UAE ready to become future capital of the world

By Sheena Amos

ABU DHABI 2 December 2017: The UAE has what it takes to become the world’s future capital, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said on the eve of the opening of the Global Future Councils of the World Economic Forum earlier this year.

The UAE has not only kept pace with the rapid expansion of technology – in many fields it is leading the way – and as the world enters its next phase of growth, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the state is heavily investing in both the ideology and the people who will become the leaders of the future.

“We can’t lead the future with tools from the past, and we can’t accomplish quantum leaps in growth without conceptualising a new way of governance. Change creates great opportunities, renews ideas and forces everyone to think in a different way. And we will implement all that is good for our people,” His Highness Sheikh Mohammed said.

The UAE is prepared for the pressing issues of the 21st century, and has become so by creating a forward thinking government which is dedicated to solving the potential issues by forming ministries and departments such as the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, the Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment, and re-vamping the Cabinet to include a Minister of Tolerance, a Minister of State for Happiness and Wellbeing, a Minister of State for Youth Affairs, and a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence.

Earlier this year, Popular Science Magazine, the award-winning specialist publication on scientific matters, dubbed Dubai as the “City of the Future” and the UAE as the “Country of the Future” and “a regional and global pioneer”, highlighting the vast pool of global talents that are leaving numerous opportunities in Europe and the US and looking, instead, to the UAE, with its attractive work environment and secure lifestyle to achieve their dreams.

Some of the UAE’s notable achievements in the field are as follows: In February, the concept of merging ideas to use the latest technology to provide practical and innovative solutions in economy, humanitarian and scientific research areas, was highlighted when H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, honoured the winners of UAE Drones for Good Award and UAE AI/ Robotics Award for Good.

A total of 40 projects were shortlisted for both the awards, 20 from inside the country, including 10 for UAE Drones Award and 10 for UAE AI/ Robotics Award for Good. The finalists were selected from 1,017 entries from 165 countries.

Future Design

In March 2017, Dubai Future Academy launched its ‘Future Design’ Programme which seeks to train executives from both the public and private sectors and prepare them to adapt to the technologies of the future, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, Blockchain, and the Internet of Things.

The programme was organised in partnership with THNK Creative School of Leadership and Innovation in affiliation with Stanford University. It aims to raise awareness around global future trends in key sectors such as renewable energy, water, transportation, education, health, technology, and space.

Also in March, the technology arm of Smart Dubai Office organised a workshop for executives and technical teams from various Dubai Government Agencies to raise awareness of Dubai’s artificial intelligence service, “Saad” and outline a development roadmap for artificial intelligence in Dubai.

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.

It is designed to understand natural language and ingest and comprehend massive amounts of data, learn and reason from its interactions, and provide correct and appropriate responses.

AI Lab

At the same time, Dubai launched its AI Lab in collaboration with IBM’s Watson, to 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. The AI Lab will support the implementation of Dubai’s A I Roadmap, and help accelerate the development of A I services across Dubai. It will also equip Dubai Government Agencies and their partners with the necessary AI skills to develop their own A I services and applications.

In April, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, DEWA, announced the launch of the ‘Rammas’ AI service on Amazon’s Alexa smart voice system.

DEWA has become the first government entity to add its virtual employee to this innovative technology, in adherence with directives to reduce the number of visitors to government establishments by 80 percent and encourage the public to use smart services.

Rammas acts as a virtual employee by making use of artificial intelligence technology to answer customer enquiries. Rammas is characterised by its ability to learn and understand the needs of customers according to their enquiries, which it analyses based on available data and information, taking action to accurately answer all queries.

Softbank Vision

In May, Mubadala Investment Company, the Abu Dhabi strategic investment fund, confirmed that it had made a US$15 billion commitment to the Softbank Vision Fund, a major technology and innovation focused fund, alongside a consortium of leading investors joining forces to create value from the significant wave of technological change and innovation that is transforming global industries and societies.

The Softbank Vision Fund announced that it had become fully operational by raising over US$93 billion in committed capital from investors including the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, Apple Inc., Foxconn, Qualcomm, Sharp Corporation and SoftBank Group Corp alongside Mubadala.

The Fund will look for opportunities in how these applications are impacting major global industries including manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, space, and transportation.

Also in May, the world’s first operational robot policeman officially joined the line of duty, greeting guests at the opening of the 4th Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference. The autonomous ‘Robocop’, standing 170 centimetres tall and weighing 100 kilograms, is equipped with an emotion detector which can recognise gestures and hand signals from up to 1.5 metres away. The Robocop can also detect a person’s emotions and facial expressions – whether the individual is happy, sad, or smiling – and has the ability to change his expression and greetings accordingly to put people at ease.

