Botim launches region's first 'Arabic ChatGPT' to boost AI-driven offerings

The chatbot developed in partnership with MBZUAI will be available to a select group of users

The new chatbot will make it easier to access Botim services in the Middle East. Photo: Astra Tech
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Astra Tech, the Dubai-based technology investment company backed by Abu Dhabi's artificial intelligence company G42, has unveiled the first "Arabic ChatGPT" in the Middle East and Africa to boost AI-driven solutions for consumers.

Launched in partnership with Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), the chatbot is integrated into Astra’s Botim app, and will give access to services through conversational commerce, Astra said in a statement on Wednesday.

The platform caters to all Botim services, and ensures the information provided is current and accurate by “continuously sourcing latest information from local markets”.

Users can input their inquiries into the chat field, and the model will process the sentence, providing source URLs that redirect them to more information about a particular service of interest.

It will allow easier access to Botim's services in the Middle East, including international money transfers, bill payments, government services and weather checks, the statement said.

The platform will be expanded in the coming months to include additional services such as Botim’s stores and healthcare services, making it a one-stop-shop for users in the region.

Initially, the chatbot will be available to a select group of Botim's 100 million-plus user base. It will be expanded to more users later.

“Botim’s 'Arabic ChatGPT' marks another significant step towards simplifying people's daily lives and transforming the global tech industry while also enhancing the capabilities of our upcoming ultra-app,” Abdallah Abu Sheikh, chief executive of Astra Tech, said.

"We are very excited to leverage the Arabic language-modelling experts at MBZUAI to pilot the service on Botim for our select users as we train the model."

AI is estimated to contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030, more than the current output of China and India combined, global consultancy PWC said in its latest AI impact report.

Of this, $6.6 trillion is likely to come from increased productivity and $9.1 trillion from benefits to consumers.

In the Middle East, AI is expected to accrue 2 per cent of the total global benefits, or $320 billion, by the end of this decade, with annual economic contribution growth of up to 34 per cent, according to the report.

Mr Abu Sheikh said the UAE was set to lead the region with an average annual contribution of nearly 35 per cent.

Astra is “excited to be at the forefront of technological innovation and creating new opportunities with local academic collaboration”, he added.

Astra aims to develop an “ultra platform” which would be a first in the Arab world and would allow sellers and consumers around the world to directly transact with each other on a single platform, eliminating the complexity of using several apps.

Astra acquired Botim in January after buying FinTech platform PayBy and UAE-based home services app Rizek.

The company also secured $500 million funding in a round led by G42 in December and plans to acquire more tech platforms.

In early March, it teamed up with global payments company Mastercard to boost its digital payments services in the Mena region.

The partnership makes PayBy, Astra Tech's financial services arm, one of the first FinTech players in the UAE to obtain a Mastercard principal membership licence, which will enable it to act as an issuer of digital — prepaid and debit — and physical cards, Astra told The National at the time.

Updated: April 07, 2023, 5:07 AM