Remote working could become the norm in post-pandemic UAE

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16 Jul, 2020

As published in The National

UAE’s artificial intelligence and remote working minister says adapting to a new digital world is vital to thrive in future pandemics





The lessons learnt on effective home working and the technology needed for its success during the Covid-19 pandemic will make future crises requiring home quarantine an easier experience, the UAE’s Artificial Intelligence minister said on Thursday.

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, was speaking at the first physical conference held in Dubai since the coronavirus outbreak prompted the cancellation of public gatherings to prevent its potential spread.

“Covid-19 showed us we can do things differently,” Mr Olama said at the AI Everything conference at Dubai World Trade Centre, which had capped attendance to ensure physical distancing.

“No one was prepared for the pandemic but because of our connectivity and the right investments the government could operate 100 per cent virtually, businesses could continue and the economy can recover faster.

“Remote working was seen as a luxury in the past and a gimmick.

“Businesses wanted a physical interaction with their employees, as they worried they could not manage productivity.”

He said that while companies and government bodies were forced to adopt working from home systems, it has changed the way people work in future.

With future changes in mind, a shake-up of ministerial appointments was announced this month to create a more agile government and introduce new talent into the Cabinet.

Mr Al Olama had his former role as Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence expanded to include responsibilities in developing new ideas on how to use technology in the workplace.






He said education in digital skills and coding will be crucial to future development, and that Dubai start-ups will have access to the latest technology to aid their use of AI in crunching data.

“This is going to be a cornerstone of our development in the private and public sector and will create better government services because of this,” he said.

A digital transformation will include the roll-out of 5G and autonomous vehicles, with Dubai set to become a testing hub allowing firms like AutoX to launch self-driving ride hailing services.

“The UAE decided to look at AI positively three years ago and we learnt a lot during this period,” he said.

“People used to have this idea of association with Terminator style robots, or that it was going to take our jobs.

“Now we see it being used every day and, by investing in a responsible manner, you can create opportunities with AI.”

Mr Olama said that, while people are beginning to trust the use of AI, face-to-face calling apps like Zoom and Skype are unlikely to be made freely available in a post-pandemic UAE.

All of these remote calling applications like Zoom and Skype have their own issues,” he said.

“They can be hacked and that can lead to bad circumstances.

“Unfortunately the sensitivities of some platforms are not aligned with our needs.

“They need to make money and data gathering and then data security.

“We need to ensure the platforms being used protect our children, the end user and still give the best service – this might mean we create our own platform that everyone can use everywhere.”