Case Study

The world’s first state-backed data marketplace using blockchain technology

Public Sector
Data Analytics, Software Engineering
AI, Blockchain, ML


The Emirate of Abu Dhabi wishes to become a regional and global leader in artificial intelligence and machine learning, having identified them both as key general purpose technologies using the emerging technology evaluation framework MDRx created for them in 2018. It also wishes to be the best and easiest place to set up and do business and recognises the role that data plays in the private sector’s decision-making when considering investment, whether entering a new territory or expanding their product and/or service line. 

Abu Dhabi is a very data rich Emirate. In addition to the vast datasets held by Abu Dhabi Government entities, its population is young and technologically literate with high internet connection speeds and smartphone diffusion. It was recognised that the availability of high-quality, large datasets is a key barrier to the proliferation of artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions. How then might the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority intervene to connect data holders with would-be data consumers, in a way that accords to global best practice? 

MDRx was asked to architect a solution using blockchain technology that serves as a data marketplace in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. 


MDRx spent several weeks in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, interviewing key stakeholders to define clear success criteria for the potential solution, while developing sophisticated user personas, stories and product hypotheses to test through Discovery and beyond. We focused hard on user needs and benefits, and then geared our product strategy to satisfy them with tight feedback and iteration loops enabled by Agile Scrum. 

We were mindful of the potential for significant data harm arising from a nationwide aggregator of data including personal data. In addition to producing a robust data protection impact assessment in conjunction with data specialists drawn from across The MDR Group, we carefully architected a public-private hybrid blockchain solution that afforded the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority the autonomy and control that it, as responsible government entity required, while also baking in a substantial number of governance mechanisms and safeguards that would protect against public harm. We benchmarked our approach favourably against global standards and best practice. 

MDRx recognised the nascent state of the distributed ledger technology ecosystem in 2019. We did not feel that it was prudent or appropriate for the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority to spend significant public funds on the development of a blockchain solution wedded to a single platform. Accordingly, we architected and recommended a novel system leveraging abstraction computing that could readily integrate with and, if necessary, port between, underlying platforms as they iterate, improve and in some cases cease operations.  

We provided a fully costed product roadmap to a minimum viable product and made several recommendations in respect of the structure and governance of the project’s delivery.  

We provided a detailed risk assessment for the relevant technologies and the project itself, analysing the severity and likelihood of legal, regulatory, commercial and reputational risks together with suggested mitigation steps.


  • User-centric product strategy: Focused on making a difference to real users in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. 
  • Responsible data practices: Sophisticated safeguards and governance mechanisms to protect against data harms. 
  • AI and machine learning advancement: Increased availability of large high-quality datasets that will drive and enable innovation in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. 
  • De-risked innovation: A clear understanding of relevant risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies, as well as specialist legal and regulatory advice from The MDR Group. 
  • World Economic Forum in Davos: Our client showcased our work at this prestigious conference, as part of its communication around its technology strategy. 
Abu Dhabi Digital Authority

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