In January of 2019 Smart Dubai launched the city’s official principles and guidelines for the ethical implementation of AI. What truly makes Dubai’s approach to AI unique is our city-government launched AI Ethics Self-Assessment Toolkit – which allows anyone implementing AI to self-assess their performance against a set of criteria which when taken together assure an ethical approach. The process uses the data from the toolkit to create a positive feedback loop with those using and developing AI. Express Computer spoke to H.E. Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General, Smart Dubai and CEO, Smart Dubai Data.
At Smart Dubai we truly believe in the direct relationship between technological progress and rising human happiness levels. Born in early 2016, the Smart Dubai initiative is not actually so much about technology innovation, as much as it is about people. Our vision statement is a testament to this fact, which is – to make Dubai the happiest city on Earth. I’m proud to say we are truly a citizen-centric smart city initiative, with an aim of using technology to better everyday life experiences for residents and visitors in Dubai.
Since 2016, we therefore have already been using the power of technologies such as AI to provide efficient and seamless services to the public. Talking specifically about governance and citizen happiness, in late 2016 we launched Rashid, which is the city’s virtual assistant. Should you want to start a business, enroll your kids in school or get a driving license – Rashid is a web and mobile based chatbot that can answer any of your questions, just like any customer service representative would do. To access Rashid from any part of the world visit www.rashid.ae.
What kind of AI roadmap have you set for AI in Dubai? What makes the Dubai AI strategy unique? How does it compare against those of other countries/cities?
Artificial Intelligence is not a new phenomenon. It is the large amounts of data being made available today that is powering the upwards trajectory of AI, and leading to the creation of a range of smart city or smart service applications. At Smart Dubai we believe in a whole systems approach to AI development – with ethical principles and guidelines for implementation at its core.
Smart Dubai launched its AI Lab in 2017. This lab is in effect a production line of AI use cases for the city. These use cases cross all aspects of city services, from police and security, to land development, education and environmental services. The AI lab is a vital innovation test bed and important in building competency within government around this fast-paced technology.
In January of 2019 Smart Dubai launched the city’s official principles and guidelines for the ethical implementation of AI. What truly makes Dubai’s approach to AI unique is our city-government launched AI Ethics Self-Assessment Toolkit – which allows anyone implementing AI to self-assess their performance against a set of criteria which when taken together assure an ethical approach. The process uses the data from the toolkit to create a positive feedback loop with those using and developing AI.
We believe we are the first city to set out such a voluntary approach that will help businesses and governments create fair, interpretable, explainable, accountable, and ultimately trusted AI systems that manage the tension between innovation potential, societal values and the downside risks.
Also launched earlier this year is our local and international AI Ethics Board made up of government and private sector partners. The board is an illustration of the complexity of the field of AI, and is built with leaders from the technology industry, academia, and government policy experts and practitioners. In an environment in which no one profession holds all the answers, the AI Ethics Board is overseeing the future development of our ethical AI guidelines and toolkit, as well as considering the future path of how we want to be enabling regulation.
What opportunities exist for start-ups and innovators in the space of AI in Dubai and the UAE?
Due to the National and Dubai AI Strategies there are several government and private sector entities looking for solutions that can help them accelerate AI development and implementation in their respective sectors. In several cases, use cases have been defined, however the right solution provider may not be present in the market. There is a big gap in the country for AI solution providers, opening doors for international talents from countries like India to come to the UAE and implement their solutions.
To explore the power of startups, a government backed program called the Dubai Future Accelerators partners international and local startups with government and private sector entities for 9 weeks. These startups are asked to build Proof Of Concepts (POC) using emerging technologies to make current processes more cost and environment efficient. Should the POC prove successful, the startup is awarded a contract for large scale implementation across the city.
Why did the UAE decide to undertake a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy? What are the objectives of this strategy and how is it being rolled out?
In October 2017, the UAE Government launched the ‘UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence’. The strategy is the first of its kind in the region and the world and it aims to:
- achieve the objectives of UAE Centennial 2071
- boost government performance at all levels
- use an integrated smart digital system that can overcome challenges and provide
- quick efficient solutions
- make the UAE the first in the field of AI investments in various sectors
- create new vital market with high economic value.
The strategy will cover the following sectors:
- transport – to reduce accidents and cut operational costs
- health – to minimise chronic and dangerous diseases
- space – to help conduct accurate experiments, reduce rate of costly mistakes
- renewable energy – to manage facilities
- water – to conduct analysis and studies to provide water sources
- technology – to increase productivity and help with general spending
- education – to cut costs and enhance desire for education
- environment – to increase forestation rate
- traffic – to reduce accidents and traffic jams and draw more effective traffic policies
The AI strategy has five themes:
- the formation of the UAE AI Council
- workshops, programmes, initiatives and field visits to government bodies
- develop capabilities and skills of all staff operating in the field of technology and
- organise training courses for government officials
- provide all services via AI and the full integration of AI into medical and security
- launch leadership strategy and issue a government law on the safe use of AI
The strategy implementation is overseen by the Emirates Council for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transactions, in coordination with a number of local and federal entities. How many meetings of the council has happened thus far and what has been the progress?
There have been 7 meetings of the UAE AI Council that have taken place so far.
As Smart Dubai, we are heading the data committee in the AI Council. Due to Dubai’s experience in creating the legislations and policies for data sharing in our city, we are now taking our learnings and knowledge to the national level. Creating a holistic and robust ecosystem of data sharing is crucial as it is data that is eventually fed into AI and Machine Learning Systems powering the emerging technology. As part of our contribution to the UAE AI Council, Smart Dubai has also supported in unifying the country-wide data classification model.
Finally, we are also sharing learnings from Dubai’s AI Roadmap use case identification with the National Council and advising them on creating nationwide principles and guidelines for the ethical implementation of AI.