November 2017

Happy to Pay (H2P)

As part of the Happiness Agenda that was launched in May 2016 by HH Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE, Ruler of Dubai, Smart Dubai Office and Dubai Police have today announced a collaboration aimed towards enhancing public participation, and the levels of happiness in Dubai. The project, Happy to Pay, intends to reduce people’s reluctance to pay their fines on time and, more importantly, to feel better about paying.

The project is a practical application of behavioural economics in policy-making, also called ‘nudges’, which are becoming the standard in advanced government units such as Behavioural Insights Unit in the UK government, and SBST in the USA government. Together with leading scientists from the University of Oxford and Harvard Business School, the Dubai team have developed a new version of the Dubai Police app, that allows users to pay their traffic fines, but with subtle differences that will be tested for their effectiveness in raising both compliance and happiness.

Based on data published by the Department of Finance, users will be presented with details of how the government budget is allocated in 2017 and therefore gives users a clear view of how funds from their fines will be spent. The Dubai Police app will also be leveraged to allow forms of engagement with users and to get a sense of how they feel funds should be allocated amongst sectors such as health, infrastructure, safety, and education. In this way, users will be able to better understand how their payment contributes towards public services, rather than seeing the fine as a mere penalty. This trial will allow the scientists to gauge the extent that transparency and participation influences people’s engagement with civic life and ultimately increase their happiness in Dubai. Further, aside from the valuable social benefits to the trial, there are also financial benefits, where the data is expected to show how users will pay their fines earlier, and reduce the likelihood of long-term delays in unpaid fines.

Emphasising the importance of the project, HE Dr Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of Smart Dubai Office, said “Aside from the social and practical benefits, this project is also important to underscore the collaborative nature of Dubai government as a smart city aimed at utilising a variety of ways towards an efficient and happy city, that aims towards evidence-based policy making.” Further, Brigadier Khaled Nasser Al Razooqi, General Director of Smart Services at Dubai Police, said “We are delighted to work with Smart Dubai Office on this important project, using the best combination of technological and psychological methods, as well as cutting-edge international academic best practice towards social engagement.” Meanwhile, Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve who is leading the collaboration at the University of Oxford, said: “Dubai has yet again shown leadership and innovation in applying robust scientific approaches to raising citizen engagement and happiness in a smart way.”

The trial will be conducted as a Randomised-Controlled Trial (RCT) which is the gold standard of international academic research. These are the same strict methods used in assessing clinical trials, because of the need to ensure evidence-based decisions.

Therefore, this trial will make a practical demonstration of evidence-based action, and in this case, the design of the Dubai Police app will be enhanced after the trial results are analysed, and eventually published in international scientific journals. The design enhancements will be based on scientific evidence for the best outcome towards happiness in Dubai.