Artificial Intelligence in the Gulf Countries: Reality and Ambitions

Date: 02 - 08 - 2023

Abu Dhabi

Source: Mufakiru Alemarat

Dr. Ali Mohamed Al Khouri

The wide spread of artificial intelligence technologies promises to push global economies to new, unprecedented heights. What the studies confirm is that sectors such as health care, finance, education, renewable energy, and scientific research will be among the largest beneficiary sectors, and will witness new levels of innovation, efficiency and productivity, in addition to major transformational changes that will be led by the engines of the fourth industrial revolution, on top of which are machines. artificial intelligence. According to a report issued by PricewaterhouseCoopers; The potential contribution of AI to the global economy could reach $16 trillion by 2030; This shows the growing interest of the Gulf countries and their billions in technological investments as a major means of benefiting from the capabilities of this sector and stimulating the transition of their economies to the post-oil era.

Emirates and reshaping development paths

The United Arab Emirates is advancing the artificial intelligence revolution in the Arab region, with a clear strategic vision and strong investments. It is distinguished as a global incubator for innovation; This is evident in its efforts to develop legislation and directive systems that seek to provide opportunities for startups to find innovative solutions using artificial intelligence technologies. Among the country’s proactive steps is the UAE Artificial Intelligence Strategy, which it launched in 2017; With the aim of improving government performance, accelerating achievement, creating innovative work environments based on artificial intelligence, as well as creating added economic value in various sectors.

The UAE’s ambition and interest in advanced artificial intelligence applications is embodied in investments in robotic systems, such as investment in the provision of automated vehicle and aircraft services and its targets to transform 25 percent of transportation to self-driving by 2030. The UAE is also working to employ artificial intelligence in urban planning and city development. This was demonstrated in the Expo City in Dubai, which is twice the size of the Principality of Monaco, as a global beacon for artificial intelligence, supported by an advanced digital infrastructure based on the fifth generation network.

The progressive vision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has similar ambitions. It has made artificial intelligence at the heart of its vision for the future. The Kingdom plans large investments amounting to half a trillion dollars in its “NEOM” project, which is a modern city located on the Red Sea. With the expected number of residents of this city to reach nearly one million, Saudi Arabia aspires to embody a future lifestyle, facilitating services based on artificial intelligence, self-“mechanization”, and reducing human intervention to a minimum. It intends to enable flying taxis in a plan that requires the adoption of an environmentally friendly air transport system, and adds a real-world example of the Kingdom’s bold vision to integrate artificial intelligence with human society.

Challenges and opportunities in the integration of artificial intelligence

There is no doubt that the enthusiastic adoption of artificial intelligence will result in great challenges, most notably the layoffs of jobs, as well as concerns related to data privacy, ethical considerations, and the need for a sound regulatory framework that guarantees the achievement of visions and goals. In this regard, the countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf need to balance their development endeavors based on technological capabilities and strategies for dealing with these issues. This requires the development of comprehensive dynamic policies to ensure the responsible use of artificial intelligence while minimizing potential risks and defects.

Trends of the countries of the Cooperation Council and global trends

The aspirations of the Arab Gulf countries in the field of artificial intelligence are relatively compatible with the aspirations of global leaders in the fields of technology, such as the United States of America, China and Europe. However, to compete at the global level, these countries will need to create a strong and flexible ecosystem for artificial intelligence, which includes education, research, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the associated appropriate legislative structure. This will require not only large financial investments, but also cooperation with educational institutions, such as universities, technology companies, and international partners.

Promote AI education and research

Education and research in the field of artificial intelligence are two main pillars of the artificial intelligence landscape. It is very important for the Gulf countries to invest in integrating the concepts of artificial intelligence and its applications into educational curricula that develop skills at an early age. In addition to establishing research centers, and strengthening cooperation between industry and academia. The integration of industry, scientific research and artificial intelligence is one of the most important development incentives for artificial intelligence applications, and it is a bridge that may enable the region to absorb artificial intelligence technology and contribute to its development to serve national goals.

The future of artificial intelligence in the GCC countries

Despite the great challenges of artificial intelligence; The potential benefits of this sector in the Gulf countries are very large. What is meant here is the achievement of new levels of performance, progress in the development of production machinery, logistical, service, military and defense industries, as well as auxiliary work environments that enable decision-makers to read the future and monitor data indicating the progress of the plans and the available strategic options, or their delay.

According to international reports; The potential contribution of AI to the Middle East region is $320 billion – or about 11 percent of its GDP – by 2030; This is just the tip of a huge iceberg; A reasonable expectation would be that AI would do much more than that. This number may rise as countries continue to invest in and enhance innovation in the field of artificial intelligence, achieving significant social and economic benefits, bringing about revolutionary changes in various sectors, and transforming lifestyles.

But the Gulf states should note that their journey will require more than just strategies. For starters, strategies must include policies to deal with the adverse effects of AI, whether social, ethical or humane. These countries will also need to link their plans with an integrated ecosystem to direct large investments towards this environment, in addition to education and skills development, international cooperation, effective organizational structures, community awareness, a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, data management systems, and a long-term vision based on the two axes of flexibility. and sustainability.