THE RIGHT DEPLOYMENT

Dubai 2020 | IT & INNOVATION | INTERVIEW

With the most diverse data set on the planet, the scope for AI breakthroughs in the UAE is second to none.

Omar Sultan Al Olama
BIOGRAPHY

Omar Sultan Al Olama is Minister of State for Digital Economy, Artificial Intelligence, and Teleworking Applications. His responsibilities include enhancing the government's performance by investing in the latest technologies and tools of artificial intelligence and applying them in various sectors. Currently the managing director of the World Government Summit, he is also a member of the board of trustees of the Dubai Future Foundation, in addition to deputy managing director. In 2017, the UAE government announced his selection as a member of the Future of Digital Economy and Society Council at the World Economic Forum. He holds a diploma in project management from the American University of Sharjah and a bachelor of business administration from the American University of Dubai.

When we look at sectors such as logistics, tourism, infrastructure, and air cargo, we understand that the UAE does not just say things, but makes them happen. We did not invent the airplane, maritime trade, or tourism, and did not have any of the fundamental cornerstones that make the UAE a leader in these sectors. But today, because of the vision and drive of our leadership, we were able to become global leaders in each of these sectors. Our strategy revolves around that. It revolves around making the UAE one of the leading countries in AI in the next 10 years.

We are entering a new decade, that of the digital revolution and AI. The UAE has certain advantages that make it a lot more prone to being a leader in AI than many other countries. We have 200 nationalities living and thriving here, and if you understand anything about AI, you know that AI lives on data. The importance of data has three Vs: volume, velocity, and variety of data. These 200 nationalities give us the variety. We have the most diverse data set on the planet. When it comes to the volume of data, the UAE has platforms that are local but operate globally. Just look at our port's operator, DP World, an operator that came out of the UAE but operates more than 68 ports and terminals around the world. The data center they have is more valuable than any other port's on the planet. The same can be said about Etihad and Emirates Airlines, which operate to more than 166 destinations around the world and are the biggest airlines in the world. These have the most important and unique data set when it comes to air travel. Finally, when we look at velocity, there has been a long transformation process that the UAE has been going through since 2002, which took us from being a traditional government to being an electronic, digital, mobile, and then smart government by 2015. It took many years of planning and implementation to become a leading government of the future. Today, we are ready for this transformation process and can become a cutting-edge country that exports technologies to the rest of the world.
The UAE's AI strategy revolves around three main foundations. The first is talent and capacity building. Only by attracting and retaining the right talent from around the world can the UAE become the leading country when it comes to AI. Some of you may ask why this talent would come to the UAE? This is because the UAE offers a unique quality of life. We have the mobility that no one else has. You can be in the UAE and access any market in one day through a direct flight. Also, the UAE offers a legislative process that is very agile and very flexible. So experts from around the world can come and deploy their solutions on the ground in the UAE in the most effective manner. We also believe in the need to create homegrown talent. We have also launched many programs to empower the youth of the UAE to understand AI and how it can give them the ability to understand whether they want to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, or join another sector.
The second part of this is the policymaking framework. In most countries, policies are made, and the private sector, academia, and people leading the effort are forced to abide by it. In the UAE, we have more of a consultative approach where we work with the private sector and academia to ensure everyone is happy with the direction we are moving in. Most importantly, then, is the question of responsibly deploying AI in key government sectors.