Leading the MENA region in the 2020 Government AI Readiness Index – UAE

With evaluations of different countries across different parameters of Governance, future Vision, data readiness and infrastructure, the Government AI Readiness Index 2020 showcases the performance of different countries. In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as well as the Middle East and Africa (MENA) region, United Arab Emirates (UAE) is taking leaps and bounds with development in different sectors, specifically geared towards technology. Looking at the Oxford Insights and International Development Research Centre (IRDC) 2020 Government AI Readiness Index (GAIRI), the UAE claims the 16thrank worldwide and the top rank in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Even though the number of assessed parameters has been different over 2019 and 2020 evaluations, UAE has been leading this region in both years.

According to Mr. Aryan Singh, CTO, TensaX Innovation Lab, the applications of Information Technology (IT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the UAE have been expanding exponentially. This is attributed to the government’s planning and innovative initiatives that have encouraged business and academicians to direct their attention to the inclusion of the latest available technologies and models in their work.

This is indeed seen by the UAE’s performance in the Government pillar of the 2020 GARI, where it ranks 7th out of 172 countries. The Government of UAE has taken definitive steps towards the adoption of AI as seen from its National AI Strategy of 2017, which establishes a Ministry of AI that is dedicated to oversee the implementation and integration of the AI strategy. Presenting a roadmap to not only enhance the utility of AI applications in UAE, the AI Ministry aims to elevate UAE to the leaders of AI by 2031. This is expected to
result in an over 96billion USD increase in the GDP. A bit of a challenge, out of the three pillars of 2020 GAIRI evaluation is seen in the Technology Sector (see rank in Figure). However, as government policies are being implemented to increase the funding for technology growth, this sector is expected to show improvement in the future.

As a new feature, the AI readiness index evaluates the responsible implementation of AI, evaluating in terms of Inclusivity, Accountability, Transparency and Privacy. As more countries implement AI applications in the public sector, it becomes imperative to evaluate the associated social ethical responsibilities. Negative impacts in terms of spread of fake news, establishment or encouragement of social inequalities should be avoided. In this area, the UAE, out of 34 countries is ranked at 26. It is an important aspect to consider that a responsible and ethical implementation approach has already been a part of the roadmap developed by the UAE government. As more detailed and advanced applications are brought into operation, the respective social and ethical responsibilities will be addressed.