The availability of data is very important to support planning and understanding of the cultural ecosystem, possible areas for growth, challenges, and increasing people's confidence in building businesses in the UAE. Ensuring the effective collection of data and making it available to the public is a priority for the UAE government. Therefore, over the past few years, there were notable efforts to ensure the availability of cultural data, and some of those efforts include the following:
* UAE Cultural Statistics: Stemming from an understanding of the importance of cultural data to support the growth of the creative industries in the UAE, the Ministry of Culture and Youth established a new Research and Data Department in 2019. In collaboration with the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, and all the local emirates, the Ministry collected cultural data for 2019 following the 2007 UNESCO Framework for Statistics. Learning from 2019, and after meeting with UNESCO's Institute for Statistics, it was decided to follow a simpler methodology for 2020 and set a more ambitious plan for cultural statistics for 2021.
* CultureSTATS-AD: Building on planning initiated in 2018, the government of Abu Dhabi in 2019 formally launched CultureSTATS-AD. This innovative program aims to establish a knowledge platform that produces cultural statistics that are internationally recognizable and comparable while also reflecting the unique culture, character and diverse forms of cultural expression that define Abu Dhabi. The Department chose ESSnet-Culture, the cultural statistics program of the European Union as the foundation for its own cultural statistics program. The Department began by taking stock of existing data and restructuring it in accordance with the statistical framework defined by ESSnet-Culture. By structuring pre-existing cultural data and by exploring the new approaches to data collection and analysis, the project will make possible an understanding of the socio-economic impact of the culture and cultural assets of Abu Dhabi, as well as better understanding and supporting cultural phenomena and forms of cultural expression that make Abu Dhabi unique. To do this, CultureSTATS-AD adopts an interdisciplinary perspective that requires strong research expertise and permanent collaboration among social scientists, economists, urban planners, data scientists and geographers.
* Abu Dhabi Cultural Data Publications: To increase awareness and engagement with Abu Dhabi cultural heritage, the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi (DCT) published numerous print and digital editions related to the various heritage and historical sites (such as Al Jahili Fort, Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery, Jebel Hafit Desert Park, The Early Islamic Site of Al Ain, The Iron Age Sites of Hili, The Bronze Age Sites of Hili, Al Jahili Fort, Al Ain Palace Museum). Through Abu Dhabi Culture/ CulturAll -an online platform-, a Tangible Cultural Heritage plan was set in place to document, inform and promote historic buildings, World Heritage Sites, conservation, archaeological findings, palaeontology, modern heritage, collection (objects/artefacts) and object conservation methods. These are just some examples of an extensive researching and publishing repertoire for Abu Dhabi brought by and delivered by DCT.
* Culture Sector Glossary of Terms: Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi (DCT) will launch the Culture Sector Glossary of Terms starting 2020 with a focus on heritage and art. DCT has been developing the Glossary of cultural terminologies in English and Arabic to support content producers in the cultural field in the UAE and the MENA region. The terms are derived from the specificities of projects in the UAE and that have been researched, used and updated. For Phase I, the following sections will be made accessible: culture practice, tangible heritage, intangible heritage, with a plan to update the Glossary every six months as needed.
While a number of statistics and data exist at different levels that directly or indirectly cover areas of culture in the UAE, there are now deliberate efforts to make available cultural statistics and data for policy-making, creatives, and the public.
Furthermore, in 2019, the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi (DCT) produced more than 40 publications and introduced digital formats alongside the printed editions. The publications included site booklets, exhibition catalogues, and research publications. They covered tangible heritage, intangible heritage, contemporary art scene, Emirati culture and artistic practice and photography publications. The following is a selection of highlights and projects that were conceived, curated, managed, executed and disseminated:
* Al-Sadu-Traditional Weaving Skills in the United Arab Emirates, extensive research on the history and practice of Al-Sadu and ways to safeguard it, is now available in both print and digital formats. (Arabic produced in 2019 and English produced in 2020). The research publication was done by DCT Abu Dhabi researcher Mahasen Wajih Allah (Arabic produced in 2019 and English will be ready in by November 2020).
* Aflaj Al Ain, documentation of oral narratives around the falaj system is now available in both print and digital formats. The research publication was done by Emirati DCT Abu Dhabi researcher Ayesha Khamis Al Dhaheri (Arabic produced in 2019 and English will be ready by November 2020).
* Intangible Cultural Heritage elements inscribed on the UNESCO Representative Lists are now available in both print and digital formats in English, Arabic, Chinese and French. The eight booklets highlight 8 of the inscribed ICH elements: Al-Ayyala, Al-Razfa, Al-Sadu, Al-Azi, Arabic Coffee, Majlis, Al-Taghrooda and Falconry.
* In preparation for the inscription of the palm tree in 2019, DCT produced an extended booklet to highlight the crafts and uses of fronds and parts of the palm tree. The research publication was done by a group of DCT Abu Dhabi researchers specialized in intangible cultural heritage studies and is now available in both print and digital formats (Arabic and English produced in 2019).
A lot of the federal and local efforts to ensure the availability of cultural statistics and data have been enhanced to ensure better data is available and that they are easily internationally comparable.
Furthermore, many more institutions in the UAE have expressed their commitment to support the creation, collection, and public dissemination of cultural data and research.