UAE is committed to double the size of digital economy in 10 years, top official says

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Dubai - Around 80 per cent of digital payments are already contactless, said Saqr bin Ghalib, Director of the Artificial Intelligence, Prime Minister’s Office.


Suneeti Ahuja Kohli

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Published: Wed 4 Aug 2021, 4:13 PM

Artificial intelligence is playing a big role in the digital payments industry in the UAE. Around 80 per cent of digital payments are already contactless, said Saqr bin Ghalib, Director of the Artificial Intelligence, Prime Minister’s Office, UAE, at the DigiPay 2021 summit organised by Khaleej Times in Dubai on Wednesday.

“The UAE has been clear that the digital economy is going to be a very important part of our growth going forward. AI, digital payments are considered fundamental pillars when it comes to the digital economy. The government has mandated doubling the size of the digital economy within the country in the next ten years, and we're looking forward to achieving this,” said Ghalib.

The UAE has more than a hundred per cent smartphone penetration. Over 65 per cent of people have paid using one of the new payment channels over the last six months or so.

Within the GCC, over 50 per cent of the consumers are shopping online and making some of the payments to the digital channels. Overall, the Middle East and North Africa region is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 13 per cent over the next few years.

According to PWC, artificial intelligence is estimated to contribute up to $320 billion to the Middle East economy by in the next ten years.

Talking about future trends in improving customer experience through artificial intelligence, Ghalib highlighted seminal work being done in the UAE in developing a voice recognition system to improve the chatbot system. Large tech companies are working with local firms to develop a unified Arabic language for the region. “Arabic spoken in an Emirati household is different from a Moroccan or an Egyptian household. The local accents and dialects are different. Large tech companies are trying to work on a unified Arabic language for the region which will aid in developing a voice authentication system. This could potentially improve customer experience. Universities locally are doing great work in the conjugation of language.”

In terms of regulating the fintech space, Ghalib mentioned that the UAE has always had a policy of not regulating for the sake of regulation. “We only regulate where necessary; we would like innovation to grow. Only when intervention is needed, we step in with regulations.”

Efficient use of AI in the e-commerce space has worked both in favour of consumers and retailers. “The conversion of an e-commerce window shopper to an actual person who follows through and completes the transaction has happened because of AI. It has allowed pre-authorised transactions by verifying consumers with a double-tap, for instance, and seamlessly sharing the transactional data with retailers. The rate of conversion of window shoppers to actual sale has accelerated tremendously.”

AI can also play a seminal role in ensuring the financial health and wellbeing of consumers. “We've seen some research done by large organizations based in the UAE with universities where they've been able to analyse and predict using an AI model whether this person will default on the credit card payment at the end of the month based on what they buy at a grocery store. And it's very exciting. It's very interesting from a technological point of view from a research point of view.”

Overall development of AI and its use in various industries will be a win-win for all stakeholders.


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