Gitex: Du looking to push generative AI into consumer services, CEO says

Exclusive: Dubai telecoms operator 'heavily engaged' with companies including Microsoft and Amazon, Fahad Al Hassawi says

Du chief executive Fahad Al Hassawi at the company's pavilion at the Gitex Global technology conference in Dubai. Leslie Pableo / The National
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Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, the Dubai telecom operator known as du, is working with major technology companies to help push generative artificial intelligence into mainstream consumer services, its chief executive has said.

While the company does not have any plans to develop its own ChatGPT-style platform, it is working with “top partners when it comes to AI”, including Microsoft, which backs ChatGPT marker OpenAI, and Amazon, in order to harness the “extremely powerful” emerging technology, Fahad Al Hassawi told The National.

“We believe a lot in partnerships to be able to provide the best final product and best technology to your customers, you need to always have a network of partners,” he said in an interview at the Gitex Global technology conference in Dubai on Monday.

Mr Al Hassawi did not provide specific details of these partnerships, but said du is “heavily engaged with all the top partners such as Microsoft and Amazon, when it comes to AI, in order to provide the best capabilities”.

A key factor that would make the use of generative AI more widespread is localisation, whether from a language point of view or specific use cases, Mr Al Hassawi said.

But in order for this to be successful, it would also require finding the right partners in order to maximise its reach, he added.

“How can we take something that is extremely powerful and localise it for the market completely by ourselves? … It's not the right way to do it,” Mr Al Hassawi said.

“You should find the right partners, use the effort to localise a service or capability to the market and to the customers that this will serve.”

The Middle East and the Arabic-speaking world present a huge opportunity for generative AI, the sensational technology made popular by ChatGPT and which has sparked a race among technology companies and personalities.

Arabic is one of the most widespread languages worldwide – spoken by more than 400 million people, according to WorldData. It is the official language in 22 countries and partly spoken in 11 others.

However, its online presence is minuscule, with only about 1 per cent of content in Arabic.

The UAE has made strides in the industry, having already unveiled major large language models – 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.

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.

The TII, the research and applied research unit of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council, last year launched Noor, which at the time was the world’s largest Arabic natural language processing.

The UAE is leading the GCC's “enthusiasm” towards the use of generative AI and its adoption of the emerging technology is standing out on the global stage, PwC Middle East said last week.

Generative AI is also leading a trend centred around creating new opportunities for innovation, but has also been called the most overhyped emerging technology in 2023, Gartner recently said.

But Mr Al Hassawi said generative AI is “very exciting” – and not overhyped.

“It is going to open a completely new dimension now to the use of AI. It's a matter now of finding all the right use cases to be able to utilise its capabilities,” he said.

The AI revolution: What does our future look like?

The AI revolution: What does our future look like?

“It is disruptive in a good way because traditional models require some disruption and using generative AI will be able to really disrupt and improve the way you provide services and your performance.”

AI also has capabilities to streamline operations in the telecom sector, from anticipating customer requirements to supporting bottom lines, Mr Al Hassawi said.

“There is a proactive approach that makes sure that our telecom network has less faults and less requirements for maintenance. We can also use AI to better serve customers, understand their needs and give them the right offers based on the information we have on them,” he said.

“Generative AI will even make it better … it will enable organisations across all industries to take their performance to the next level and become really cost effective and running their operations.”

Updated: October 17, 2023, 7:36 AM