How is AI transforming Middle East governments today?


GBM Executive

Governments, in the Middle East and across the world, carry enormous responsibilities. They must protect and meet the needs of millions of citizens, delivering vital public services with limited resources. It is often a thankless task.

However, governments do have an advantage that private businesses do not have. They have the ability to collect and analyze vast amounts of citizen data, on everything from road traffic to public health, over long periods of time.

This need to deliver services efficiently, at scale, together with the ability to leverage huge datasets, makes artificial intelligence (AI) an ideal fit for governments. Technology leaders such as IBM have created AI solutions designed specifically for governments. As we are seeing in many Middle East countries, governments are already doing incredible things with AI.

If you aren’t yet familiar with AI’s potential to empower government, this post is for you. Below we’re looking at how governments are already spearheading AI adoption, and what this means for the future of the region. To know how your organization can benefit from AI adoption, I will share with you what GBM offers our clients in the region today.

It starts with the right strategy

For governments that have already been pursuing digital transformation for some time, AI is an evolution of their national strategy after mobile.

This is the case in the United Arab Emirates, which launched one of the world’s first national AI strategies, the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, in late 2017. Covering everything from transport to renewable energy to space exploration, the strategy aims to develop the country’s AI skills and eventually deliver all services via AI.

Investment in AI will also deliver major benefits to citizens, including:

  • Fewer road traffic accidents
  • A more engaged citizen
  • Better-value services through cost savings across government
  • Industry aligned education

Cities are using AI to improve citizen’s overall quality of life

Government AI strategies do not have to be on the national scale. In Dubai, AI is part of their initiative to become the smartest and happiest city in the world.

In partnership with IBM , Dubai has created an AI roadmap designed to create new collaborations and develop skills through workshops and training.

Dubai’s AI Lab is also injecting machine learning (a branch of AI) to government services and city experiences, to improve quality of life and tourism.

Adding billions to the economy

Analysts expect Saudi Arabia to gain the region’s biggest economic impact from AI by 2030. With its “Vision 2030” strategy, the country has targeted that date to build a thriving digital economy that replaces previous income sources such as oil.

AI is central to the vision, as Saudi Arabia has illustrated with its ground-breaking AI initiatives. It already has the world’s first robot citizen, Sophia. It is also building “NEOM”, an automated “new future” city that will have more robots than people.

“Everything will have a link with artificial intelligence and IoT,” says Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud.

Dubai has been a leading smart city deploying two public service chat bots “Rashid” and “Mahboub”. Rashid named after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum uses AI to provide reliable and official answers to questions about procedures, policies and documents from a database with the many government entities that fall under the Rashid project.

Mahboub was introduced by the RTA with an Arabic name meaning “the liked good”. Its application can communicate in both Arabic and English and resembles an RTA human customer service agent. The chatbot provides information on

  • The metro, tram and marine transport
  • Taxi information and journey planning
  • Parking information
  • Renewing or changing vehicle ownership details
  • License application and queries

Both chatbots are being utilized to allow government agencies to update their services seamlessly to citizens in real-time.

How will AI change the region?

With such a strong regional focus on AI, the technology is certain to change everyday life and business in the Middle East. The AI 10X initiative states that the government is continually looking 10 years ahead. This strategy is to propel Dubai into the future putting its AI 10 years ahead of other global cities.

PwC predicts AI could contribute US$320 billion to the Middle East economy by 2030, which would is 11% of GDP. The UAE has an opportunity to become a key player in the new global digital economy, through its early investments in AI and are looking to contribute almost 14% of the GDP in 2030. These investments will help non-government industries to thrive too, providing the technologies needed to automate processes and improve products and services.

The same report suggests AI’s biggest influence will be on the public sector, including government, and on education.

The next generation of AI experts

Education is of vital interest to governments to develop future generations of technology innovators, UAE is prioritizing the adoption of advanced technology into the curriculum.

In Higher Colleges of Technology, “AI Discovery” is already part of the curriculum. Workshops held in partnership with IBM Watson are immersing male and female students in cognitive computing capabilities such as visual recognition and AI conversation.

The workshops train participants to “simulate or make a machine think, and respond just like humans do,” says student Sara Marei. “Each one of us created a Watson [AI], which we trained to respond to questions… it was certainly an amazing experience.”

Ready to learn more?

By investing early in AI, Middle East governments are leading the transformation towards valuable new ways of working. To help introduce your business to AI, we at GBM have created a step ladder approach and built 3 practices.

  • Data Practice – Begin with data as it forms the fundamental building block in building an effective solution. This forms the foundation for good analytics
  • Analytics Practice – To provide world class analytics solutions that enable organisations to identify what has happened and why. Then to predict what will happen and what actions can be taken to ensure the desired outcome. In its simplest form, advanced analytics is the start of the AI journey.
  • AI Practice: Building on the data and analytics foundation to create Enterprise Class AI that can be trusted.

If your organization has not yet started exploring AI, or you are evolving your digital transformation strategy, GBM has everything you need – AI project experience, end-to-end solutions and cutting-edge technologies, including those from global AI leader IBM.

If you would like to discuss your goals or just ask more about AI, please contact me.

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