UAE can be global hub for artificial intelligence, says minister

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, wants to forge closer links with companies developing the technology

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, is spearheading efforts to cement the UAE as a global hub for the rapidly-developing technology. 
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The UAE can be a testing ground for the worldwide development of artificial intelligence, a minister has said.

Omar Al Olama, the UAE's Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, has urged private companies to work with the government in an effort to make the country a hub for the technology.

He said the government wants to work with the private sector to understand how to encourage its use.

Mr Olama made the call during the launch of a new initiative, called 'Think AI', with accountancy and consulting firm Ernst & Young on Wednesday.

The scheme is part of an effort to accelerate the implementation of artificial intelligence across all parts of society, starting with the launch of workshops and panel discussions that will bring together more than 100 officials from the government, private sector and experts in the field.

Mr Al Olama told of the government’s vision to create a supportive infrastructure for companies that he said is lacking overseas.

“The biggest challenge today for artificial intelligence is policies and legislation. The legal framework is not ready and the only people who understand this very well is the private sector,” he said.

“Globally there is no government that is sitting with them and telling them, use us as a test bed, use us as a sandbox and come, deploy on the ground here, come and work with us and we will also support you.”

Addressing potential job losses that could come as a result of the rise of artificial intelligence, he said long-term planning was important to understand the impact on society.

“No one can pinpoint the exact number of job losses, but we need to be agile enough to understand what the impact will be and do what is right for the future,” he said.

“We don’t need to do what is right for the next one or two years. We need to do what is right for future generations.”

The government will take on board recommendations that emerge from discussions across diverse industries.

“Depending on the sector and how it will impact the lives of citizens we are going to accelerate the deployment of legislations, policies, initiatives, incentives in that specific sector,” he said.

The country’s leadership has championed advances in technology.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, this week announced Dh1.5 billion investments in schools for robotics and artificial intelligence, health and environment.

Experts say implementation of automated technology was critical to improve quality of life, boost efficiency, reduce costs in government services, financial services, banking and telecommunication.

“Harnessing the power of AI will be a game-changer for both governments and businesses alike,” said Wasim Khan, Ernst & Young's advisory leader for the MENA region

“The ultimate aim is to help the country and the people living in the country benefit from the hype of AI.”