Dubai police are on the lookout for unhappy residents – for reasons that are not as ominous as they appear.
United Arab Emirates wants the lively nightlife city to break into the ranks of top 10 happiest cities in the world by the year 2021. To help achieve this revered status, authorities launched an online poll earlier this month to inquire if people are happy in the Emirates.
So far, their tactic seems fine. What could be a better way to determine if the city qualifies for the esteemed title than a survey of sorts? However, it's what followed after the responses came in that has raised so many questions.
The simple survey, released on the Dubai Police website, features Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who asks users to choose between a frown, a smile and an unimpressed straight line.
Those who click on smile or neutral remain in the safe zone, but the unhappy ones get a call from the police. Apparently, the officers randomly call a selection of gloomy residents to ask what is upsetting them.
“If the matter is under our jurisdiction, we will help them with it, but if it has to do with another government entity we will forward the issue to the concerned department,” explained Dubai Police Chief Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina, stressing that the police could not help with personal issues.
The Dubai police unveiled the “happiness survey” during a recent technology event where they sent text messages with the webpage link to Dubai residents. The official later revealed that their poll received more than 200,000 responses in its first day. Almost 84 percent said they were happy, 6 percent remained neutral and 10 percent said they're unhappy. However, the number of text messages they sent remains private.
“This looks to me like an attempt to try to slightly frighten people into a) replying to the questions and b) replying to say they’re happy because people really don’t want to be rung by the local police with the question: “Well, what’s your problem?” said William Davies, an author and a lecturer at the University of London. “But I don’t know. Maybe there’s something sincere about it.”
Long story short: If you are in Dubai, better turn your frown upside down or get ready to receive a call from the law enforcement officials.
The Gulf country currently sits at number 20 in the world out of 158 countries surveyed, according to the United Nations’ World Happiness Report released in April 2015. Although it holds the No. 1 position in the Arab world, UAE aims to break into the list of top 10 cities by the 50th anniversary of the nation’s founding.
In another attempt to measure happiness, authorities also began ranking municipal offices with a two- to seven-star system based on their customer service as part of Dubai’s “smart government” push last year. In addition to that, government offices across Dubai started placing small tablet computers next to civil servants, allowing citizens to provide instant feedback on their experience.
It looks like the UAE government really wants its people to be happy. However, their method to evaluate happiness seems to be forcing people to leans towards a certain answer no matter how they are feeling. After all, who wouldn’t click on the smiley face – even if they were feeling a bit blue – if it means avoiding an interrogation by the police?
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