Complex Made Simple

Two independent reports show AI a central investment vehicle for the UAE and region

The UAE is a serious player in AI, but the region as a whole is gearing itself towards full integration with reliable data at the core

The UAE has seen the second highest AI investment over the past decade, more than $2.15 billion 94% of C-suite leadership consider ‘AI strategy’ as important topic, 35% of non-managerial staff are having an AI discussion AI could have a $320 billion impact on the ME economy by 2030

Artificial Intelligence is the new digital kid on the block, and getting more mature by the minute. At least that’s what a joint Microsoft, Ernest & Young (EY) study unveiled for UAE businesses as part of acceleration towards Digital Transformation.

Already, 18% of businesses in the country consider AI their most important digital priority. This is according to the AI Maturity Report in the Middle East and Africa (MEA).

In fact, 94% of companies in the UAE report involvement in AI at the executive management level – the highest percentage of any surveyed country in the MEA.

“When we examine companies with high AI maturity, it’s clear that the technology is driven directly by the CEOs themselves. This high level of involvement typically results in greater investment in AI, broader adoption and a greater number of successful implementations,” says Sayed Hashish, regional general manager at Microsoft Gulf.

Read more: Top myths on Artificial Intelligence debunked

While 64% of respondents believe they have moderate, little or no AI leadership competency, 24% of executives in the UAE rated themselves as highly competent, with another 46% indicating they are either competent or very competent.

Most companies still consider themselves to be in the planned phase of AI maturity, meaning AI has not yet been put to active use.  

Where investments in AI go

The UAE is the second highest regional investor in AI over the past ten years, investing $2.15 billion in total. The bulk of this investment went towards social media and the Internet of Things (IoT) transactions. This was followed by notable spend across a further eight technologies, including smart mobile, gamification, and machine learning.

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 Around 35% of companies say AI discussions are filtering down from top management right the way through to non-managerial levels.

As a result, employees in the UAE are less afraid of losing their jobs to AI than employees in other countries. In fact, they embrace opportunities to participate in skills training and pilot programmes.

Data is key for AI

 “The biggest problem to date with AI is that it isn’t always right – AI has given us the ability to make data-driven predictions, decisions and actions faster than ever before, but it is only as effective as the data and algorithms it relies on,” says Steve Plimsoll, MENA Data & Intelligence advisory leader, EY.  

Where do customers fit in AI strategy? 

UAE companies are, in general, heavily focused on customer engagement when it comes to AI. The use of chatbots in the marketing space has become common, largely because they enhance the customer experience, ultimately demonstrating obvious value to management.

Companies within the Emirates view prediction (76%) and automation (76%) as the most relevant applications of AI for their businesses.

Read more: Bad news for UAE criminals: AI is literally watching their every move

Total investments 

A recent study entitled “Unlocking AI: Breaking down the UAE’s Artificial Intelligence 2031 strategy” found that the MENA region’s investment in AI forecast to reach $114.22 million by 2021 – a CAGR of 32% for the 2016-2021 period.

A new PwC report suggested that with the right support, AI could have a $320 billion impact on the ME economy by 2030.

By 2030, AI is predicted to contribute:

$96 billion to the UAE’s economy (13.6% of GDP)

$135.2 billion to Saudi Arabia’s economy (12.4% of GDP)

$45.9 billion to the GCC4 (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar) economies (8.2% of GDP)

AI Impact 

Government: AI can automate simple tasks and citizen requests and eliminate 250 million paper transactions per year.

Healthcare: AI spending for healthcare applications and diagnosis will reach $22.79 billion globally by 2023.

Education: Grading can be simplified through AI which can also help create smarter, more personalised learning experiences.

Energy: AI-empowered energy facilities and smart grids will eliminate wastage and deliver supply exactly as and where it is needed.  

Retail and E-Commerce: AI is already changing the way we browse, purchase and consume retail goods.

Read more: Exclusive: Predictive models and AI are the future of digital marketing, says Vbout CEO

Through the AI 2031 Strategy, the UAE is already positioning itself to fully leverage the benefits that AI can offer in terms of generating value for the national economy, as well as societal health, safety and wellbeing.

By 2031, the UAE Government believes that its nationwide AI initiative will enable the following:

• Overall boosting of the UAE’s GDP by 35%

• 90% resistance from financial crisis through predictive and responsive systems

• 50% reduction of total government costs

• Securing the UAE as a world leader in various AI sectors

• Creation of a truly integrated smart digital systems positively 

• Creation of a global hub for AI solutions and an incubator for future AI innovations