Complex Made Simple

Can Artificial Intelligence make governments more efficient?

* “Saad” is Dubai’s first government service utilising Artificial Intelligence, powered by IBM Watson

* The AI Lab will provide Dubai government agencies and partners with skills to develop services and applications

* 52 per cent of experts believe that AI will create more jobs and lead to an increase in employment

As global economies step up the search for new and innovative ways to enhance their competitiveness and get ahead of the growth curve, a new generation of advanced technologies is taking the spotlight, promising to transform cities and help them function better.

Dubai’s robots in government services

Smart Dubai Government Establishment, the technology arm of Smart Dubai Office, has launched ‘Saad’, Dubai’s first government service utilising artificial intelligence (AI), powered by IBM Watson. The service was launched to allow entrepreneurs and investors to ask questions related to setting up a business in Dubai, and to get real-time responses on various topics, including business licensing requirements and registration processes.

AI has received a lot of recognition in recent times. IBM’s Watson notably beat two all-time Jeopardy! champions and Siri or Cortana on our smartphones can answer almost any question posed to them. AI is about making better, more informed decisions and automating those decisions. When used in the right way, AI has the potential to make government considerably more efficient and citizen-friendly.

Smart Dubai organised a one-day workshop for executives and technical teams from various Dubai Government agencies on Monday. The aim was to raise awareness about the new initiative and outline a development roadmap for artificial intelligence in Dubai.

At the workshop, Dr Aisha bint Bishr, Director-General of Smart Dubai Office, highlighted the power of artificial intelligence and the value of public-private partnerships for contributing smart services to the city. She said: “We believe that by harnessing the latest in technology we can offer innovative services to enhance citizen experiences in Dubai. Working with a network of partners from the public and private sector, Smart Dubai is continually exploring innovative technological solutions to improve quality of life in Dubai and make Dubai a more efficient, seamless, safe and impactful city experience.”

Artificial Intelligence Lab

Saad is designed to understand natural language and comprehend massive amounts of data, learn and reason from its interactions, and provide responses that will help users decide proper courses of action.

Amr Refaat, General Manager, IBM Middle East and Pakistan, said: “In this AI era, Dubai government agencies now have the potential to use Watson to provide citizens with uniquely customised services and enrich their day to day experiences.”

Additionally, an AI Lab will provide skills training for government and private sector employees and local students; host workshops for entities and individuals to experiment and build prototypes; and provide go-to-market support for new services. It will also equip Dubai Government Agencies and their partners with the necessary AI skills to develop their own services and applications.

Wesam Lootah, CEO of Smart Dubai Government Establishment, said: “Acquiring the latest technology has become nowadays the easiest part but not the most essential element of preparing for the future. We are launching the AI Lab with the 10X initiative to enable everyone to prepare for what the future holds.”

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Future decision making

A report titled Artificial intelligence: opportunities and implications for the future of decision making by the UK Government Office for Science highlights the benefits AI would bring to the society and the government:

  1. Make existing services more efficient by anticipating demand and tailoring services more exactly, enabling resources to be deployed to greatest effect.
  2. Make it easier for officials to use more data to inform decisions through quickly accessing relevant information, and to reduce fraud and error.
  3. Make decisions more transparent, perhaps through capturing digital records of the process behind them, or by visualizing the data that underpins a decision.
  4. Help departments better understand the groups they serve, in order to be sure that the right support and opportunity is offered to everyone.

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Recent studies have shown that a lot of time and effort needs to be invested before AI becomes commonplace in governments. There is a shortage of skilled professionals within the field and the fear that it will affect jobs makes organisations hesitant to experiment.

According to a survey by the Pew Research Centre, experts are divided about the net impact of robotics and AI: 48 per cent think that it will displace more jobs than it creates leading to a decline in employment, 52 per cent believe that it will create more jobs and lead to an increase in employment.

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