The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Artificial Intelligence Office has given its backing to Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)’s launch of an artificial intelligence (AI) and coding licence for companies.
Described by the DIFC – a special economic zone established almost two decades ago – as ‘a UAE first’, the licence is the latest in a flurry of AI initiatives to be launched in the seven-state federation, which is pushing to position itself as a world-leader in the emerging AI field.
Companies holding the licence will be able to work at the DIFC Innovation Hub, which is promoted as home to more than 500 start-up and significantly larger companies.
The licence also provides companies with an opportunity to obtain what are known as ‘UAE Golden Visas’ for employees: these are long-term residence visas that do not need a national sponsor that were introduced by the government in 2019.
The ultimate aim of the licence’s introduction is to woo AI investment – in the form of companies and coders – to locate in the UAE, whose vision for artificial intelligence is set out in its National AI Strategy 2031.
Government backs digital investment
Initiatives such as the AI licence “reflect positively on the country’s readiness to become a global destination for pioneering the industries of the future by adopting advanced technology and stimulating innovation in various fields,” said Omar Sultan Al Olama, the UAE’s minister of state for AI, digital economy and remote work applications.
Al Olama was appointed minister of state for AI in 2017, with digital economy and remote work applications expanding his brief in 2020. His responsibilities include improving government performance by investing in the latest AI technologies and tools, and applying them in various sectors.
The government is “keen to support digital transformation processes” and “develop digital activities and provide innovative solutions that contribute to improving the performance of governments and the lives of communities,” Al Olama added.
DIFC’s governor, His Excellency Essa Kazim, said that collaboration with the UAE AI Office “confirmed our commitment to the AI Strategy 2031 and leveraging the potential of AI to drive the future of finance.”
Aiming to make AI ‘integral’
UAE’s eight-objective AI strategy was published in 2017 and adopted in 2019. It aims to make AI an ‘integral part’ of government services, as well as businesses’ and citizens’ day-to-day lives.
The world’s first university dedicated to AI, the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, opened its doors in September 2020 in the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi.
Other recently launched government-backed initiatives include ‘Coders HQ, an initiative that kicked off a couple of months ago to boost coding skills via hackathons, conferences and training sessions (in partnership with more than 40 companies). An initiative called ‘AI for Kids’ to teach children about coding languages and AI basics got underway last month.
According to estimates in a report from PwC, ‘The Potential Impact of AI in the Middle East’, AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion (about £11.8 trillion) to the global economy in 2030 (breaking down as $6.6 trillion resulting from increased productivity and $9.1 trillion as ‘likely to come from benefits to consumers’). The UAE, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are highlighted in the professional services firm’s report as having demonstrated strong commitment towards the development and implementation of AI technologies.
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