The world’s prime minister for artificial intelligence, the Emirati Omar al-Olama, is promising a “responsible” use of technology that, alongside its “economic gains,” he says could improve the “quality of life” in the wealthy Gulf by alleviating fear overcome that AI sometimes surrounds.
“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 at the age of just 27, Omar al-Olama is responsible for leading the UAE’s strategy in an area with very broad applications ranging from voice and face recognition to autonomous cars.
The oil-rich country aims to become one of the world’s leading providers of artificial intelligence (AI) by 2031, aiming to generate up to 335 billion dirhams (more than 85 billion euros) in this period through this simulation technology human intelligence.
According to consulting firm PwC Middle East, AI could contribute almost 14% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.
“Yes, economic gain is something that 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.
– Taxis without a driver –
The country, which wants to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil, has multiplied its investments in technology over the last decade, focusing in particular on autonomous transport.
Driverless taxis are already being tested on the streets of Abu Dhabi, the capital city which is home to the Mohammed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, presented as “the first in the world”.
However, the technology’s use for surveillance purposes is a cause for concern in the country, where authorities in 2019 denied spying on users of the popular messaging and video-calling app ToTok.
One of the main criticisms of AI is also the reproduction of existing prejudices in society, which increases discrimination against certain population groups.
Omar al-Olama says a big part of his job is building trust and avoiding mistakes when using new technologies.
– “Demystify” –
Raising awareness of AI among senior officials is important to “demystify” them and limit the “fear” response, the minister said.
“When you’re dealing with something you don’t understand, there’s going to be an element of fear involved, that’s human nature,” he said.
Leaders therefore receive training that enables them to “understand what AI is, understand the ethical dilemmas that come with it, ed.), understand good and bad bets, and eliminate prejudice.”
“These people are our AI army. They are using AI in government,” the minister said.
The latter was recently tasked with also steering the country’s digital strategy, which aims 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 digitally driven, and AI is an important part of that.”