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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

UAE students challenged to sow seeds of new technology

Government partners with Huawei to offer internships to technology minded students

A government programme partnered with Chinese technology company Huawei is offering hand-picked UAE students the chance to play an important role in developing future innovations.

Students across the country can enter the Seeds for the Future competition to win an opportunity to turn ideas and innovations into viable products to help society.

Student groups are being encouraged to come up with ideas in line with the UAE Vision 2021 strategy, and win the chance of an internship, expert training and a trip to China.

The programme aims to address potential problems and opportunities arising from rapid digitalisation as the UAE prepares for huge growth in connectivity.

“Three major technologies will change our lives over the next two decades; the internet of things, artificial intelligence and 5G connectivity,” said David Wang, chief executive of Huawei Tech (UAE).

“Today in the UAE we have a population of about 10 million.

“In the next five to10 years we expect to have 100 million connections. That will be all the cars and electronics that will be connected by the network.

“When 5G is launched this year with our support, it will increase download speeds from about 20-50MB to about 1GB.

“With this 5G network, driverless cars will be a reality and be the only way to legally drive a car in the future. Driving a car in the future will the equivalent of riding a horse today.”

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Technology will be driven by artificial intelligence, and whilst some have concerns that machines will become smarter than humans, helping the next generation of students develop their own innovations is one idea to help reduce that risk.

“We don’t have the answer to this potential problem yet, but I’m sure the next generation will come up with a solution,” Mr Wang said.

“We are spending a lot of money in research and development of new technologies, and we want to share these innovations with younger generations, especially in the UAE.

“All of these ingredients are in place, and this programme will help attract the best talent who know this society and their local communities.”

Students offering the best ideas will be offered a guided tour of the research and development projects underway at Huawei.

A UK report by the Institute for Public Policy Research claims that jobs earning £290 billion a year could be automated in future.

AI will see overall employment reallocated rather than eliminated, with new revenue streams created to increase economic output.

Professor Reyadh AlMehaideb, Vice President at Zayed University, has witnessed big changes in the kind of courses offered and vocational opportunities for young people in his 25 years in academia.

“We know the job market is changing, and in seven years or so technology will bring even more changes to that environment,” he said.

“The university is focusing on skills that will be relevant for that market.

“There have been big changes in the ambitions of students. Many have an eye for business and have to be skilled in marketing and development, as well has having an idea.”

Key themes of the programme will span transport, education, healthcare, water, space and renewable clean energy.

Dr Ahmad Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education, said whilst developing the academic abilities of students is important, their skills in the labour market also need to be enhanced.

“In this particular programme we send out the challenge for students to be independent and to work in teams,” he said.

“Once they have taken on this challenge they are exposed to new innovations. It is a win for the students, the university and also Huawei.”