As part of being a fellow of USA Pavilion @ Expo 2020 Dubai, we got many opportunities that are hard to achieve. One of those was meeting Mr Omar Sultan Al Olama who is the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence in the United Arab Emirates. It is quite unique for any country to have a minister of AI at this point in time.

We a group of roughly 30 fellows from 20 countries took part in the conversation. The discussion was in the newly inaugurated the Museum of the Future. Unfortunately due to COVID, the state minister had to join the session virtually. The first part was a fireside chat with the host where the State Minister discussed why the UAE got this ministry, how the UAE is doing in terms of technology and education, diversity, work culture and more. The second part was Q&A with the fellows. There were many questions asked by the fellows and the Mr Omar Sultan took notes and tried to cover all the questions.

If I summarise the answers, as far I remember, UAE is a great place for bias-less AI and data because it got a mix and diverse population of locals and, mainly, immigrants. The govt is very proactive and open to new innovation and got several funds and opportunities for startups. It realizes all the sectors will need AI-powered renovation. A few fellows asked similar questions about how to make AI bias-free and make the future society equal for all. The state minister also mentioned how big tech companies are using algorithms to keep the user glued to the platforms and how it can be good or bad for our future.

The question I asked was if the UAE Govt has plans to make regulations so the algorithms (its logic and ingredients) of big tech platforms are governed or at least known to the users so the big tech companies can stay fair in their actions. The state minister mentioned we still have privacy policies and terms of conditions written on the platforms but users never read those. I felt he took the point and hasn’t dismissed its possibilities in future.

Asking a question to Mr Omar Sultan, UAE AI State Minister

In my opinion, Governments will soon have regulations to govern the algorithms of the platforms. Not only platforms like Facebook, Twitter or TikTok but also self-driving car platforms like Tesla and all technology products or services that got algorithms written by a set of people. Only having diverse datasets is not the solution. The algorithms written by the developers and engineers also need to be bias-free and transparent. Is this really going to happen? Only time will tell.

Note: this blog is a summary of my understanding of the whole conversation and can have different views/narrations by the speaker or other fellows attending the session.

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