GCC and the competitiveness of artificial intelligence

By Ahmed Mohammed Buhazza, C-Level Executive.


Researchers define artificial intelligence as "studying and designing smart systems that accommodate their environment and take measures that increase their chances of success", while John McCarthy - who coined this term in 1955 - defines it as "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines." It is expected that most economic sectors around the world, if not all, will be affected by artificial intelligence by 2030. Away from the controversy over risks and opportunities, international experiences confirm that the shift to artificial intelligence creates new economic and social opportunities for its citizens and economies and contributes to increasing growth rates.


Opportunities and risks


Mankind is exploring new spaces of knowledge that will change the workplace and the way it is managed, as well as the lifestyle itself. During the next ten years, the performance pattern will gradually change in many sectors with artificial intelligence, especially healthcare, financial services, retail, transportation, customer services, logistics, electronic security, and marketing.


While many see the doors of the tremendous opportunities that this digital transformation will open, some still see it only from the window of fear that artificial intelligence will end up in the control of machines and the decline of the role of humans, including the famous physicist Prof. Stephen Hawking, who stated in 2014 to BBC “ The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”, warning of the ability of machines to self-redesign.

Perhaps it is better to get to know the most important economic opportunities that artificial intelligence provides to international economies:


It will contribute about $ 16 trillion to global GDP, and 8.2% annually to Bahrain's GDP by 2030 (PWC report). It will create 133 million new jobs by 2022 (Statista.com). Annual revenue for AI programs will increase to $ 118.6 billion in 2025 compared to $ 9.5 billion in 2018 (Tractica).

Likewise, what are the main risks of employing artificial intelligence in economic sectors:

  • 75 Million Jobs will be displaced by 2022 due to AI (World Economic Forum).

  • 45% of jobs in the GCC of jobs are technically automatable today, translating into 20.8 million full-time employees and $366.6 billion in wage income (McKinsey & Company).

  • 29% of jobs worldwide will be lost by 2030 (Forrester Research).

  • 38% of location-based jobs will be automated around the world by 2030 (Fortune Bulletin).

On the other hand, a researcher specializing in artificial intelligence at Google and the University of Toronto, Geoffrey Hinton, believes that machines will match humans with intelligence within five years from now, but he does not see that we should fear artificial intelligence, as the question is about how we deal with technology in a way that does not make it harmful to humans.


International strategies


The countries of the world are currently entering a frantic race to achieve large breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, as its applications are no longer limited to developed countries that have dominated technology for decades, but countries with emerging economies are able to enter the international competition arena, achieving vast booms that catch global eyes.


Singapore has set 5 major projects as part of its 2030 National AI Strategy for the year 2030 in order to fully transform the country: Intelligent Freight Planning (2030), Estate Management System (2022), Chronic Disease Predictions and Management (2021), Personalized Education (2020-2025), Border Clearance Operations (2025)


China has started: During the past years, in directing huge sums of money to develop artificial intelligence, the number of students studying this field has increased, and by the year 2017 it has succeeded in dominating about 48% of the total global artificial intelligence financing.


China is adapting a “social score” system program reflects an idea of controlling and managing a society with machines instead of people. The social score system will collect financial, health and digital data from its citizens in order to score, the higher a citizen scores, the more benefits he/she will receive (i.e. faster visa applications, lower bank interest rates from those who have scored lower, etc.)


The USA administration’s AI initiative is mainly focused on transportation, healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, agriculture, weather forecasting and national security & defense.


In January 2020, the White House proposed AI Regulatory Principles for the use of AI in the private sector. These transparent regulatory principles, which are open for public comment, are designed to achieve three goals: ensure public engagement, limit regulatory overreach and promote trustworthy technology.


Regional experiences


Arab countries show great interest in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the application of artificial intelligence, but not all countries show significant scientific experiments related to it compared to Saudi Arabia who announced it will invest $20 billion in artificial intelligence projects by 2030, while UAE is in the top 20 countries and 1st in the Arab Region according to AI Government Readiness according to “Oxford Insights.


UAE has launched the Council for Artificial Intelligence in October 2017, which covers education, transportation, energy, space and technology. Their strategy is to achieve the objectives of UAE Centennial 2071, Boost government performance at all levels, Use an integrated smart digital system that can overcome challenges and provide quick efficient solutions, Make the UAE the first in the field of AI investments in various sectors, Create a new vital market with high economic value.

Its vision, just like other competing countries, is to become a world leader in AI by the year 2031.


Saudi Arabia established in August 2019 by a royal decree, Saudi Arabia’s Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence also aims to become pioneers in AI by the year 2030. The authority is directly linked to the Prime Minister and will be governed by a board of directors chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister. Though it is still in its early stages of establishment, the authority aims to build one of the largest clouds in the region by merging 83 data centers owned by over 40 government bodies, and utilizing AI-analyzed data to detect opportunities that could generate more than SR40 billion in government savings and additional revenues.


