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AI plays COVID-19 job stress reliever, but UAE has big plans for the technology

Removed from any pre-conceived assumptions, lacking the need for communication diatribe and fresh with analytical reasoning, AI is proving to be a favorite mentor, boss, and problem solver with United Arab Emirates employees

77% of UAE emplloyees preferred to talk to a robot over their manager about stress at work, higher than the 68% global average The UAE is set to spend $73 million on AI systems in 2020, the highest in the MEA AI is being embedded into every sector – from government e-services and smart traffic to the current healthcare environment

Remote work is proving stressful and challenging despite the allure of not having to dress up, fight traffic rush hours, or having to take scheduled office breaks.

The fact is managers are more demanding on themselves and staff when working from home (WFH) and accountability behind a screen is just so much more difficult when reporting on daily tasks or resolving an outstanding issue.

In comes Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Removed from any pre-conceived assumptions, lacking the need for communication diatribe and fresh with analytical reasoning, AI is proving to be a favorite mentor, boss, and problem solver with United Arab Emirates employees, according to a survey.

And it doesn’t stop here. The UAE and private sector companies are investing heavily in AI now and in the future.

Read: The UAE has a new AI journo: Is artificial journalism a job taker?

AI: COVID-19 stress relief  

As reported by The National, around 86% of UAE respondents to a survey by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence reported higher levels of stress and anxiety as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 41% citing higher stress levels, 39% reporting deteriorating work-life balance, 29% experiencing burnout, 33% claiming depression from a lack of social interaction and 19% also expressing loneliness.

Around 34% are dealing with increased mental health challenges like stress and anxiety.

Most revealing was the fact that 77% preferred to talk to a robot over their manager about stress at work, higher than the 68% global average because AI provides a judgment-free zone (35%) and an unbiased outlet to divulge problems (35%).

Almost 86% of UAE respondents said artificial intelligence had improved their mental health at work, against a global average of 75%, citing AI’s ability to offer the right information (39%), to automate tasks (35%), and by prioritizing them (37%). 

60% of UAE professionals said AI helped them shorten their workweek and allowed them to take longer vacations, against a global average of 51%.  

Read: UAE company ushering in the New Age of Artificial Intelligence business

AI investments in UAE

According to a survey conducted by MIT from executives in the Middle East and Africa (MEA), 82% of large companies across the region have launched AI programs by the end of 2019. 

Also, 44% of respondents expected the AI to contribute to 21%-30% of their business processes in the next three years.

The UAE is set to spend $73 million on AI systems in 2020, the highest in the MEA (1/5th of $374 mn total), up 19.7% from the year before, according to a recent report by IDC.   

Thanks in part to the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, AI is being embedded into every sector – from government e-services and smart traffic to the current healthcare environment, to enforce lockdowns and support contact tracing.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai have moved up in global Smart Cities rankings, now in the top 50 Smart Cities worldwide, according to The Institute for Management Development’s Smart City Index 2020.

According to a report by PWC, the potential impact of AI on the MEA region will be around $320 billion by 2030 with expected annual growth of 20-34% per year.

PWC predicted that AI would contribute $135.2 bn to Saudi Arabia’s economy by 2030, which will be 12.4% of its GDP.

AI’s contribution to the UAE GDP is expected to reach 13.6% by 2030 that equates to $96 bn.

To be fair, in the Coronavirus pandemic, Middle Eastern countries were proactive in using AI to fight the virus.

Saudi Arabia has ambitious plans for embracing AI. They established a government institute called the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) to develop, oversee, and raise awareness about AI. 

But the UAE has been the most progressive in the region for adopting AI. The country established the world’s first AI university in Abu Dhabi and appointed a 27-year-old as minister of artificial intelligence.  

UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid once stated: “We want the UAE to become the world’s most prepared country for artificial intelligence.”

Currently, more than 60 AI-driven companies are located in the UAE.

Fresh AI initiatives

Derq is a local startup based in Dubai that aims to bring AI to Emirates roads. Its platform uses inputs from traffic cameras and sensors integrated with machine-learning algorithms to predict road movements. It sends alerts to traffic control centers and connected vehicles. Road owners access the insights via a real-time dashboard.

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) recently announced the launch of AIQ, its AI joint venture (JV) company with Group 42 (G42), an Abu Dhabi-based AI and cloud computing company.

AIQ will focus on developing and commercializing AI products and applications for the oil and gas industry. 

Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and ADNOC Group CEO, said, “Through this new joint venture, we are able to accelerate the development of new AI solutions to optimize processes, improve planning and increase profitability for ADNOC and the wider oil and gas industry. This partnership model allows ADNOC to develop AI solutions and applications in a cost-efficient way and strengthens Abu Dhabi’s and our nation’s position as a global hub for AI and technology-driven industrial growth”.