Were you to ask anyone the location of the world’s technology capital, there’s a good chance they’d say it was Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley has no doubt been the leader in global technological innovation over the course of the last thirty years, but a new hub may be emerging: the United Arab Emirates.
Those like international businessman Hussain al Nowais who have been attuned to the UAE’s progress over the course of the last decade won’t be surprised that this Middle Eastern nation has positioned itself to become a leader in technological development. The UAE’s economy is thriving, its government is advocating for a new era of progress, and its cities have become an international symbol of prosperity.
Not only is the UAE poised to become a leader in technology, it may also become a new hub for artificial intelligence (AI). According to the Huffington Post, the United Arab Emirates and surrounding MENA countries are burgeoning with Internet and smartphone users, precisely the demographic need to garner support and enthusiasm for AI technologies. At present, there are 151 million Internet users and 86 million smartphone users, the majority of which reside in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Businesses throughout the region have rapidly expanded their digital marketing efforts as a result. Experts predict that by the year 2018, mobile advertising alone will quadruple to reach $494 million. While citizens throughout the MENA region are engaging with these technologies, the UAE remains by far the nation in the best position to capitalize on it with new developments. With such high demand in the digital communications sphere, a nation like the UAE—armed with ambition and funding—is perfectly primed to make even more advancements.
Already, the UAE has launched its first-ever AI and Robotic Award for Good, a competition that will award 1 million U.S. dollars to the UAE innovator that creates the best AI robot to benefit health or education. A winner will be determined in February of 2016. The UAE has also established an official Board of Artificial Intelligence to serve as an overseeing body for new AI developments, while its major universities, like the University of Dubai, are offering Artificial Intelligence degrees that are attracting students from around the world.
The UAE may not be a leader in Artificial Intelligence just yet, but if it continues on its current trajectory, it very well may become Silicon Valley’s biggest competition.