As part of the UAE’s efforts to establish a competitive knowledge economy, it has invested heavily in creating a world-leading regulatory framework for IT / AI ventures, as well as providing infrastructure to build the best possible tech-investment ecosystem for start-ups, SMEs, and multinational corporations.
Artificial Intelligence is the next major revolution of our times – our goal is to the one of the most advanced countries in this regard.
HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
almost the entire population is connected
AI's expected contribution to the UAE’s economy by 2030
will be linked to AI related industries by 2030
ranking by capex, from 2011 to 2020
in AI investments in 2020
ranking in the Global Competitiveness Index 2020
rank according to the Telecommunication Infrastructure Index 2020
in predicted e-commerce sales until 2022
In 2017, the UAE released its Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, which sought to integrate technology into various industries in novel ways, whilst also ensuring that the government could provide tailored regulations to these emerging industries. As part of the Strategy, the UAE has established a number of regulatory ‘sandboxes,’ which have been developed for companies to test their products and businesses, while allowing regulators the opportunity to assess their legal regulatory framework in a controlled environment with relatively relaxed rules.
The success of these ‘sandboxes’ is indicative of the broader investment framework which feeds into an established start-up ecosystem, which includes various programs, accelerators, incubators, and start-up competitions. This ecosystem has given the UAE an edge over regional competitors, with many start-up incubators offering funding, guidance and mentorship, access to industry experts, residence visas, office space, as well as platforms to advertise to potential clients and investors. Incubators such as the Futurism Program, AIM Startup, and StartAD, have all seen early success in producing startups. Applications for such incubation and acceleration programs are open to start-ups from all over the world, as long as they offer innovative ideas.
Success has not been confined to early-stage startups. E-commerce ventures in the country have performed particularly well due to high rates of smart phone penetration, cashless payment adoption, and the country’s highly developed logistics infrastructure and distribution network. Investment successes include UAE-based e-commerce platform Noon, which in 2016 raised USD 1 billion in funding through a joint venture between its founder and Emaar Chairman, Mohamed Alabbar, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, and a number of other private investors. Noon has been the best funded start-up in the UAE since 2016. Additionally, in 2017, Amazon acquired UAE-based e-commerce website Souq.com for USD 580 million.
With an impressive track record of both home-grown and international success in the fields of IT and AI, the opportunities are only increasing as the UAE and emirate-level authorities pursue technology-based visions.
The UAE is taking bold steps to bring its digital dream to life by creating the world’s first Ministry of State for AI. This is an excellent model for responsible planning across private and public sectors. It will lay the foundation for a robust digital economy for generations to come.
Bill McDermott, Former SAP CEO