Omar Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Countries need to focus on “responsible development of technology and usage of data,” in order to benefit humanity, Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, UAE, told the audience during the opening session of the UN Date World Forum at Madinat Jumeirah on Monday.

The forum’s second edition taking place from October 22-24,was attended by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Bringing together nearly 2,000 data leaders from more than 100 countries, the forum is hosted by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA), with the support of the Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

In a panel discussion titled ‘Harnessing the power of data for sustainable development,’ Al Olama addressed the importance of technology literacy amongst leaders, decision makers and the public, highlighting its role in using the power of data to achieve the 2030 sustainable development goals.

“The biggest issue we are facing today is technology illiteracy and lack of awareness. Many countries are not investing in collecting data and many decision makers don’t understand what these AI systems are capable of or how to deploy them,” he said.

The first minister of AI in the world called on decision makers around the world to practise responsible development and inclusion when it comes to gathering and using data and AI, describing it as a “collaborative responsibility”.

He pointed out that historically, different types of development have had an impact on our world, one of which being urban development.

“Unfortunately it gave us climate change, and while other countries want to develop in the same way, they are unable to because they have to cap their omissions, the reason being that we did not focus on responsible development, we just focused on development alone,” he said.

Natural resources and talent

Looking back in time, the development and advancement of countries around the world have been led by two factors: “natural resources and talent,” said Al Olama.

Some countries have proven to have a great deal of natural resources but no talent, and were therefore unable to thrive.

“The new challenge countries are facing today is the shift from natural resources to data -- the more data a country has the wealthier it is,” explained Al Olama.

Talent has also shifted, said Al Olama “from human beings to systems, that help leaders make better decisions and improve people’s lives.”

AI can eradicate TB

Meanwhile, Al Olama went on to explain that AI could also be the key to eradicating tuberculosis (TB), the world’s deadliest disease.

He explained that the technology could be used to prevent, cure and diagnose specific diseases, focusing specifically on TB, which kills more people than any other disease across the world. “TB affects more than 10 million people, killing around two million every year. It’s a big weight on our shoulders, we need to cure the disease and can deploy technology to do so,” he said.

Al Olama said the office of the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence in the UAE Government is working on an algorithmic solution that can be used in the detection and diagnosis of TB from chest X-rays. “You can upload any image of a chest X-ray and the system will identify if a person has the disease. The algorithm determines the probability of Pulmonary TB infection,” he explained.

If AI is used, Al Olama pointed out the detection process for TB would be possible to carry out in through an AI-powered toll that can screen people in masses.