Shaikh Ahmad and Omar Sultan Al Olama at the first AI Everything conference in Dubai Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News


Public trust in online companies using people’s data has been shattered by recent scandals and will be very difficult to regain, the first ‘AI Everything’ conference heard in Dubai on Tuesday.

During a panel discussion, CNN editor and anchor John Defterios asked if that trust can be repaired because people suspect “the Facebooks and Googles of the world” are exploiting consumers by misusing their data.

Social media site Facebook and tech company Google have been the focus of multiple consumer data privacy scandals since 2018.

Robots at the AI Everything conference. The event features over 130 speakers discussing the latest developments in AI. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Tuesday’s panel discussion, titled ‘Welcome To The Future City of AI’, heard consumers are also concerned about the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in managing their data.

‘Really worried’

Responding to the question of trust, Lord Timothy Clement Jones — chair of House of Lords Artificial Intelligence Select Committee and All Party Parliamentary Group on Artificial Intelligence, UK — said: “We have to move very fast to repair that trust. Quite often the tech companies themselves can’t do it. It has to be up to government and regulators because if you look at the algorithmic use in social media, in terms of behavioural analysis and push-technology, that’s where the public is beginning to get really worried.”

Lord Timothy referred to the fear of “surveillance capitalism” that is “beginning to become really high up on the political agenda”.

He added: “This whole question about regulating that type of algorithm has become front and centre and, of course, AI is intricately bound up with that. Once lost, trust is very difficult to regain, especially by those private sector companies. But I do believe that if we move fast enough, we can regain that trust.”

Robots at the AI Everything at Dubai World Trade Centre and Exhibition halls. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

The two-day Dubai conference is featuring over 130 speakers discussing the latest developments in AI. The UAE has a Strategy for Artificial Intelligence 2031 that aims to make it a world leader in AI by 2031. The country also has a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama.

AI Everything, hosted by the National Programme for Artificial Intelligence at Dubai World Trade Centre, was officially opened by Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman and CEO of Emirates Group. Shaikh Ahmad toured the event, and along with Al Olama and other top officials, attended some sessions on day one of the event.

On Tuesday, Lord Timothy praised the link between AI and smart cities, but warned “in order to make use of that in a way that the public will accept, you have to have public trust, and without regulation — without an ethical framework, without ways of making sure that the technology use will be transparent — we’re not going to retain that public trust. And that itself will be a drag on the ability to exploit those opportunities”.

Ethical framework

In her conference keynote, Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, director-general, Smart Dubai Office, said Dubai is currently developing 43 government projects for “all aspects of city services”, covering security, land development, education, environment and others — all within an ethical framework.

She added: “Progressing through development of our use-cases, we realised being in a city like Dubai, which consists of people from over 200 different nationalities, we need to ensure that any AI application being developed in the city is completely ethical towards all residents. Smart Dubai in January launched the city’s official principles and guidelines for ethical implementation of AI. We believe we are the first city to do so.”

Delegates listening to the panelists at the panel discussion on 'Welcome To The Future City of AI' Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News