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Artificial Intelligence … Thoughts from the Middle East

“Firasah”, is an ancient Arabic term indicating a highly praised wisdom quality attained by those who are able to foresee deep into the future. Such a quality never relied upon “guts feelings” but rather on the ability to deduce patterns from specific historical events and accordingly draw conclusions for a sequence of futuristic events.

In modern ages, the eruption of civilisation -in terms of business sophistication and digitalisation- and the massive amount of data that decision makers need to digest and comprehend are leaving little space for human mental abilities to draw patterns associated with complicated events and crowds’ behaviours. Nevertheless, the adaptability of the human race in this regard was translated into the usage of powerful mathematical models -applied on high computing processors- so as to deduce possible patterns from studied data. Neural networks and data mining regressions are numerical popular cognitive computing algorithms used to process complex data to draw meaningful decision-making outcomes. AI Platforms coming from servicenow, google and IBM Watson, all provide for the needed AI algorithms that allow organisations to outsource their advanced business intelligence processing needs. However, such platforms are as intelligent as far as the experience and professionalism of the “data scientists” who would select the appropriate data sets and the appropriate AI algorithms that can give meaningful sense to processed data. Yes, these AI machines still need the “firasah” of those data scientists. Its devoteam data scientists, for example, and the usage of advanced AI platforms (servicenow and google), both “together” are responsible for the many successful AI stories for its clients worldwide.

From face recognition -and its usage in camera networks for security purposes as an example- to Sophia, the first Saudi robot citizen, the range of AI applications are quite versatile. AI proliferation into industrial sectors witnessed an unprecedented eruption, though unfortunately it was not the same for the governmental sectors.

Most of AI platforms are cloud-based in nature, and the misconceptions around blurred governmental data regulations -in addition to governmental bureaucracy and lack of open data- are all elements that are not yet presenting the “right” environment for many governmental institutions worldwide.  

Zooming into AI potential for governmental sector, it is tremendous and the examples are limitless: Justice Transparency, intelligent governmental subsidies orchestration, sniffing governmental public opinion from social media, intelligent public HR recruitment, fraud detection in governmental transactions, smart technology management, smart cities, advanced water treatment and electricity generation, etc. It is clear that AI needs to play an elaborated role so that governments can achieve many of its strategic objectives set along the United Nation Vision for 2030 and the associated localised country visions. That would essentially require a strong governmental cultural change in adopting AI as a powerful stream for decision making. Such a change needs courage and supervised strategic planning to ensure success. Though being cautious, In Saudi Arabia we are witnessing a real change that looks confidently into the future and now is the right time to introduce AI and Digital Technologies as a prime tool towards future.