In the third of a series of blogs from our global offices, we provide a overview of key trends in artificial intelligence in the United Arab Emirates.

What is the UAE’s strategy for Artificial Intelligence?

In 2017, the UAE appointed a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, H.E. Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama, and issued a national AI strategy seeking to become one of the world leaders in AI by 2031. The strategy sets out 8 objectives including building the UAE’s reputation as an AI destination, developing an ecosystem for AI development and deployment, and providing strong governance and effective regulation of AI.

To implement the national AI strategy, the UAE established an Office for Artificial Intelligence, which is responsible for enhancing government performance by investing in AI technologies and tools for application across various sectors.

The UAE Council for Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain was also established to provide advice to the government on the adoption and use of AI, to design policies that promote an AI-friendly ecosystem, to advance research and to promote private–public collaboration in that space.

To develop local capabilities in AI and encourage the adoption of AI across government, the UAE has developed a national AI training program, the Artificial Intelligence Program, in collaboration with University of Oxford. This is targeted at government employees but also open generally to UAE residents.

Which are the leading UAE research institutions for Artificial Intelligence?

The world’s first dedicated AI university, the Mohamed Bin Zayed University for Artificial Intelligence or ‘MBZUAI’, was established in 2020. It is the first graduate-level, research-based university offering specialised graduate programmes and supporting applied research in AI.

What laws and regulations is the UAE developing for Artificial Intelligence?

There is no specific legislation governing AI or addressing the ethical and legal issues arising from the use of AI (such as liability, privacy, discrimination and data bias). However, recent sector-specific regulations, such as the Federal Data Protection Law, the DIFC Data Protection Law and the Health Data law, all deal with privacy implications of decisions made through machine learning tools. Dubai has implemented non-binding guidelines to provide some regulation and guidance on the development and ethical use of AI. Dubai’s Ethical AI Toolkit aims to support the development and use of AI in ways that is responsible, boosts innovation and delivers human benefit.

Which are the leading UAE companies for Artificial Intelligence?

The UAE has major industrial and manufacturing sectors, especially in the oil, gas and petrochemicals sector, which are currently the powerhouse of the national economy. By adopting the right AI technologies, these, and other related sectors, are looking to improve their productivity, quality, efficiency, and cost effectiveness.

There are several companies operating in this space in the UAE. One of the leading companies is Group 42 or ‘G42’ which is an artificial intelligence and cloud computing company founded in the UAE in 2018. The company is focused on research, development and deployment of AI technologies and partnering across a wide range of sectors including healthcare, finance, oil and gas, aviation and hospitality. The UAE’s national oil company, ADNOC, and Dubai’s water and electricity provider, DEWA, and the flagship carrier, Emirates Airline, are already using AI to optimise their operations.