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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

500 Emirati men and women in first batch to be trained in artificial intelligence field 

The Minister of Artificial Intelligence says he has high hopes for industry in shaping the UAE's future

Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, pictured at the Innovation Hub in Dubai. Anna Nielsen / The National
Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, pictured at the Innovation Hub in Dubai. Anna Nielsen / The National

The first 500 Emirati men and women will soon start their training in artificial intelligence as the UAE looks to begin shaping its future in a field that is expected to soon touch every company and individual on the planet.

The students’ training is part of an agreement signed by Oracle and the Higher Colleges of Technology on Sunday to prepare young UAE nationals youth for the country’s future jobs.

Oracle is also discussing with the university ways to develop AI-related degrees.

“We're focusing on research and development in technology as well as providing the necessary support and training for local youth,” said Omar Al Olama, Minister of Artificial Intelligence, at the launch in Dubai.

“Most importantly, we are focusing on utilising emerging technologies in public services to enhance day-to-day experiences of UAE citizens and increase the efficiency of the government and private sectors. We hope to see the positive effects of these technologies in the coming years.”

According to a report by the United Nations last year, almost 65 per cent of current primary school pupils will one day work in a job that does not yet exist.

And last month the US research company Gartner predicted that AI will generate 2.3 million in 2020 alone, outstripping the 1.8 million is is expected to eliminate. While jobs such as driving vehicles are likely to go, managerial jobs, including processing the huge amounts of data being collected from people today, will need to be created.

An attendee tries out an application on a SoftBank Group Corp. Pepper humanoid robot at the SoftBank Robot World 2017 in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. SoftBank Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son has put money into robots, artificial intelligence, microchips and satellites, sketching a vision of the future where a trillion devices are connected to the internet and technology is integrated into humans.  Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
An attendee tries out an application on the Pepper humanoid robot at SoftBank Robot World 2017 in Tokyo on November 21. Artificial intelligence will remove the need for many jobs in the service industry, it is predicted, but is expected to create more in high-tech roles that involve managing and utilising data. Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

“That’s a good indication that the world is changing and AI completely changes the way in which we operate,” said Abdul Rahman Al Thehaiban, senior vice president in technology for the Middle East and Africa at Oracle.

“We are in an era of evolution and we anticipate a heavy adoption to AI. According to our studies, almost a third of all cloud customers are taking into consideration AI as part of their requirement.”

Recent speculation has led many to think AI will mean less dependency on human capital.

“But it’s completely the contrary,” he said. “We believe that [AI will mean] more focus of human capital into more innovation rather than just standard work. Its objective is for people to spend more time on creativity and innovation.”

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As such, the company launched the Zayed Innovation Hub on Sunday – the first of its kind in the region - to attract and create the most promising ideas and applications that will shape the future.

“The Zayed Innovation Hub represents a milestone in the Artificial Intelligence space, not only in the UAE but also in the region and to position the UAE as a global leader in AI,” Mr Al Olama said at the launch.

“We expect this initiative to encourage other technology companies to emulate Oracle in supporting and training students and the Emirati youth.”

From the government to the private sector, residents and students, the hub’s aim is to invest in local talent.

“AI impacts all fields,” he said. “In the UAE, we are focusing on facing the future to ensure advancements of humanity.”

The hub will not only be dedicated to the UAE or the region, but to eastern central Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which includes around 140 countries.

“It is not just a normal hub,” Mr Al Thehaiban said. “It is fully dedicated to AI which gives us more of an obligation to ensure that we become part of the journey the UAE is transforming [into]. There have been many changes in IT and with the recent cloud engagement, this has been the fastest adoption across the world.”

It will be open for all government users, private sector and students for any creative ideas.

“But making AI easy to adopt is critical – a key challenge for organisations is that they can’t afford to wait,” he said.

“So the hub will aim to address this challenge by engaging with key UAE audiences by raising their awareness levels, helping drive an innovative approach and also supporting the skills development of the next generation of Emirati leaders.”

This year’s World Government Summit, which kicks off in Dubai next month, will introduce a Global Forum for Governance on AI for the first time.

“The questions which the whole world is asking are whether AI is good or bad for humanity and if there is a risk for AI to have a higher ability to think and take decisions on behalf of human beings,” said Mohammed Al Gargawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future.

“There are two schools of thought. One says that 47 per cent of jobs will disappear in the coming 10 years and another says that with every new industrial revolution, jobs are lost.

"The industrial revolution will create new job opportunities so here, we are discussing a virtual topic, but life with AI will be richer as humans will have more time to innovate, create and think about new ideas and sectors.”

Experts say AI will reshape and improve the experience of tourism, healthcare, residents, education and businesses across the UAE, with studies showing that businesses using AI will steal up to 1.2 trillion dollars per year from their less-informed peers by 2020.

“The success of strategic government initiatives like Smart Dubai and Expo 2020 is underpinned by emerging digital technologies like AI driving the creation of an automated infrastructure for the realisation of these projects”, said Arun Khehar, senior vice president of business applications in the Eastern and Central Europe, Middle East, Africa at Oracle.

“The hub will serve as the ultimate platform for driving awareness, experimentation and implementation of AI in the UAE, and the opening of a state of the art Digital Hub in Dubai has now employed more than 400 cloud sales professionals.”

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