How has AI impacted Dubai

Adoption and related application of the technology could make up 14 percent of GDP by 2030
How has AI impacted Dubai
Dubai embraces AI through various initiatives and projects

Under the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (AI) 2031 of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum encapsulated the country’s ambitious vision.

The country’s vice president and prime minister as well as ruler of Dubai boldly said, “We want the UAE to become the world’s most prepared country for Artificial Intelligence.” Backed by strong support from the government, the nation has witnessed transformative developments powered by AI. Dubai, in particular, leads the UAE in embracing this sophisticated technology.

AI’s substantial impact

By 2030, PwC estimates that AI will generate $320 billion for the Middle East region. The UAE will see the largest impact, with the technology contributing nearly 14 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). This is equivalent to about $97 billion. 

This forecast amplifies the UAE’s intense efforts to advance its growth by making AI one of its priorities. In 2017, the government unveiled its AI strategy and appointed HE Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama as the country’s first minister of state for AI. This also marked the first time the world saw someone take on such a position. 

Dubai’s strategies

Within the UAE, the financial capital of Dubai is leading AI advancements. Al Maktoum established Digital Dubai in June 2021, showcasing the government’s intent to be an AI hub. Its role is to develop and oversee the implementation of policies and strategies for Dubai’s information technology, data, digital transformation and cyber-security.

Over the past years, the government has launched several AI-driven strategies. These include the Smart Dubai strategy, which aims to develop Dubai further through digital transformation and innovation. It is based on four core pillars — Seamless, Efficient, Safe and Personalized — which will propel the emirate forward, reaching a future where technology is integrated into daily life services, city resources are used optimally, people and information are protected and life and business experiences are enriched for all.

Under this strategy, the Dubai government has launched an AI smart lab that trains both public and private sector employees in AI implementation. 

“We hope to infuse AI into the fabric of the city and its operating systems and use this ground-breaking technology to discover new pathways to create a blueprint for a new and exciting future,” stated Digital Dubai on its website.

Dubai also has a 3D Printing Strategy, which focuses on its construction, medical products and consumer products sectors. The goal is to have 25 percent of buildings in the emirate made using 3D printing technology. This, too, harnesses the capabilities of AI to produce error-free outputs.

Meanwhile, the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy seeks to transform 25 percent of all transportation to autonomous modes by 2030. Doing so could reduce transportation costs by 44 percent, carbon emissions by 12 percent and accidents by 12 percent.

Read: The magic behind the machine – Artificial intelligence in the spotlight

AI across Dubai’s various sectors

AI Minister Al Olama once said in a keynote speech that “whoever is going to lead in the Artificial Intelligence race will lead the future.” This highlights the technology’s pivotal role in a nation’s growth. 

Thanks to the country’s forward-thinking and optimistic approach, the UAE has been seeing significant developments made possible by the use of AI. Dubai takes pride in being at the forefront of all these.

In healthcare, institutions in the emirate have been using AI to enhance patient care, diagnostics and, ultimately, medical outcomes. Speaking at the Dubai-hosted Arab Health Exhibition and Congress 2023, Dr. Azad Moopen emphasized the role of AI. 

“The data with healthcare systems is humongous and it is humanly impossible to look at it without the help of AI and technology. For example, the reporting of X-Rays, CT scans [and] MRIs in which AI can detect even small anomalies. Add to that the data uploaded with smart devices like health apps and watches can be assessed by AI to detect a person’s health and alert their doctor,” remarked the chairman and managing director of Aster DM Healthcare.

Meanwhile, in aviation, the Emirates Airline has emerged as a standout pioneer in utilizing AI. In particular, they use it to help customers book flights, check in, and personalize their travel experience. Logistics-wise, AI helps plan the most efficient routes for aircraft.

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More sectors are benefitting

In construction, one of the top industries in Dubai and the broader UAE, AI is also improving several industry aspects. For instance, Dubai Municipality has been utilizing X-ray robots and AI to analyze construction materials. It has enabled a 650 percent increase in the daily examination of samples, significantly enhancing efficiency and precision. This further reduced reporting time for construction material tests from four days to a mere eight minutes. 

In retail, several companies are enhancing customer experience by introducing AI for personalized shopping recommendations, inventory management, chatbot services for customer support and virtual try-on features for clothes and accessories. 

In Dubai, AI is significantly aiding the energy sector by improving planning and management, reducing environmental impact, and optimizing energy storage and distribution. AI algorithms analyze data to predict peak demand times, assess equipment conditions, and enhance supply chains and delivery. The use of AI is anticipated to increase productivity and lower maintenance costs. It also helps grid operators estimate the availability of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

By 2028, the AI market in the global energy sector is expected to reach $14.52 billion, growing at an annual rate of 24.6 percent. 

Smart and sustainable

The AI pivot in Dubai is also evidently shown in the emirate’s outstanding smart and sustainable cities. With the use of technology, the overall goal is to enhance living and service provision. 

Various projects epitomize Dubai’s vision for an environmentally friendly and technologically advanced urban future. For example, The Sustainable City, recognized for its high happiness index and sustainability, runs on solar energy and has a car-free environment. Meanwhile, the Dubai Silicon Oasis exceeds energy reduction targets with a 31 percent cut in energy consumption. Moreover, the Dubai South District, home to Expo 2020, is known for its commitment to renewable energy and material reuse. On the other hand, Desert Rose City, designed for efficiency and sustainability, emphasizes waste recycling. 

On ethical use

While AI has been proven to be beneficial to Dubai, it still poses challenges. And most of these boil down to ethical use.

One of Digital Dubai’s most important initiatives is the creation and launch of the Ethical AI Toolkit. It offers practical assistance within the city’s ecosystem, aiding businesses, academic institutions and individuals in responsibly utilizing AI technologies. The toolkit includes principles, guidelines and a self-assessment tool for developers to evaluate their platforms. 

“Our aim is to offer unified guidance that is continuously improved in collaboration with our communities. The eventual goal is to reach widespread agreement and adoption of commonly-agreed policies to inform the ethical use of AI not just in Dubai but around the world,” stated Digital Dubai.

Final thoughts

Aligning with the UAE’s overall vision to lead the globe in AI readiness, Dubai has seen several AI-driven transformations. Boasting an array of strategic initiatives centering on AI, Dubai industries — from healthcare and retail to energy, aviation and construction — are changing for the better. Digital Dubai’s ethical AI toolkit exemplifies the emirate’s balanced approach to pursuing technological advancements.

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