In October 2018, Microsoft Bahrain noted how vital AI is in the establishment of smart societies, mirroring the ambitions exhibited in the country’s planning document, Bahrain Vision 2030, at an event held in the Kingdom. Bahrain’s Information and Government Authority (IGA) organized the two-day event. The IGA operates under the patronage of Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, who is both the Deputy Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Supreme Committee for Information and Communication Technology.
In May 2018, the Egyptian National Telecom Authority hosted a forum exploring the potential interconnectivity of AI technologies with the Internet of Things (IoT). In December 2017, the Egyptian Authority of Financial Control announced that it would regulate the use of the AI technology to control financial transactions.
I. Civilian Use of AI Technologies
A. Technology Development
According to a global study released in May 2018 by Asgard, a Berlin-based venture capital firm focused on AI, by far the country with the largest AI industry is the US (40%), followed by China (11%), Israel (11%), and the UK (7%). Described as a “startup nation” with more start-up companies on a per capita basis than leading economies in the world, Israel’s AI economy has been rapidly developing.
According to the founder of one Israeli AI startup,
Israel’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) startup ecosystem has raised over $7.5 billion cumulatively and is undergoing explosive growth, characterized by a major influx of establishments and talent, forming what could be considered the global leader of AI over the next five years. Notwithstanding their absent national agenda and budget, Israel has already earmarked the largest AI exit to date (Mobileye — 15.3B) and boasts a substantial and growing cluster of startups utilizing and developing AI technologies.
B. Policy Considerations
The preparedness of the Israeli government for AI was the subject of a June 2018 hearing before the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) Science Committee. Summarizing the views expressed at the hearing, Committee Chairman and Knesset Member (KM) Uri Maklev called upon the government to start reviewing various regulatory aspects of AI, including privacy and legal liability. He also urged the government to set deadlines for the development and use of AI systems in government offices to improve public service. Warning that without careful preparation Israel might face increased unemployment, he proposed that the government should develop educational training to enable more people to engage in the new technology.
Possible AI technology applications in areas such as education, review of trademarks, reduction of vehicle accidents, etc., were further discussed at a November 2018 conference organized by the Knesset Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit.
C. Autonomous Vehicles
Israeli law has not yet adopted a comprehensive regulation of autonomous vehicles. It has been suggested that such regulation might require extensive legislative changes in multiple areas of law, including safety requirements, licensing, payment to victims of car accidents, etc.
The Ministry of Transportation, however, has expressed its support for
[a]dvancing new technologies and development of vehicle systems based on strategic vision for advancement of the Israeli industry and its transformation to a global development center and an object of attraction to entrepreneurs from all over the world.
The Ministry specifically noted that,
[it] sees also importance in development of technologies and systems that are designed for autonomous vehicles in view of the great potential they [might] offer for improvement of road safety and minimizing casualties.
The Ministry’s 2017 directive regulates licensing of experiments in:
[v]ehicles Systems and features to be installed in vehicles that may interfere or influence on vehicle systems and performance with respect to control, safety, fuel consumption and air pollution including a form of connection to the communication interfaces of the vehicles.
A flowchart included in the directive illustrates the steps required to obtain a license for experimentation in autonomous vehicle in Israel, which includes examination of companies applications by a professional committee established for this purpose by the Ministry.
A regulation issued in May 2018 by the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety further authorizes the National Traffic Controller to grant an exemption from requirements that apply to drivers under the Transportation Regulations for purpose of conducting an experiment in new technologies. A decision to grant an exemption from the regulations, accordingly, requires consultation with the licensing authority and with a police officer. It further requires evaluation of
the possible effects of the experiment on traffic, including the following considerations:
(1) ensuring the safety of users on the way during the experiment, including experiment participants;
(2) reducing the disturbance to the flow of traffic in ways that may be caused as a result of the experiment;
(3) responding to emergency events that may occur during the course of the experiment.
