“Oil changed the world in the 1900s. It drove cars, it drove the whole chemical industry… Data, I look at it as the new oil. It’s going to change most industries across the board”, states Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO.

In the current digital revolution, countries are capitalising on big data and Artificial Intelligent-powered tools, in a bid to be leading the Artificial Intelligence (AI) race. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the many countries investing in becoming a global pioneer in AI technology, across many sectors of its economy.

Dubai – one of seven emirates that make up the UAE – has already taken significant steps towards becoming the most data-driven city in the world. Unlike China, who is pursuing AI dominance via native technology, Dubai endeavours to attract investors and firms worldwide. In October 2017, Prime Minister Shaikh Mohammed appointed the first ever state minister for AI, declaring: “We want the UAE to become the world’s most prepared country for artificial intelligence”. Similarly, in 2017, Dubai pledged that within three years it would have formed the world’s first government powered by blockchain, the technology underlying cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

Today, Dubai has already made substantial progress with its aims. Sheikh Mohammed launched a strategy to transform Dubai into a smart city, with a goal of making it the ‘happiest city on earth’. This initiative, known as ‘Smart Dubai’, is supported by a tiered partnership framework, which encourages collaboration between the Dubai government, the private sector and institutional partnerships.

Smart Dubai recently made a significant breakthrough, launching a Blockchain-powered ‘Payment Reconciliation and Settlement’ system, developed as an upgrade to its current financial system.

Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office, stated: “Smart technologies continue to infiltrate every aspect of human life and societies; virtually everything we do today relies fully or to some degree on an advanced technology once considered ‘disruptive’. Guided by the forward-thinking vision of its leadership, Dubai has long been a trailblazer in embracing avant-garde technologies – most notably those of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – and tailoring them to meet the needs of our citizens, residents and visitors, in a bid to transform Dubai into the happiest and smartest city in the world.”

Furhermore, Smart Dubai has launched a new and improved version of its flagship ‘Dubai Now’ platform and application, which now includes an AI-powered smart city advisor “Rashid”. Rashid is a personal assistant service, communicating through typed or voice commands, who offers original, expert customer services to individuals, via the convenience of their smartphones. Utilising AI and other advanced technologies helps to streamline and improve operations in both Dubai’s public and private sectors. The ‘Dubai Now’ application enables customers to have a more personalised experience, as well as offering a wider range of services to choose from. This meets a primary objective of the Dubai Plan 2021; to spread the happiness among the residents and visitors of the emirates.

It doesn’t stop there. Dubai has set itself ambitious, yet achievable, future objectives using AI-based technology. Here is a list of some of their targets:

  • Dubai’s Autonomous Transportation strategy aims to make 25 percent of all transportation in Dubai autonomous by 2030. This will help cut transport costs by 44%, resulting in savings of up to AED 900 million per year. It will also lead to a reduction in environmental pollution by 12%, saving an additional AED 1.5 billion per year. Furthermore, by increasing the efficiency of the transportation sector, achieving autonomous vehicles would generate AED 18 billion in annual economic returns.
  • The UAE’s Ministry of Interiors plans to replace airport immigration officers with AI-based systems by 2020. This will involve installing a virtual aquarium tunnel fitted with 80 hidden cameras that will detect a passenger’s identity in place of a security clearance counter.
  • In 2018-2019, Project Oyoon will launch in Dubai, in an attempt to improve security. Tens of thousands of surveillance cameras will be employed to assist in tracking criminals, using AI and machine learning. This will be achieved through facial recognition software, which can track and analyse individuals and enable warnings to be issued to suspects.

However, to some, Dubai appears to be at a disadvantage in the AI race. Frederic Paquay, senior consultant of digital transformation at Frost & Sullivan explains: “…data is the new oil and even if the region’s population is tech-savvy, there is still a shortage of data compared to the US and China.” Despite this, it is clear from Dubai’s latest progress in AI and Blockchain, alongside numerous cases of success, that the UAE has overcome this obstacle by focusing on adoption and, in particular, the use of AI, which is likely to be a more significant driver of economic growth than its development.

Interested to learn more about the impact of AI in the Middle East?

AI in Marketing CEO, Katie King, has recently authored a book “AI in Marketing”, soon to be published by Kogan Page, which includes the latest insights from global industry experts, alongside a business framework for success, and much more.


Katie is running a 2-day training course on AI for business growth in Dubai on 22-23 October – https://bit.ly/2OJKiHv

A 90-minute online course is also available here.



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