towards innovation is creating interest in both the public and private sector to explore new technologies,” says Roland Daher, head of health tech accelerator Dubai 100.

Last month, aiming to be the next FitBit, young health tech startups from China, Germany, Nigeria, Singapore, the U.K. and U.S. pitched their tech-driven solutions to investors and industry leaders, as part of the Dubai 100 program.

The healthcare innovations presented ranged from a wearable device that can diagnose asthma and monitor the condition in young children–indispensable, you may think, if you live in a highly polluted city–to a virtual reality therapy that helps partially paralyzed patients use their weakened limbs, and a wearable device that allows a pregnant woman to monitor her baby’s movement.

To transform the way patients seek medical help, global digital health entrepreneurs are leveraging Dubai as a “test bed” to validate new concepts and futuristic technologies, says Daher. “It is partly due to the multicultural industry here, combined with a culture of embracing new ideas and a will to make ‘the impossible possible’.”

Elaborating, Daher adds, “In any hospital in Dubai, you will meet managers, clinicians and patients from around the world. So in a single visit, validations and connections can be made with people from the U.S., India, Australia and Dubai.”


The UAE has technologically leapfrogged to implement the most modern healthcare

Over the past 18 months, drawing on the collective expertise of leaders and investors in healthcare, Dubai 100 and Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) have been facilitating this access to validations and connections, adding to the growing momentum of digital health industry in the UAE.

“I recently sat with the founder of an innovative motion detection company for digital rehab, taking part in the DFA program. In less than two months, he had the opportunity to secure a pilot covering hundreds of patients with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA),” says Daher. DFA invites entrepreneurs from around the world to submit proposals on cutting edge products or new technologies, and the winners are then flown to Dubai and given access to state-of-the-art prototyping labs and engagement with the government leaders.