How should UAE businesses look at the legal considerations of deploying AI
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How should UAE businesses look at the legal considerations of deploying AI

How should UAE businesses look at the legal considerations of deploying AI

The future is full of opportunities for regional businesses to flourish by tapping into the infinite potential of AI

Gulf Business
Generative AI

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is experiencing a surge in Artificial Intelligence (AI) adoption driven by national agendas and significant investments from governments.

Countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia are leading the way, strategically investing in infrastructure development, Research & Development (R&D) and long-term domestic AI hardware manufacturing plans in their pursuit of technological independence.

The region is betting big on AI as it sets out to transform government services, businesses, customer experiences, and workplaces across the board.

A PwC report forecasts a potential impact of $320bn by 2030, with AI contributing 20-34% annually across the region. This ambitious growth, fueled by widespread adoption amongst individuals and businesses, has prompted Saudi Arabia and the UAE to collectively invest $200 billion in AI development, including data center capacity expansion, homegrown chip production, and AI competency building.

The UAE, in particular, is the front-runner in AI adoption in the business sector.

Data from IBM Global AI Adoption Index 2023 reveals a staggering 65 per cent of IT professionals who report accelerated AI rollout in the past two years, and 42 per cent of companies already utilised AI. Unsurprisngly, this progress has taken businesses by storm, and it’s become fundamental to navigate AI with a clear understanding of its ethical and legal implications.

Businesses’ adoption of AI underscores the critical need for well-defined frameworks to ensure responsible utilisation. The  UAE—the first country to appoint a Minister state for AI—has been one of the early adopters of AI, and established laws to regulate some its critical aspects.

Despite the technology’s rapid development, with newer subsets such as GenAI emerging and evolving by the minute, legal considerations become increasingly important and complex.

That said, a majority of UAE businesses have already set in motion frameworks for implementation. IBM’s report says 34 per cent have already developed a comprehensive AI strategy, while another 30 per cent is currently in the process of developing one.

Building a legal framework for AI based on key pillars

1- Data Privacy and Protection: UAE businesses should set a high bar for data privacy by adopting a multifaceted legal approach. This includes benchmarking against gold standards like GDPR and CCPA, besides compliance with the UAE’s penal codes and Personal Data Protection Law. To achieve this, an unwavering commitment to transparency is essential. Businesses must obtain clear and unambiguous consent from consumers before collecting and using their data. Maintaining a clear and accessible data usage policy fosters trust and empowers their consumers. Needless to say, setting robust security measures in the framework is indispensable for safeguarding sensitive information.

2- Intellectual Property Rights: Due to the technology’s rapid development, AI copyrights remain an unsettled, thorny matter undergoing continuous legal emendation. The ownership of AI-created work and issues related to patents and copyrights in the UAE will inherently fall under the national Copyright law and protection of Intellectual Property (IP) frameworks. It is essential that businesses set up clear guidelines in accordance to these laws to ensure legal protection of AI technologies and content.

3- Regulatory Compliance: The responsible development and deployment of AI necessitates a two-pronged approach: adhering to regulatory compliance and establishing ethical AI guidelines. Organisations should be mindful of evolving regulations like data privacy laws, as well as AI behaviour frameworks such as the Dubai AI Principles. Simultaneously, strong ethical AI guidelines are essential, focusing on fairness, accountability, and transparency in data use, decision-making, and user interactions.

4- Liability and Accountability: Accountability in AI is crucial for ensuring the responsible use of these powerful technologies. It involves establishing a clear framework that outlines who is liable for the decisions and actions of AI systems. This would include responsibilities of the developers, operators, and management throughout the technology’s lifecycle.  This helps to mitigate risks, build trust with users, and ensure that the technology is put into good use.

5- Contractual Considerations: Integrating AI into a business requires careful consideration of contractual terms. This includes negotiating and drafting agreements with AI vendors, covering service levels, data handling, and intellectual property rights. This would also include making amendments to employment contracts to address AI tool usage, which would also address potential job displacement concerns.

6- Ethical and Bias Considerations: AI systems, despite their immense potential, can perpetuate biases if left unchecked. To ensure responsible use, organisations must prioritise ethical considerations and bias mitigation. This necessitates the need to implement measures to detect and eliminate biases in AI systems, and develop ethical use policies to ensure fair and unbiased decision-making.

7- Cross-Border Data Transfers: The global nature of AI development often involves transferring data across borders. To ensure compliance with international data privacy laws, businesses–especially larger corporations operating across continents–should leverage established legal mechanisms like Standard Contractual Clauses or Binding Corporate Rules for cross-border data transfers.

8- Employee Training and Awareness: Building a culture of responsible AI use within an organisation requires a well-informed workforce. Businesses should invest in training programmes to educate employees on legal, ethical, and practical aspects of AI usage, and conduct awareness campaigns on the latest legal developments.

The future is full of opportunities for regional businesses to flourish by tapping into the infinite potential of AI.

However, unlocking this potential hinges on a carefully crafted, continuously evolving approach.

This approach must seamlessly integrate legal compliance with robust ethical principles, while fostering a well-equipped workforce. By prioritising these key pillars, businesses can ensure responsible AI development and deployment, propelling them towards success in the AI-driven era.

The author is Director of AI at Zoho.

Read: EU urges Big Tech to alert users about AI’s ‘dark sides’

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