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Smart innovation and determination can make all manner of transactions faster and smoother, enhancing the customer’s experience and overall quality of life. In this exclusive, Fatima Al Mazrouei, director of project management office (PMO), General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA), talks about the government entity’s GITEX participation and shares insights about technology, digital transformation and customer experience.

What is GDRFA at its core, and how is this reflected in what you are showcasing during GITEX?

We are the entity in Dubai that can collect biometric information and store it for the purpose of using it in any enhancements to our services for entry and exit for passengers in the city.

This year, we participated in GITEX with over nine digital projects. The main attraction is our data screen, which is showcasing our facial biometrics…where GDRFA has a lot of system improvements due to automation. We're using less human interaction to finish the services for our customers, which is becoming much more efficient and results in less usage of our employees’ time.

We are also focusing on the integration with government and non-government entities where we benefit from their data and they benefit from ours to make the transactions faster for our customers.

Other projects that we are showcasing at GITEX include our newly launched application for GDRFA, which includes new services. We have a roadmap to keep including the remaining GDRFA services so the customer can easily go to the application and apply for residency or visa, pay a violation or any other services they need. We're also showcasing models of some futuristic projects that we are studying to see how we can implement them by using big data technology with artificial intelligence.

We are also looking into different ways to provide services to our customers. In GITEX, we are showcasing the next way to do entry and exit for passengers, either by using a portable tablet or kiosk [with] the passenger to finish his transaction. If there is any delay or there is a lot of traffic of passengers, we have to use smart ways to make the transactions faster and keep things moving so that they are always happy and receiving a quality of life.

From your perspective, how will technology impact citizens’ lives in the long run?

Technology is a tool that we can enhance and keep upgrading to provide something much more efficient. When we say efficient, it means speed. We always focus [on] service where the time that it takes for a customer to finish his own transaction is made shorter. When you make it shorter, the customer is much happier, because they don't have to wait to finish the service that they applied for.

This is always our focus. Thus, technology is a way for us to see which type is beneficial for us as a government sector in Dubai, allowing us to keep enhancing our systems. We already have systems and we already have technologies. But what is the added value or something extra that we can put in to keep making it better and better?

Artificial intelligence is the main thing because you can keep building on it. As you can see in our stand this year, we're focusing on biometric information, and we've put a message through this GITEX that GDRFA is aiming, in the future, to use facial biometrics in all future transactions. Why? Because facial biometrics is a very efficient tool to use to speed up the process.

With the technologies you mentioned — facial biometrics and AI — how do you ensure security?

When there is a technology, the first question that comes to our mind is “is it secure?” Is the data, when using technologies like AI, secure when moving into the system, storing, processing and checking the quality? Is it processed properly? Is it saved properly after being processed? These are important questions that we always focus on because we hold sensitive information for everyone who enters and exits from Dubai.

Our data, as long as it has a high quality check, can benefit not only us in the long run but also other government, semi-government and non-government entities so that they can focus on enhancing their services. As a whole, if everyone keeps improving their services, Dubai customers, in general, would be happy.

What more can we expect from GDRFA in contributing to the UAE’s digital transformation journey?

GDRFA is already in this process because we have implemented some major changes in the entry and exit protocols. We already use biometric information to process passengers without using any documents. This is a testimony that GDRFA is on the right track and is aiming for something that is much more efficient and faster by using and relying on technology in all of our services mentioned.

But with any technology that comes, we always assess it and see what is more suitable for us to benefit from. There's so many technologies coming out, such as the metaverse, but it doesn't mean all technologies are beneficial. We need to see which one provides us with the highest benefit, and we utilize that. And definitely, we always go with the vision of Dubai and we always put it in our roadmap to implement, now and in the future.

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