Media reports indicate that authorization for experimenting autonomous cars has been granted to the Israeli company Mobileye and to the Russian company Yandex.
II. Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems
Israel is reportedly one of several countries, including the US, China, South Korea, Russia, and the UK, that currently use and develop LAWS with decreasing levels of human control.
Israel has developed and utilized various AI technologies for LAWS. Its Iron Dome defensive system has been successfully used in intercepting “incoming missiles or torpedoes faster than a human could react.”
Israel has further developed a fully autonomous loitering munition (suicide drone) called the Harop, “which can dive-bomb radar signals without human direction . . . with lethal results on the battlefield.”
A statement submitted by the Israeli mission to the GGE on LAWS of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) on July 29, 2018, clarifies the Israeli position. Israel supports further in-depth discussions in consideration of any possible regulation of LAWS. Such discussions, according to the statement, should not hamper progress in civilian research, development and use of autonomous technologies.
The statement acknowledges that there are differences of opinion on the “definition or characterization of LAWS . . . and the appropriate type and level of human judgment throughout the various phases of the weapon’s life cycle, as well as the suitable terminology.” Such differences, it suggests, may stem from “[t]he futuristic nature of the subject and its broad scope—at this stage more is unknown than known and a prudent approach is necessary.”
The statement calls for recognizing LAWS’ potential military and humanitarian advantages, including “better precision of targeting which would minimize collateral damage and reduce risk to combatants and non-combatants.”
Clarifying the Israeli position that human judgment will always be an integral part of any process regarding LAWS throughout their life cycle, the statement also referenced Israel’s domestic process for legal review of new weapons. The statement called for further in-depth discussions, specifically on the various phases of human-machine interaction.
According to a December 2017 news report, the Omani Information Technology Authority announced that it had hosted a forum on AI and its impact on Omani society.In August 2018, the Authority organized a second forum on methods to develop, integrate, and regulate AI technology. The forum was sponsored by the Ministry of Transport and Communication.
In May 2018, Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, launched the QCRI Center for Artificial Intelligence. The Center’s main responsibility is to integrate AI technology into all fields. The Center will also develop policy guidelines and regulations for the citizens of Qatar to use AI in a manner consistent with local cultural norms.
In addition, a 2017 news report indicated that a French corporation, Navya, has joined the Smart Transport Company located in Doha, Qatar to introduce driverless electric vehicles for commercial use.
I. Official Strategy
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no official AI strategy. However, it has announced that AI will be employed in efforts to achieve the goals outlined in KSA Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s strategic planning document.
II. AI Potential Investment
In October 2017, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced that the Kingdom would invest US$100 billion in the field of AI; it also sponsored a conference on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Sophia, a “sentient” robot developed by Hanson Robotics of Hong Kong, attended the conference where she demonstrated her ability to track and recognize faces, and hold natural conversations with humans. In October 2017, a former advisor of the Saudi Royal Court announced on his Twitter account that Sophia was being granted Saudi Arabian citizenship as “a symbolic gesture” to celebrate the beginning of work on NEOM, a US$500 billion “smart city” industrial zone sponsored by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salaman.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is currently cooperating with foreign companies that specialize in the field of AI. During his visit to Riyadh, SAP CEO Bill McDermott welcomed the Kingdom’s plans to use AI to achieve Saudi Vision 2030 national development goals. He noted that the government of Saudi Arabia will use AI as a foundation for NEOM, the new industrial city project. In collaboration with SAP, the Kingdom announced that it would invest 285 million Saudi Riyal (about US$76 million) to develop modern technologies in the field of AI.
III. Practical Implementation of AI: Religious Rituals
In an attempt to use AI in different fields, including religious rituals, the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah has published on its YouTube channel a video giving an insight into how pilgrims to Mecca will use AI in 2030. According to the Ministry, Muslims from around the world who intend to undertake Haj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) will have to apply through a mobile application, and within a few days, they will receive a box that contains an electronic card, a bracelet, and an earphone.