Humanitarian Accelerators

In June, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid launched the Humanitarian Accelerators, a first of its kind initiative in the Arab World which aims to gather skilled professionals in the cause of aiding the humanitarian sector. The accelerators will be dedicated to improving the financial efficiency of humanitarian organisations and leapfrogging conventional technology approaches in order to enhance the work of the humanitarian sector.

The Humanitarian Accelerators will address four key challenges facing the region. The first challenge is providing access to quality education to all children, the second is providing access to clean water in underprivileged countries, the third is the number of refugees living in poverty – up from 50% in 2015 to 70% in 2017 as per UNHCR reports, and the fourth is the below-average reading material and content in Arabic online. The Humanitarian Accelerators will seek to devise electronic solutions in order to increase the amount, and quality, of Arabic content online.

As of today, 65 international companies have participated in the Dubai Future Accelerators programme, and a memorandum of understanding has been signed with 47 others.

In July, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority has announced that its 24 hour chatbot, which uses Artificial Intelligence to respond to customers, has received more than 270,000 enquiries since its launch earlier in the year.

Rammas, as the system is known, received more than 204,000 enquiries through DEWA’s website, over 67,000 on its smart app, 3,000 through Facebook, and more than 528 through Amazon’s Alexa system.

Seha AI

The same month, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, SEHA, announced the formation of a specialised committee for artificial intelligence which will work to implement the technology and its applications in medical and operational development.

This year, the Government of the UAE, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, WEF, has launched the Artificial Intelligence Protocol, a ground-breaking programme that seeks to accurately forecast future developments and adopt the necessary tools to benefit from the transformations brought about by the technology.

Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, said, “The launch of the Artificial Intelligence Protocol reflects the UAE’s commitment to forging global partnerships that work to capitalise on artificial intelligence and related technologies to invent new AI-powered services that improve human life. These efforts and services transcend geographic borders and require collaboration from all involved parties to ensure a better life for future generations.”

In November, the UAE Government launched a pioneering national programme to train the world’s first generation of Ambassadors of the Future. Speaking about the project, Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and The Future and Co-Chair of the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils, said, “The UAE maintains its leading role at the fore of the efforts to shape the future of the region and the world. We are actively working towards the full globalisation of knowledge. The new programme to train the Ambassadors of the Future establishes the UAE as the foremost international centre of the future industry.”

In October, at the end of two days of in-depth discussions, the UAE annual government meetings in Abu Dhabi saw the launch of four strategies: the UAE Soft Power Strategy, the Fourth Industrial Revolution Strategy, the Higher Education Strategy and a strategy for water security. A work plan was also launched for UAE Centennial 2071, along with a number of other national programmes.

Over 400 of the nation’s leading government officials were present, including the Crown Princes of the seven Emirates and members of the Executive Councils.

Soft Power

The UAE’s Soft Power Strategy is a framework for integrated diplomatic action that takes into account important cultural components, such as individual identity, heritage, social stability, political climate, cultural openness, tolerance and more.

The UAE Fourth Industrial Revolution Strategy seeks to strengthen the UAE’s position as a global leader in the technological economic revolution, and to contribute to a building a competitive national economy based on knowledge, innovation and future applications that integrate physical, digital and dynamic technologies.

The National Strategy for Higher Education 2030 aims to empower future generations with the best scientific knowledge in accordance with international professional standards. It aims to contribute to a generation of citizens who can pioneer the future.

Water Security

The UAE Water Security Strategy 2036 aims to ensure sustainability of access to water during everyday conditions, as well as in emergencies, in line with state laws and WHO specification, contributing to the prosperity of society and sustaining the growth of the national economy.

The United Arab Emirates has declared that it will be ahead of any likely effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, proposing solutions to the challenges that come along with it, and looking into the most promising technological advances across various sectors, including the future of philanthropy, food security, innovation and entrepreneurship, international trade and investment, cybersecurity, the Internet, cities, transportation, global governance, global security, production, artificial intelligence and robotics, energy, computing, education, quality of life, the environment, and biotechnology.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said earlier in 2017 that forecasting the future has proved pivotal for successful government work and for empowering citizens. The UAE, he said, has become a global hub for the future industry and an established platform to forecast upcoming challenges in a world where the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies are opening new horizons.

Note: On the occasion of the UAE’s 46th National Day celebrations, Emirates News Agency (Wam), has compiled a series of reports regarding the achievements of the state over the past year. Here, it looks at the UAE’s efforts towards achieving its ambition to become the world’s future capital.