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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

World Government Summit: UAE event a catalyst for change, incubator of ideas

The summit in Dubai is a multinational exercise in collaborative engagement that can diagnose the unique “moonshot” challenges of our time

File photo of the World Government Summit in Dubai.  Pawan Singh / The National
File photo of the World Government Summit in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 5 space mission, one of the final steps before astronauts landed on the Moon, setting a new benchmark for human accomplishment. Today, we are entering a new age of scientific discovery that rivals the space race, in which cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, predictive analytics and bio-engineering, are beginning to transform every aspect of our lives.

In this era, where the pace of innovation is challenging our ability to adapt, the World Government Summit has emerged as an essential platform to identify trends, share best practices and progressively plan for our future.

While the innovations that led to the Moon landing half a century ago were propelled by two competing super powers, today’s scientific breakthroughs are coming from every corner of a multi-polar world. Human progress is currently driven more by collaboration and the soft power enablers of education, research and international development than the traditional hard power levers that nations relied on in the past.

Reflecting this reality, the summit leverages the UAE’s reputation as a global convener to bring together heads of government, corporate leaders and deep thinkers from 140 countries on topics as varied as the policy and governance implications of AI, the next generation of space exploration and the role of youth in setting tomorrow’s agenda.

The benefits of such a gathering are self-evident. All governments have a material interest in mapping both the upsides and potential disruptions of emerging trends. They have a responsibility to make sure that advances in technology create more productive employment opportunities than they take away, and that the right skills are developed to fill the new jobs that will be required to drive the economies of the future. In short, the summit provides a space for policy makers to learn from each other on how to take full advantage of the fourth industrial revolution, while mitigating its unintended consequences.

At the corporate level of the meeting, businesses can gain insights into how advances in one sector can be applied to another. For instance, at Adnoc, while big data has already begun to enhance our efficiency and performance across our operations, we are keen to learn how predictive analytics and neural networks used in mobile technology could be applied to the energy industry, potentially forecasting demand peaks, minimising disruptions and optimising costs.

The UAE’s leadership has always placed a priority on the soft power accelerators of prosperity, from investing in education at home to promoting economic growth abroad. Today, the government is explicitly focusing resources on artificial intelligence, advanced sciences and youth empowerment, while continuing to lead the world in overseas development aid.

The World Government Summit is an important component of this commitment. It is a multinational exercise in collaborative engagement that can diagnose the unique “moonshot” challenges of our time, while crowd sourcing expert solutions from around the world.

As we celebrate the centenary of Sheikh Zayed, the summit exemplifies the vision of this country’s Founding Father and illustrates the core attributes of the UAE as an incubator of ideas, a catalyst for change and a bridge builder between nations. In this spirit, this summit, which is now in its seventh edition, can help diverse societies from all over the world ride the wave of human progress rather than be caught in its wake.

HE Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber is Minister of State

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