Panelists participate in a discussion at the first edition of the GovAI Summit Abu Dhabi 2024, held last Tuesday at the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal

The first edition of the GovAI Summit Abu Dhabi 2024, the first ever gathering of its kind for the public sector, was held at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, on Tuesday.

Organised by Intellicon Events, the summit brought together eminent minds in the world of AI in the region. The event also marked a significant milestone in the global AI landscape.

Under the theme Leveraging AI to Accelerate 10X Transformation in the Public Sector, the summit hosted over 400 public sector policymakers, industry leaders, and AI experts.

Featuring an array of thought-provoking sessions and keynotes, the event provided invaluable insight into the future of AI, reinforcing the UAE’s position as a regional leader in the space.

Abdulla Al Marzooqi, Director General of the Integrated Transport Centre, Abu Dhabi, on Transforming the Future of Mobility with AI, spotlighted how AI is being used to modernise mobility and the public transport sector, helping people lead more easier, comfortable and safer lives. The Director General also overviewed how the Abu Dhabi Mobility was transforming the future of mobility with AI.

In another thought-provoking keynote on Data and AI: The New Era in Public Sector, Mohammad Hassan, Executive Director, National Data and Statistics Sector, Federal Competitiveness & Statistics Centre, underscored how AI data held the key to a bright, new era for the public sector.

Prof. Jürgen Schmidhuber, Director of AI Initiative at KAUST, Saudi Arabia, Scientific Director, Swiss AI Lab IDSIA, and Co-founder and Chief Scientist, NNAISENSE, headlined the event. Referred to as the father of modern AI and Deep Learning, Prof Jürgen offered excellent takeaways in his summary on the future of AI, stating that desktop tasks that took humans possibly a week or more to execute before could now be done in minutes, thanks to AI. However, complex activities in the real, physical world still require human intervention and skill.

“There is no AI that can play football like a seven-year-old boy, or that can replace a carpenter or a plumber or an electrician,” says Prof. Jürgen. No AI-driven robot can do what humans can do with their fingers (which incidentally are incredibly complex objects), in the physical world. But it's not going to stay like that, he says.

At some point, AI would extend towards all the machinery outside in the physical world, and do everything that today only humans can do. And do it faster.

High AI adoption

Eric Wan, General Manager, Alibaba Cloud Middle East, Turkey & Africa, is excited about AI advancements in the MEA. “Countries across the region [are making] significant investments in infrastructure, promoting AI adoption and upskilling their digital talents for the generative AI era. AI is the transformative force that holds the potential to improve social well-being and boost efficiency,’’ he says.

“We’re engaged in various initiatives aimed at building AI capacity in the region. For example, we launched the MEA region’s Alibaba Cloud Academy Training Center earlier this year in Dubai Internet City to host monthly training and enablement programs covering a wide spectrum of cutting-edge technologies, from AI to database management to elastic computing.’’

According to Eric, Alibaba Cloud’s AI development platform, Model Studio, will soon be available for international customers via its availability zone in Singapore. “Through providing proven AI solutions and educational initiatives, we aim to unlock the full potential of AI and catalyse digital transformation across the MEA region,” he says.

Saeed Alajou, Senior Director & General Manager UAE, Unifonic, in an interview on the sidelines of the event, spoke of how his company is utilising AI.

“We have solutions that could cater to countries like the UAE where we have a lot of cultures [living together]. We have live translation capabilities in AI. Somebody can speak in their native language, and we would have on-the-fly translation capability for the person listening to it, hearing it in their own language and then [be able to] reply in their language.

“Our approach to AI is to improve the experience for the customers that we're serving,’’ he says.

Maged Mahmoud, Sales Director, DataIKU, believes the future is already here. “The future is now [because] AI adoption is quite high,’’ said Maged, on the sidelines of the GovAI.

“We're very fortunate to be in a region that is very acceptable to AI. The government of the UAE is truly leading, accepting and endorsing the enablement of AI.’’

That said, he admits embracing change may not be easy for some. “It has to really come from top down, but also from the bottom up. People have to be eager to learn something new, and enhance their careers and do things in a different way… a smarter way. Technology is great. There are so many features out there. But it's all about identifying the right case or cases that can support your business and making sure that whatever you're doing, you are adopting new technology that will impact your business in a positive manner.”

Huge turnout

Amr Eltawil, AU Presales Engineer & Solutions Architect, Alpha Data LLC, too is delighted to see the massive turnout at the event. “I think it's a huge testament to the recognition of the power of AI in the UAE [and] across government entities at the Federal level. It's also a testament to the investment that the government entities are willing to make in terms of AI adoption. Clearly, the vision and the commitment is there. That means inevitably AI will [increasingly] become a [regular] part in terms of government entities’ functions, and the execution of workflows, and in terms of how we, as consumers, interact with AI. That's beautiful, because at the end of the day, [AI has the potential to add] immense value to our life.”

The summit’s impressive line-up of speakers included Dr Omar Al Shaiba Al Marri, Acting Executive Director of IT Affairs, Department of Municipalities and Transport, Dr Farida Al Hosani, Executive Director of Infectious Diseases, Abu Dhabi Public Health Center, Rashid Al Hosani, Chief Growth and Strategy Officer, AD Ports Group, Dr Mohamed El Sabbagh, CTO – Chief Technology Officer, Abu Dhabi Chamber, and Filipe Paula Cardoso, Executive Director for Information Technology, Abu Dhabi Department of Finance.

Sponsors and partnerships

The GovAI Summit Abu Dhabi was sponsored by leading companies in the AI and technology sectors, including Core 42, Alibaba Cloud, Juniper, AtkinsRealis, Unifonic, Alpha Data, Alteryx, Dataiku, VAST, and Botminds. Their support was instrumental in the success of the event, providing a platform for high-level discussions and networking opportunities.

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