The UAE is the second highest regional investor in Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the past 10 years, investing $2.15 bn in total, according to the AI Maturity Report in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) a new study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Ernst & Young, EY.
”The bulk of this investment went towards social media and Internet of Things, IoT, transactions. This was followed by notable spend across a further eight technologies, including smart mobile, gamification, and machine learning,” the report said.
In fact, respondents ranked machine learning as the most useful AI technology, with primary emphasis placed on decision support solutions. This was followed by smart robotics and text analysis, where customer interactions were the key focus.
The new research shows the state of AI within businesses across the UAE is expected to improve dramatically over the next three years, particularly as a growing number of executives look to AI to drive their digital agendas.
Already, 18 percent of businesses in the country consider AI their most important digital priority. Much of the UAE’s progress in elevating the AI agenda is a direct result of leaders across the country recognising that the technology is quickly becoming a key differentiator across all sectors and actively pursuing their AI agendas accordingly.
In fact, 94 percent of companies in the UAE report involvement in AI at executive management level – the highest percentage of any surveyed country in MEA.
“When we examine companies with high AI maturity, it’s clear that the technology is driven directly by the CEOs themselves. This high level of involvement typically results in greater investment in AI, broader adoption and a greater number of successful implementations,” says Sayed Hashish, Regional General Manager at Microsoft Gulf.
Leadership capability in the UAE is also rated high when compared with other countries in MEA. While 64 percent of respondents believe they have moderate, little or no AI leadership competency, 24 percent of executives in the UAE rated themselves as highly competent, with another 46 percent indicating they are either competent or very competent.
The UAE’s open culture around AI is another highly positive indicator of the health of the technology within the country. Up 94 percent of UAE companies have ‘AI Strategy’ as an important topic at C-suite level and a significant 35 percent of companies say AI discussions are filtering down from top management right the way through to non-managerial levels.
“Executives across the UAE are already investing significantly in the training and education of their employees. At the same time, businesses are engaging with external parties to promote skills transfer and making a concerted effort to identify relevant use cases for AI,” continues Microsoft’s Hashish.
“The country has made significant progress in elevating its AI agenda over the past three years, and all indicators point to the near future bringing significant improvement in the application of the technology as well.”
Drawing on multiple sources of data, the AI Maturity Report in the Middle East and Africa determines, why, where and how AI is currently being used in business. The study is based on surveys, interviews and case studies from 101 companies across the Middle East and Africa. Seven major sectors were covered, including Health, Manufacturing and Resources, Financial Services, Professional Services, Retail, ICT and Media, Infrastructure and Transport. As such, it provides an inside view across both sectors and markets, combining local and regional views.