The Emirates promise a “responsible” use of artificial intelligence

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Dubai (AFP) – Prime Minister of Artificial Intelligence in the world, the Emirati Omar al-Olama promises a “responsible” use of technology which, in addition to its “economic gains”, could according to him improve the “quality of life” in the rich country of the Gulf, by overcoming the fear that sometimes surrounds AI.

“We see artificial intelligence as a tool,” said the young minister of state in an interview with AFP. “It is a tool that we must use to improve the quality of life”.

Appointed in 2017, when he was only 27, Omar al-Olama is responsible for leading the strategy of the United Arab Emirates in a field with very wide applications, ranging from voice and facial recognition to autonomous cars.

The rich oil country aims to become one of the world leaders in artificial intelligence (AI) by 2031, with the objective of generating up to 335 billion dirhams (more than 85 billion euros) over this period. ) through this technology, able to simulate human intelligence.

According to consultancy PwC Middle East, AI could contribute nearly 14% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.

“Yes, economic gains are something all countries want, and we want it too,” Olama said. “But (…) we want to ensure that the development, deployment and use of AI is responsible,” he added.

Taxi without driver

The country, which seeks to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil, has multiplied investments in technology over the past ten years, betting in particular on autonomous transport.

Driverless taxis are already being tested in the streets of Abu Dhabi, the capital which is home to the Mohammed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, presented as “the first in the world”.

Driverless taxis are tested in the capital Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on November 30, 2021 Giuseppe CACACE AFP

The use of the technology for surveillance purposes, however, is raising concerns in the country, where authorities in 2019 denied having spied on users of the popular messaging and video calling app ToTok.

One of the main criticisms of AI is also the reproduction of existing biases in society, reinforcing discrimination against certain groups of the population.

Omar al-Olama says a big part of his job is to build trust and avoid mistakes when deploying new technology.

“Demystify”

It is essential to raise awareness of AI among senior officials, in order to “demystify” it and limit the reaction of “fear”, said the minister.

“If you’re dealing with something you don’t understand, there will be an element of fear associated with it, that’s human nature,” he said.

Executives thus receive training allowing them “to understand what AI is, to understand the ethical dilemmas (which accompany it, editor’s note), to understand good and bad deployments, and how to eliminate biases”.

Border control kiosks using facial and iris recognition technologies, at Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates, March 7, 2021
Border control kiosks using facial and iris recognition technologies, at Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates, March 7, 2021 Mohamad Ali Harissi AFP

“These people are our AI army. They are the ones deploying AI in government,” the minister said.

The latter was recently tasked with also steering the country’s digital strategy, aiming to bring the sector’s contribution to 20% of GDP within 10 years.

“I don’t think there will be any economies in the next 25 years that aren’t predominantly digital-driven, and AI is an important part of that.”

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