AI could help ease climate risks but human ingenuity needed, UAE's Al Olama says

Minister also celebrates Microsoft's $1.5 billion investment in Abu Dhabi company

UAE minister Omar Al Olama speaks during a session on AI's role in the global economy, at the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington. AFP
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Omar Al Olama, the UAE Minister of State for AI, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, has said AI could help ease some risks of climate change but human ingenuity is needed to fix the problem.

Mr Al Olama was speaking online during a debate panel at the 2024 Spring Meetings in Washington on AI and the global economy, days after the UAE was inundated by torrential rainfall.

The Emirates this week experienced its heaviest rainfall on record, with some areas receiving more than 250mm of rain in 24 hours.

But Mr Al Olama said the downpour was a “climate anomaly”.

“As a country, there is very little you can do to prepare for this,” he said.

Mr Al Olama said AI can help to mitigate some of the risks of climate change, but “we need human ingenuity” and “resilience and agility” to tackle it.

During the session, Mr Al Olama also celebrated Microsoft's recent $1.5 billion in Abu Dhabi's AI and cloud company G42.

The announcement was the latest investment in the UAE as the country looks to become a global centre for artificial intelligence.

“We want to ensure that we are players that … have place on the table with US and bigger players as well," Mr Olama said.

He said that when he was appointed AI minister in 2017, the UAE believed embracing new technologies such as AI would be a critical part of diversifying its economy and becoming a technology exporter.

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva, also a panellist during the packed meeting hall, said AI could be used as a tool for productivity in what she sees as a worrying trend in weakening growth.

“These are issues that affect potentially macroeconomic and financial stability, growth and employment. So we cannot ignore that,” Ms Georgieva said.

The panel also discussed how to govern AI, as international governing bodies such as the European Parliament and US Congress consider bills on how to properly regulate the fast-developing technology.

The emergence of AI, while potentially supporting labour growth, has also brought about concerns over deepfakes, misinformation and job losses.

“In the UAE, we want to be in the frontier," Mr Al Olama said. "To be in the frontier you have to make investments today, but applying it is a completely different ball game.

“That would require a lot more understanding of technology and the problems.”

Updated: April 19, 2024, 12:05 PM