Considering Bahrain as focus, small and active country; the country has an opportunity to be inspired by the vision of the wise leadership and the sublime guidance launched by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the beloved monarch of the country, may God preserve and protect him during his honoring the second session of the fifth legislative session of the Shura and Representatives Council in the past year, where he directed that the government begin to develop a national plan Inclusive towards the digital economy, by adopting and employing artificial intelligence technologies and completing the necessary technical structures, and it is worth working to translate this lofty approach in a serious manner for the Kingdom of Bahrain to turn into a regional center for artificial intelligence, building an information society and harnessing the available capabilities and capabilities to build a digital knowledge economy.


According to an analysis published by Oxford Insights, the Kingdom of Bahrain ranked 100 among the countries of the world, and it scored 3.9 / 10 in the Artificial Intelligence Index. Bahrain’s ranking in this index can be strengthened thanks to projects and initiatives that support Bahrain’s strategic direction in accordance with the 2030 Economic Vision.

There are many indicators of the Kingdom's readiness for the transition towards a digital economy, including its advanced ranking globally in the United Nations reports on the readiness of countries for e-government since 2014, and it maintained its advanced position until 2018, when it ranked (26) globally, fifth in Asia, and first in the Arab world. The Kingdom has achieved a global achievement in the Telecommunications Infrastructure Index. In addition to the initiatives it has achieved towards a comprehensive transformation towards a digital economy in various sectors, starting with the shift in the performance of most of its administrative work from the traditional to the electronic one, and in the field of government payments, and the initiatives launched by various government departments to achieve the strategic vision. And based on the supreme will of the problem and the proven achievements and infrastructure that can achieve a lot of adoption of artificial intelligence, there are pioneering initiatives:

  • In the government sector: AI can be used to advance public policy goals in areas such as emergency services, health and social care. It can also help the public interact with the government through the use of virtual aid.

  • Government and public services: AI has huge potential to simplify service provision to the Bahraini government. However, public institutions remain wary of adopting AI due to a lack of understanding and concerns about illusory complexities.

  • Skills and education: Bahrain has taken important steps in developing public policies and implementation plans to enhance the use of artificial intelligence in the fields of education and scientific research, and aims to prepare teachers to work on teaching artificial intelligence and support the application of artificial intelligence education.

  • Fiscal Policy: The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) announced, during December 2018, the release of the draft regulations relating to Crypto Asset Platform (CPO) operators under Volume Six of the CBB (Capital Markets) Rules, which provides a framework for organizing and coding crypto assets. Operations in Bahrain. The Central Bank of Bahrain has finalized regulations relating to exchange services and assets.

  • The private sector: Bahrain is increasingly competitive in being the largest logistics center, financial institutions and retail activity in the region, and not in the production of goods or the export of oil compared to other countries.

  • Financial institutions: Artificial intelligence has already begun to infiltrate financial institutions through the digitization of some banks, but the vision remains unclear about the mechanism of transition to artificial intelligence in all state ministries.

  • Retail and Logistics Sectors: AI in retail is estimated to be $ 1.8 billion in 2019. It is expected to reach $ 20.9 billion in 2025. AI will also lead to faster business decisions in marketing, e-commerce, and product management. And other areas of work by reducing the gap between ideas and implementation. Moreover, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on AI adoption, Bahrain's GDP is expected to increase by 8.2% annually by 2030, and hence, it is important to create the infrastructure for AI.


Countries with strong economies and innovative private sectors dominate the top ranking of the government AI readiness index for this year, and Singapore comes first in artificial intelligence readiness, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, Finland and Sweden, respectively, according to the Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index, produced by Oxford Insights with the support of From the International Development Research Center (IDRC), it covers all United Nations countries. It scores governments in 194 countries and territories according to their willingness to use AI in providing public services.


Action Plan


Despite the potential risks of artificial intelligence, failing to take advantage of the opportunities it offers could be even more costly in terms of business productivity, human capital costs and other overhead costs.


Thus, for Arab countries to take a lead, a full transformation strategy is recommended in this regard begins with the initiative of the government sector, in which the private sector will later become involved, and it has three pillars:

  • First: Forming a national task force: A national task force on Artificial Intelligence should be created for economic transformation constituted by different ministries/entities. The task force should comprise of members from different administrative and professional backgrounds including social, legal, ethical, commercial, regulatory, process and technology. It is an option that the task force is headed by the e-Government or ICT Authority who are fully aware of the national transformation capacity and potential and should include key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Ministry of Works, Ministry of Justice, the Central Bank, etc. in order to steer the AI project.

  • Second: Setting a long-term plan (10+ years), After setting up the national task force, setting a long term plan is necessary to identify the domain of relevance to the specific country. They may include retail, financial institutions, logistics, etc. The plan should include a great focus on capacity building and training on AI, in order to adapt to the changes that will impact most sectors.

  • Third: Build an infrastructure and identify stakeholders, The main components of having the right infrastructure for AI systems include the underlying infrastructure (such as broadband connectivity), legal & ethical framework, education and workforce. Another main component is big data that should be available for the purpose of AI. The government will only be able to build a solid AI strategy if these enablers were in place. The domains may include healthcare, security, education, retail, Fintech, environment, etc. This to be identified during the second stage of launching the AI initiative “setting a long term plan”.




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