UAE efforts on generative AI stand out globally, PwC says

The technology is receiving a major boost thanks to efforts by the government encouraging its development and adoption

Ali Hosseini, chief digital officer and partner at PwC Middle East, during a private session on the sidelines of the Dubai Assembly for Generative AI. Photo: PwC
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The UAE is leading the GCC's "enthusiasm” towards the use of generative artificial intelligence and its adoption of the emerging technology is standing out on the global stage, a top executive of PwC Middle East has said.

The development of large language models in the Emirates is receiving worldwide attention, underpinned by government efforts encouraging the growth of the sector, Ali Hosseini, chief digital officer and partner at PwC Middle East, told The National.

The Emirates “has demonstrated its readiness for exponential change, emphasising that AI is not eliminating jobs but rather transforming them”, he said in an interview on the sidelines of the Dubai Assembly for Generative AI on Thursday.

“Alongside these advancements, there remains a strong focus on privacy and safety. This has culminated in a growing preference for self-hosted models, ensuring that data is kept secure and private.”

The business sector, which has followed the government’s lead, can harness the potential of generative AI using a three-pronged strategy of learning, testing and creating with the technology, he said.

“Initially, there should be a strong emphasis on deepening the understanding of generative AI capabilities, its potential implications and upskilling to expedite generative AI education within the company,” he said.

“This foundation understanding will be pivotal. The next step would include directing their resources towards building use cases, delivery model transformation, robust infrastructure and ensuring seamless adoption.”

Start-ups will also play a key role in the development and growth of generative AI, being well-positioned to create business models centred around the technology that will benefit the huge consumer market, Mr Hosseini said.

“Generative AI, distinct from many other emerging technologies, has the unique capability to impact every industry and application.

“Its widespread inception and adoption can be compared to the rise of the internet or smartphones into our daily routines.”

The AI industry, long used in businesses and society, received a jolt with the emergence of ChatGPT, created by Microsoft-backed OpenAI and which became a sensation because of its advanced conversational skills.

That sparked a race between the biggest technology companies and personalities, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Oracle and Elon Musk.

Generative AI is expected to hold immense economic potential. GCC countries, for instance, are expected to reap about $23.5 billion in economic benefits by 2030 as investments in generative AI continue to grow, PwC unit Strategy& Middle East said in a report last month.

The UAE, the Arab world's second-biggest economy, has already unveiled major LLMs – the underlying algorithm that powers generative AI – to stress its intentions of becoming a leader in the industry.

Abu Dhabi government-backed research centre Technology Innovation Institute launched its Falcon flagship LLM and its advanced iteration to boost generative artificial intelligence capabilities in the region.

Just recently, Abu Dhabi AI company G42's unit Inception, the Mohammed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence and Silicon Valley-based Cerebras Systems launched Jais, an open-source bilingual Arabic-English model, said to be more accurate than other Arabic LLMs.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's biggest economy, the generative AI market is expected to surpass $1 trillion by 2030, growing at a compound annual rate of more than a quarter, from nearly $220 million in 2023, data from Statista shows.

For businesses, generative AI could generate value equivalent to anywhere between $2.6 trillion and $4.4 trillion in global corporate profits annually in 63 use cases where the technology could raise productivity, a recent study from the McKinsey Global Institute said.

“Generative AI is one of the biggest paradigm shifts of our generation, introducing a significant opportunity for empowerment and transformation,” Mr Hosseini said.

“It is unique in its cross-functionality and disrupting industries. We can benefit from the power of generative AI, which will help reshape the workforce, increasing productivity and efficiency.”

PwC, as with other analysts and experts, also cautioned on the risks of generative AI, including the potential for misinformation and safety issues.

Mr Hosseini described these as a “barrier” preventing the widespread adoption of the technology.

“The possibility for models to produce inaccurate information or hallucinations emphasises the importance of users understanding these risks and relying on providers for education to ensure safe and responsible use,” he said.

“To mitigate issues like response bias and subjective rhetoric, it's crucial to responsibly source the information used to train these models."

Updated: October 13, 2023, 3:00 AM