In April 2018, in collaboration with UNESCO, the Tunisian government convened a workshop titled “National AI Strategy: Unlocking Tunisia’s Capabilities.” During the event, the Tunisian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research announced the creation of a task force to develop a national AI strategy. The strategy is scheduled to be launched during the first quarter of 2019.
According to news reports the Tunisian representative at UNESCO has declared that the goal of the national AI strategy is to integrate AI into multiple industries and introduce AI in the services field as well. He added that an array of Tunisian scientists would contribute to the development of the national strategy. Furthermore, Tunisian investors and ministries will fund and facilitate the process.
The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research stated that AI will play a vital part in the future of Tunisia and will be integrated into the field of information technology. He asserted the commitment of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to fund and support projects related to AI, including the development of the national strategy. He also stated that the development of the strategy would facilitate the establishment of new labs for AI.
In November 2018, the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research announced that it would collaborate with the Moroccan Ministry of Scientific Research to launch a joint scientific research lab. The lab will conduct scientific research in various areas, including AI, and will begin working in June 2019. Both governments stated that they would allocate the appropriate funding for the lab to operate for four years.
United Arab Emirates
I. Official Strategy
In October 2017, the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) established the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. Such strategy is the first of its kind among Arab countries. It encompasses the following objectives: (1) enhance government performance at all levels by employing a smart digital system that can overcome challenges; and (2) make the UAE the first country to use AI in the fields of transportation, health, renewable energy, water, education, the environment, and traffic.
II. Establishment of a Ministry
The UAE has also created a new ministry in the Cabinet called the Ministry for Artificial Intelligence. In October 2017, the President of the Union selected Omar bin Sultan Al-Olama as the first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. Al-Olama is in charge of using the latest AI technologies to enhance governmental performance. The cabinet has also established the Council of Artificial Intelligence, which will oversee the integration of AI into various governmental departments. The Council includes representatives from all nine emirates.
III. National Council of AI
In March 2018, the Council of Artificial Intelligence met for the first time. The meeting focused on the best methods to integrate AI systems into the daily tasks of government. One of the main responsibilities of the Council is to promote the exchange of knowledge and experience related to AI with other countries as well as promote public awareness about AI. Additionally, the Council’s members discussed seven main objectives to achieve the UAE’s AI Strategy. Those objectives include the following:
- Transforming the UAE into a leading global destination for AI
- Developing AI technology in both the private and government sectors
- Attracting prominent international AI scientists to work in the UAE
- Creating the appropriate infrastructure to transform the UAE into a global AI laboratory
- Forming policies and legislation for AI-based technologies and innovations
IV. Practical Implementations of AI
In its effort to implement AI technology in a variety of fields, including traffic and security, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) of the Emirate of Dubai announced that it would begin using an autonomous vehicle system by February 2018. The system will be operated in the Al Qudra Road District. Such an initiative is the first step to support the government of the Emirate of Dubai’s strategy to convert 25% of public transportation to driverless by 2030. In August 2018, the Federal Authority for Standardization and Metrology announced that it would begin drafting safety regulations for the country’s autonomous vehicle system. The UAE recently embarked on Phase 4 of the Driverless Vehicles Project within the Sustainable City at Dubailand over a track extending 1250m, according to the Sustainable City’s website. The Khaleej Times has reported that the RTA of Dubai will examine an electric driverless taxi at a residential area in the Dubai Silicon Oasis in December 2018. After a three-month trial phase, the RTA will decide in what areas such driverless taxis may operate.
In addition, the Dubai Police Department has announced that a new system to identify wanted suspects was powered by the AI technology being used by the Department. The spokesperson for the Department stated that the new system assisted in catching 550 suspects in 2018.
Prepared by George Sadek and Ruth Levush
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Last Updated: 12/30/2020