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Tech tops UAE economic agenda
UAE president confirms top priority for science and technology
If there were ever any doubts about science and technology being promoted to the top of the UAE's economic agenda, last night's national address from the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan certainly put those to rest. After emphasising the strategic importance of diversifying the UAE economy to increase its global competitiveness, the first priority the president mentioned was to strengthen the nation's capabilities in science and technology.
Of course, the general public in most countries are quite accustomed to hearing grand vision statements from their presidents and prime ministers, with varying degrees of credibility. One of the factors that truly sets the UAE's science and technology vision apart from many others, is that the evidence of the country's commitment to that vision are all around us.
Next month, thousands of UAE school and college students are expected to take part in the nation's fourth annual AI Summer Camp, organised by the Office of the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, in partnership with the National Programme of Artificial Intelligence. The camp not only helps students learn valuable new skills and increase their knowledge of AI and other key technologies, it also inspires them to think about their future and that of the country.
Importantly, students at the camp will also meet some of the key government departments and leaders that are helping to fast-track the UAE's progress in science and technology. In other words, they get to see some proof, that behind the grand vision statements and technology buzzwords, people are working hard to build that new future. There can be few countries that are creating national programs on this scale, that have the potential to affect such massive change at a grass roots level.
Anyone who has been living in the UAE for the past five years is likely to have been impressed by the new strategic focus on innovation, the effort to leverage artificial intelligence and the number of new education and training programs that have been launched to boost science and technology knowledge and skills.
Detractors might point to the size of the UAE's technology sector, gaps in regulation, limited availability of local coding talent, or the relatively low contribution of research and development to the economy. However, to compare the UAE with the UK, US, China, India or other tech leaders in terms of size, is completely missing the point.
Our new digital, AI-driven, knowledge-fueled global economy is placing unprecedented demands on governments, businesses and individuals to adapt, change and manage the impact of accelerating global change. In this new, fast-changing global digital environment, few countries today are able to make decisions, act and adapt at the speed they must, in order to embrace new economic, social and environmental opportunities. Nevertheless, the UAE is one of those countries.
In the past, the UAE has often defied conventional wisdom, by taking on new challenges that were deemed too risky, bouncing back from global economic downturns and building new economic sectors from scratch. This said, the past five years of economic initiatives, government reorganisation and education programmes could be part of the boldest play that the country has made in its short 50 year history.
However, the visible programs and economic outputs of the UAE's drive to become a science and technology leader that we see today are really the tip of the iceberg. Much of the benefit that will be derived from recent policies, programs and investment will result later from the decisions, actions and plans now being made for the UAE by global and local businesses, entrepreneurs, investors, school and college leavers, PhD researchers and many others that believe in the country's vision.
It came as no surprise to hear Sheikh Mohamed prioritise science and technology in his speech, but nonetheless it did provide welcome confirmation of its premium position on the UAE's agenda.
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