Promising New Smart City in Oman
The State of Smart Cities
For the last few months we’ve been sharing more about our research on smart cities, including many lessons learned from previous failed projects as well as celebrating wins in this space. Overwhelmingly, the recurring theme across most case studies is that it’s generally a good idea to slowly build and evolve smart city programs, with an unrelenting emphasis on listening to and addressing the needs of the community (and using this as the basis for decision making when it comes to technology deployment).
This is in contrast with the approach adopted by many failed smart cities: starting with a grand vision with little input from the community, building a new city from the ground up to achieve that vision, and placing a greater emphasis on technology deployment rather than addressing issues that are pertinent to the community as a whole.
This is why we’re writing today’s blog post about a major smart city project whose recent announcement has been making waves in global news. Read on as we cover Sultan Haitham City, in Oman - a new flagship smart city project in the middle east.
Context - the Sultanate of Oman
Oman is a country located in the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, in West Asia, sharing land borders with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, and also boasting an extensive coastline spanning most of the so-called mouth of the Persian Gulf. Historically, Oman has extensive maritime heritage due to its privileged location and access to the Ocean. The country boasts, to this day, a plethora of traditional wooden sailing vessels known as “Dhows”. Somewhat parallel to what we see in Canada with First Nations today, Omani shipbuilders from traditional cultures work hard to ensure the knowledge and methods for building these vessels can continue to be passed down from generation to generation.
In the last century or so, Oman has been following in the footsteps of other nations in the region and undergoing a transformation from an underdeveloped nation into a stable and prosperous state. Notably, Oman significantly focused on evolving pragmatic foreign policy, and today has a stable economy revolving around the export of natural resources (such as Oil & Gas and mining), with an emphasis on developing other key industries such as tourism, industrial production, and manufacturing. Evidently, imperative to this strategy is attracting foreign organizations and investment - which is partially the driving force behind its new plans for a 100,000 people smart city about 40 kilometres Northwest of its capital, Muscat.
Sultan Haitham City - Treasure the Future
In June of 2023, The Sultan of Oman Haitham Bin Tarik hosted a launch ceremony for the sultanate’s first smart city, which will bear his name. In this ceremony, a model of the city was featured, highlighting the project as a foundation to support the future of sustainable development, while boasting luxurious buildings and positioning the development as an attractive destination for organizations and individuals across the globe.
The city will be similar in area to the Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, clocking in at just under 15 square kilometers. According to CNN, which exclusively obtained drawings from the architecture firm behind the project, the city will boast 20,000 homes, a university, schools, healthcare facilities, and mosques. The project is set to kick off in 2024, with its first stage addressing the development of the city centre as well as 6 planned neighbourhoods. This initial stage is expected to be completed by 2030, with three more stages already planned between 2024 and 2045.
Smart City Implications
The project overwhelmingly focuses on sustainable urban development, with a twist of luxury, and is being positioned by Omani officials as a gift from the Sultan to future generations of Oman. This is aligned with the country’s overarching strategy, known as Vision 2040, which has a significant focus on transitioning the country to a post-oil environment, and towards a sustainable, knowledge-based economy.
According to reports, numerous other smart cities are already in the pipeline, with Omani ministries having signed in March of this year 7 agreements for master plan designs of various other smart cities across the country. If the same rationale used for Sultan Haitham City is applied across other projects, we expect to see a significant focus on environmentally sustainable technologies as well as a special emphasis placed on sustainable transportation methods. Specifically, early press releases and statements by officials seem to revolve around smart infrastructure to measure air quality and water management, as well as a traffic management system leveraging real time data from sensors and cameras to reroute vehicles and manage the flow of traffic throughout the city.
What the future holds for Oman
In the past, we’ve seen a large number of smart city initiatives that started in this same fashion fail miserably. That being said, most of those case studies occurred in the Western world, and fail to account for the extensive history that powerful Middle Eastern nations have in terms of building large urban centres from the ground up (e.g, Dubai, Madsar, NEOM, and many others).
Judging by the grand vision for this project, it is very likely that more will come from Omani smart cities in the next few decades. At worst, we can expect to see a showcase of what smart cities could look like across the world, with the same or a higher level of luxury and extravagance we see in other urban centres in that part of the world. At best, we will learn from the Omani approach, and identify pathways to transform Western landscapes as populations continue to grow (thanks to Immigration, and despite low fertility rates) and we too transition to a post-oil world. Either way, this is an exciting development for those of us interested in Smart Cities, and we’re eager to see what the future holds in this space!
The journey from Smart to Intelligent Cities
Vivacity has been deeply involved in the Smart City space in British Columbia. Over the last year, we’ve worked with cities like Kelowna and Kamloops to identify pathways to leverage technology and create positive impacts in the community. Our new product, VivaCitadel, aims to help cities de-silo their internal data while retaining strong access control, seeking to get information to the right hands as quickly as possible, while generating non-tax revenue streams and enhancing the scope and impacts of Open Data.
Speak with our team today to learn more about our areas of expertise, and to find out how you can help your municipality navigate the path from a smart to an intelligent city!