We live in an ever-more connected society, where Internet and mobile phone access are considered basic necessities rather than the flashy luxuries they were just a few years ago.
On the other hand, while 3G phone access (and increasingly 4G high-speed networks) are available in many towns and cities around the world, things can be rather different outside of these cultural hubs.
Consider, if you will, the holiday-makers lying in the sun on the beach. Or the locals relaxing in the shade of a local park. Here, mobile connectivity can be rather less reliable. Here, it’s much harder to stay connected to our always-on Internet lifestyle.
Thanks to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, however, all this is changing in the UAE. As we speak, a new policy of connectivity is being rolled out, hidden in the subtle guise of the palm tree…
The United Arab Emirates may be largely a desert state, but if there’s one plant that the Middle East is recognized for its’ the date palm. Found all around the region, these palm trees have provided precious food – not to mention shade – for millennia. Now, however, they’re about to start providing something else; in the form of Internet access.
The newly-installed “smart palms” are palm-tree shaped communication hubs, being installed in and around Dubai, with a particular emphasis on public spaces like beaches and parks. These artificial palm trees offer not just guaranteed phone reception but also free wi-fi. In this way locals and visitors alike will never have to miss out on that latest tweet or status update.
However this is far from all that the palm trees offer. In addition, these solar-powered communication hubs even allow locals to charge up their mobile phones directly. Simply plug in your device and you can recharge your battery without ever having to return home.
This is just one more step towards the total connection of Dubai to the Internet. As peak oil is reached and reserves in the Kingdom start to drop, so the royal family has been keen to diversify into other growth markets. Real estate, for one, and now communication for another.
The goal, says Sheikh Al Maktoum is to make his people “happy”. This is likely to be something of an understatement among the expat community, much of whom is employed in the construction industry on minimum wage. Free wi-fi access across the country will help to reduce the costs of living here, as well as making the country even more attractive to foreign visitors and investors.
Long-lauded as one of the most “Internet-connected” countries in the world, it seems that Dubai could shortly become the single most connected place in the world, and a potential hub for tech start-ups.