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GCC countries eye multi-billion AI opportunity

GCC countries eye multi-billion AI opportunity

Regional artificial intelligence centre of excellence proposed

Tech experts have proposed creating a new artificial intelligence ‘centre of excellence’ in the Middle East to capitalise on an anticipated $300bn boom in the emerging technology.

Dr. Jassim Haji, president of the Artificial Intelligence Society Bahrain, predicted that new AI-based roles will begin appearing within the next year amid a regional surge in the use of automation.

It comes after international audit firm PwC predicted that the AI sector will contribute $300bn to the Middle East economy by 2030, fuelled by mega-projects and a new wave of innovation.

Saudi Arabia’s NEOM project – a $500bn plan to create a hi-tech urban community in the northwestern desert – is among the biggest single AI projects in the world, while the UAE was the first country in the world to appoint a minister responsible for AI affairs.

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According to Dr. Haji, while much of the work on regional mega-projects is done by large global technology companies, there will inevitably be technology transfer involved.

This will add to the AI skills of economies in the region, including Bahrain, which has a well-educated workforce as part of its young and digitally-aware demographic.

“The use of Artificial Intelligence in the Middle East will help to accelerate operations in a wide range of sectors, ultimately increasing productivity and building a new economy for the future,” Dr. Haji said.

“To capitalise on this major technological shift, launching a new Middle East centre of excellence will enable a new focus on home-grown innovation and up-skilling the regional workforce in preparation for a range of new roles,” he added.

Dr. Haji notes that several countries in the MENA region have made major advances towards smart cities and smart governments and have institutionalised AI in government ministries and academia. “The region has been an early adopter of AI techniques and methods,” he said.

While all eyes are on NEOM and the big projects in the UAE and elsewhere in the Gulf, Dr. Haji believes Bahrain has the opportunity to become a regional centre for AI research and development, with significantly lower costs compared to other hubs.

Last year saw the launch of the Bahrain Polytechnic Academy of Artificial Intelligence – the first of its kind in the region – offering an integrated professional programme to enhance creativity and innovation in the field of AI.

It came after the Kingdom piloted new World Economic Forum guidelines for the procurement of artificial intelligence in the public sector, designed to boost the use of AI technology by governments.

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