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The United Arab Emirates Set To Become A Hub For AI In The Middle East
(15 January 2020)


In this increasingly digitized era of technologies, the ways we live, work, and communicate are massively influenced by the recent tech inventions. These products/services take on the majority of our regular work, freeing up some time for us to pursue other things in our lives.

This rapid rate of technological development is affecting virtually every industry existing in the world right now. Take a look at healthcare: the most advanced X-ray devices, non-intervening operational techniques, and other inventions are changing the way doctors cure their patients.

Move to the entertainment industry, and more precisely, the gambling industry. Many online gamers are already using some Bitcoin online casino to play their favorite slots, blackjack, or poker games. And if one thing can be said about Bitcoin for sure, it’s that this digital currency is clear-cut for faster and more secure transactions which are so crucial for online gaming.

One particular facet of modern technology that captures many tech geeks’ attention right now is Artificial Intelligence. AI has generated quite an extensive follower base, as well as opposition, and has already penetrated some industries and countries.

Its supporters claim that automated production, management, marketing, and other aspects of our work will greatly improve their quality, as well as allow us to focus on more important aspects of our lives. On the other hand, the opposition claims that the same “capturing” of our existing jobs will take away a source of income from us.

New AI university in the UAE

Whether it’s one thing or another, the fact remains that AI has already penetrated our lives and likely isn’t going anywhere. And people are already adjusting to this condition. In the United Arab Emirates, there’s a plan to open the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) in 2020 which will make the country, and subsequently the region of the Middle East, in the forefront of AI.

This massive project is actually the first attempt to open an AI-related university anywhere in the world. It has this bold plan to incorporate Artificial Intelligence into every aspect of people’s lives, be it political, economic, cultural, or anything else.

This will ultimately improve the effectiveness and efficiency of every field incorporating AI. In fact, this is quite a surprising initiative from a country and a region whose economy predominantly depends on oil exports. This means that the future of its development will take a more sustained layout.

Public and private sectors in pursuit of AI

The project was first announced two years ago, and since then, quite a lot has happened in the country on this front. In Dubay, for example, almost 30 different AI startups were established which indicates success in the government’s course of action.

One of the startups that worked in the AI sector was focused on digitizing cars and roads in the UAE. This project is planning to create a prototype of a smart city with IoT- connected (Internet of Things) elements of transportation, sewage, public areas, and many more.

As we’ve mentioned above, the region of the Middle East is making some steps to become an AI hub in the world. And according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) report, the region will have a total worth of $320 billion by the year 2030. When it comes to the UAE specifically, the country will take almost 13.6% of the whole industry GDP, according to the same estimates.

Support base

As noted earlier, the MBZUAI and other AI-related projects will garner two opposite camps around it. On the one hand, there will be those who praise these projects for their effort to digitize the country’s economy.

According to this camp, the AI university will create new tools and methods of researching the implications of modern technology and putting it to the most effective use. They also note that AI, while taking away some jobs, will undoubtedly create new ones that will be more effective and good-paying as well.


On the other hand, there are skeptics who believe the deeper inclusion of AI into the people’s lives will produce various challenges. One of the main challenges is, of course, the problem of jobs.

According to the McKinsey Global report, the future and the landscape of jobs will be gravely changed by the mass adoption of AI. It states that almost 50% of the current jobs will slowly, but surely be automated and get into the hands of AI.

The skeptics warn that this will require additional preparations on the workers’ part; they will have to swap occupations, learn new skills, and get accustomed to the machines that will work alongside them. This will be a problem for many people as they won’t be able to afford such flexibility. To take the discussion even further, the opposition camp claims that when skills become divided, it’ll deepen the chasm between affluent and poorer classes.

AI is still crude

But while this discussion is reaching its heated levels, one must not forget that we’re still talking about the technology that’s still in its crude state. Sure, the prospects of AI improving the quality products and services and the efficiency of producing them is appealing, the real-life cases of its application are still very rare.

For example, when the idea about the self-driving autonomous cars was introduced, the whole world went haywire about its prospects. Everyone imagined the cityscapes full of autopilot cars from the sci-fi blockbusters.

But while there are some car models like Tesla that have incorporated autonomous driving to some extent, these examples are just a tiny subset of the whole industry. And besides, even these cars aren’t fully operational in this mode. For instance, if the road doesn’t have clearly defined road lanes, the AI won’t be able to work properly.

The future is near!

So, to put that in perspective, we’re seeing the new AI-related university to be opened in the UAE in 2020, along with various AI startups that are trying to transform the city infrastructure into a more digitized ecosystem.

While there certainly are various outcome scenarios to expect from this development, one thing is pretty clear: the idea of AI is already here. Countries, businesses, and individuals are jumping at this opportunity as hard as they can, and the reality where Artificial Intelligence powers our homes, roads, cars, and works isn’t too far. We’d better find ways to handle that future.

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