Geographies in Depth

Abu Dhabi is embracing dynamic population data. Here’s why

People attend Abu Dhabi International Progressive Energy Congress (ADIPEC), in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 2, 2023.

The way Abu Dhabi collects population data has changed. Image: REUTERS/Amr Alfiky

H.E. Ahmed Tamim Al Kuttab
Chairman of the Department of Government Enablement, Abu Dhabi Government
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  • Having accurate information about the people served in the private and public sectors is essential.
  • But a traditional census can be too sluggish to provide accurate and usable data.
  • A more dynamic approach to population data is being rolled out in places like Abu Dhabi, enabled by technological innovations.

This article has been updated.

Whether for private businesses, non-governmental organizations or, indeed, governments themselves, understanding the market they operate in and the people they serve is crucial to delivering value and services that count. But accessing accurate and timely population data is not always easy; a traditional census at the government level, in particular, can be clunky.

That is why Abu Dhabi, the largest emirate of the UAE, has rolled out a more dynamic approach to generating actionable population data.

When Abu Dhabi unveiled its latest census data, highlighting the rapid rate of development in the emirate, much of the media coverage centred on the emirate’s population growth —with its population reaching 3.8 million peopleand economic transformation. But deserving equal attention is the methodology introduced in the census, which enables the on-demand generation of demographic data. This shift not only offers a more accurate and streamlined approach to census-taking but also enables the provision of on-demand population information.

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On-demand demographic data

The on-demand generation of demographic data — which relies on government registers to conduct the census, departing from traditional survey methods — has vast potential to support investments and transform public services, potentially ushering in a new era of smart government.

The advantages of on-demand population data are myriad. Among the most important is the way this kind of data empowers the government to dynamically allocate resources for public services like healthcare, education and transportation. For example, upon detecting a sudden influx of residents in a specific area, a government can swiftly respond by deploying additional resources to local healthcare facilities or schools to accommodate the increased demand. This nimble allocation ensures that public services remain responsive, efficient and equitable, constantly meeting the needs of residents and improving their quality of life.

Moreover, on-demand demographic insights provide the government with the capability to customize economic development policies according to specific trends and variables. For instance, by identifying a surge in the young adult population through census data, the government can prioritize initiatives aimed at fostering entrepreneurship and job creation tailored to this demographic group. This targeted strategy cultivates a dynamic business environment and catalyzes economic growth.

On-demand demographic data also provides valuable information to the private sector, empowering businesses to make informed decisions on investment opportunities. Retailers can, for example, use it to pinpoint areas with high population density and purchasing power, guiding their choices on store locations and product offerings. Data of this kind will continue to drive economic growth, prosperity and innovation in the emirate.

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Abu Dhabi’s innovation ecosystem

In Abu Dhabi, the key innovation that makes on-demand data possible is the TAMM super app, a platform introduced in 2018. The app gives users access to all government services and various private sector providers, streamlining residents' interactions with these services through a single portal they can log onto when required. By centralizing access to these records in a user friendly and secure way, TAMM has vastly enhanced the experience of interacting with government for Abu Dhabi’s residents.

The TAMM app is part of Abu Dhabi’s wider technological evolution, solidifying the emirate’s position as a growing hub for innovation.

Abu Dhabi’s rapid ascent to a leading position in the digital space is driven by its commitment to advancing technological innovations that enhance people’s lives through efficiency and convenience.

Against this backdrop, the latest census signals a step forward in Abu Dhabi’s ambitious agenda for digital transformation and smart governance, providing clear and quantifiable benefits to officials, businesses, and ordinary people. Generating this kind of dynamic data on people and markets offers a way forward in an increasingly digital world; it is a convergence of government vision, private sector investment and technological innovation.

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