Artificial Intelligence in the Arab World
By: Pamela Dimitrova/Arab America Contributing Writer
In the wake of the fourth industrial revolution, governments and businesses across the world, and especially the Arab countries, are slowly shifting towards artificial intelligence and advanced technologies. UAE even appointed a minister for AI, while Saudi Arabia was the first country to give citizenship to a robot. Why and how artificial intelligence is so popular in MENA countries? How does it affect the states’ economies and standard of living?
Saudi Arabia is slowly becoming the leader in the application of advanced technology connected to AI. There are a number of foreign investments by the Public Investment Fund and domestic initiatives by the government and private sector.
Research in 2017 estimated that AI is expected to contribute over US$135.2 billion in 2030 to the economy, equivalent to 12.4% of GDP. This is the second-highest share in the region after the United Arab Emirates.
AI is one of the major goals in the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan. Infrastructure, health care, and education are going to be fully reformed, improving the lives of the citizens. The close relationship of the Public Investment Fund with a Japanese technology investor, Softbank, already made big achievements such as robots and self-driving cars (Uber, GM Cruise, and Nauto).
However, the idea of fake intelligence taking such a big part of social life is not completely unproblematic. According to statistics from Harvard Business Review, 46 percent of jobs in Saudi Arabia are susceptible to automation, which will require government policies aimed at increasing human capital to counter the risk of AI-related job losses.
Saudi Arabia has ambitious plans for the future. After it made the Hanson Robotics’ “Sophia” the first robot with citizenship, it now plans to build a smart city “NEOM”, an acronym that stands for “New Future” in Arabic. The Saudi government says it will pour US$500 billion into this mega-project, with construction expected to begin in 2020. NEOM will occupy 26,500 sq km (10,230 sq miles), 218 times larger than the city of San Francisco.
The smart city will span the Red Sea, connecting Saudi Arabia to Egypt and North Africa. City residents’ medical files, household electronics, and transportation will all be integrated with IoT systems.
Without a doubt, UAE is one of the states that are investing the most in artificial intelligence and better the environment and the lifestyle of its citizens.
In 2017, the UAE Government laid the foundation of its Ministry of Artificial Intelligence, aiming to implement high-end AI solutions into different workings sectors of the country. Spearheaded by Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama, the ministry is also aimed at supporting the government to run the country in an effective state of manner.
UAE is also the first country to launch a ‘Strategy for Artificial Intelligence,’ which will intend accomplish the objectives of UAE Centennial 2071; strengthen the performance of government at all levels; make the country the first in the arena of AI investments in various sectors; establish a new vital market with high economic value; and utilize an integrated smart digital system to conquer challenges and offer efficient solutions abruptly.
The strategy will cover the sectors, including transport – Lessening accidents and operational costs; Health – Minimising chronic and dangerous diseases; Space – Conducting apt testing and reducing costly error rates; Energy – Managing facilities and smart consumption; Technology – fuelling the production rate and communication effectiveness; Education – Diminishing costs and boosting the desire to learn.
The sector is anticipated to contribute to the country’s GDP by around 14% by 2030, which means US$ 96 billion.
GCC4 (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar)
The rest of the Arab countries in the region don’t fall behind, especially the GCC4. The average annual growth in the contribution of AI by the region between 2018 and 2030 is 28,8%.
Earlier this month, GDN reported that 60 trainees are set to begin a course at Bahrain’s first AI academy – Bahrain Polytechnic Academy of Artificial Intelligence. The school is a collaboration between the institution, Microsoft and Tamkeen, and is expected to strengthen Bahrain’s leading position in the region in AI technology.
AI is also playing a major role in Kuwait’s Vision 2035 of “New Kuwait” where the focus is on digital transformation. At the end of last year Microsoft, one of the platinum sponsors of E-Government in Kuwait, discussed the potential of AI and the potential digital influence over all sectors in the country.
Egypt is always keen on keeping itself up-to-date with the rest of the world as much as it possibly can, so it came as no surprise when we found out that AI was being integrated into the Egyptian curriculum.
According to Egypt Today, the first Artificial Intelligence faculty in Egypt was inaugurated in Kafr El-Sheikh University, awaiting the new class of 2019/2020 to produce useful skills in the sector of smart systems, thanks to a collaboration with UAE’S Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU).
Egypt targets that AI compose 7.7 percent of its GDP in 2030.
With smaller, but steady steps, Morocco is also catching up with the leaders in the AI sector. In 2017 five Moroccan hospitals have started integrating Sophia Genetics’ artificial intelligence programs into their clinics to aid the identification of diseases causing mutations in patients’ genomic profiles, and in 2018 the country hosted the International Forum on Artificial Intelligence in Africa.
Other sectors in which AI is promising potential are agriculture, accounting, automotive.
In the wake of the fourth industrial revolution, governments and businesses across the world, and especially the Arab countries, are slowly shifting towards artificial intelligence and advanced technologies. UAE even appointed a minister for AI, while Saudi Arabia was the first country to give citizenship to a robot. Why and how artificial intelligence is so popular in MENA countries? How does it affect the states’ economies and standard of living? Find out in this article, written by Pamela Dimitrova, Arab America Contributing Writer.
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