How AI will transform the UAE's landscape
'Sanbot', an AI-powered robot, interacting with guests at Artelligence - The Artificial Intelligence Forum 2018, in Dubai.
Dubai - Definitions for AI are still being determined, but it is easily available for everyone to use today
As companies across the UAE continue to look at ways to implement AI into their existing systems, experts across the public and private sectors say that they are confident about the positive changes that the technology will bring.
These range from improving a resident's way of life to making businesses more profitable. Speaking on a panel session on if the Middle East is ready to embrace artificial intelligence, experts at Artelligence - The Artificial Intelligence Forum 2018, spoke about the importance of closing the AI knowledge gap, and bringing in skilled talent.
Artelligence was presented by Khaleej Times, the UAE's first English-language newspaper, and MIT Sloan Management Review GCC, with Smart Dubai as the official government partner.
"Definitions for AI are still being determined, but AI is easily available for everyone to use today," said Ramez Dandan, chief technology officer at Microsoft UAE.
"A very big motion that we are seeing around the world is the concept of reusable models, or pre-trained models that are being adapted in the use of AI. This is what all the large adopters are going after. When you have the skills, it is very easy to take something that is already out there and then change it to fit your need."
Dandan also spoke about how 'Narrow AI' - which is AI that is only focused on one task - is already being used by many companies across the UAE to improve their operations and add value. However, this is just the beginning, he said.
"The future will involve us going further but in a cautious and educated way. What is going to be important in the coming years is setting standards and ethical standards."
Hessa Al Balooshi, director of the Smart Services Department at Smart Dubai Office, said that the vision today was to make Dubai an AI city.
"We want to use the power of AI to improve the happiness of the citizens in the UAE, as well as the quality of their life," she said. "Our role is to ensure that both the private and public sectors have all that they need to ensure that this vision comes to life. Towards this end, we launched an AI lab that will be instrumental in developing the AI capabilities in the region."
Danish Farhan, CEO at Xische, noted that at its very core, AI right now is only a single block in many organisations.
"AI is not a magical tool to solve all your problems," he cautioned. "You need to integrate it in all verticals of your company. AI needs to help add value, drive down costs, allow accessibility, and help build raw data in organisations. CEOs need to understand how they can use predictive analysis. They also need to look at how they can use AI to predict behaviours and patterns."
Kristina Tantsyura, director of Infowatch Gulf, also stressed that more should be done to address the skills shortage in the region.
"AI is not a new technology," Tantsyura stated.
"But, we need to provide better education in different segments. This includes helping students with their studies, and helping to better train employees in the workforce. The government has a key role to play in better adoption. Sometimes people are scared about new technologies, so if the government is seen as adopting new technology, it helps other people to see it in a better way."
"Also, it is very important to bring in the right type of people to teach others about how to properly utilise the technology. The government sector has a key role to play in attracting outside specialised talent," she added.