UAE can be your test bed for the future, says Minister

Kicking off at the Museum of the Future, the DFF brings together futurists, foresight practitioners, thought leaders, and experts

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Nasreen Abdulla

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Photo: UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar Sultan Al Olama
Photo: UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar Sultan Al Olama

Published: Mon 27 Nov 2023, 6:21 PM

Last updated: Mon 27 Nov 2023, 8:03 PM

The UAE can be the place from where the world can begin designing the future. That is according to UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar Sultan Al Olama. “The UAE can be your testbed…it can be your springboard from where you can unleash what is going to be the continuous fight for the future,” he said addressing the audience at the Dubai Future Forum (DFF).

Kicking off at the Museum of the Future (MOTF) on Monday, the DFF is an annual event that brings together futurists, foresight practitioners, thought leaders, and experts from various industries to anticipate challenges, imagine opportunities, share knowledge and shape the future. This year, over 2,500 experts specialized in vital future sectors from 100 countries are participating in the two-day DFF event.

Olama further highlighted that it was important to not just race towards the future but also to ensure that no one is left behind. “People think that if you invest in cutting edge technology, if you invest in artificial intelligence, you're going to be part of the future,” he said. “But if you do not have the talent that's going to shape it, you won't be a part of it, even if you have billions of dollars being spent. That is why we think that bringing forward generations of Arabs and the people around us is the only way to create a better future, and it's the only way to instill hope.”

UAE showing the way

Olama gave examples of how the UAE was walking the talk by making sure that everyone was included. “During Covid, when we could not leave our houses, there were many refugees around the world that did not have access to school,” he said “There was a question about the future to these kids? And in that moment, there were programs that were launched from the UAE that are impacting hundreds of thousands of people around the world that took education to them, using the most cutting edge infrastructure that exists.”

This year, the number of participants at the DFF has more than doubled as compared to the inaugural session in 2022. Addressing topics ranging from artificial intelligence and its regulation to climate change and bionic arms, the 2-day event will serve as the meeting point for some of the best futurists from around the world.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation said that the forum is an important one for the UAE. “In order for you to really understand the future, you need to work with everyone,” he said. “You have to understand different perspectives and club it with agility and speed in decision making.”

Action plans

While it was of extreme importance for Dubai to gather the brightest of minds in one place, Belhoul further added it was equally significant to create an action plan. “Dubai is a global city so we have a diverse population that helps us with different views,” he said. “The blessing we have here in this country is that we have easy access to policy makers. If there is a regulation for generative AI for a certain sector, we run a tool kit for that. If we want to test last mile delivery for drones, we do have a physical space to test them.”

He said although it didn’t mean that everything they did would be successful, there was an advantage UAE had over the rest of the world. “We have that willingness to make change,” he said. “We have that willingness to listen to everyone and then the process to test it within a confined environment. If we find success, we have have the ability to change policies in that way.”

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