UAE opens world’s first AI-focused university

Growth in the contribution of AI is expected to be 20-34% per year across the Middle East, with the fastest growth in the United Arab Emirates followed by Saudi Arabia, PriceWaterhouseCoopers said.
Saturday 26/10/2019
People walk in Masdar City, on the outskirts of the rich Emirate of Abu Dhabi, on October 7, 2015. (AFP)
People walk in Masdar City, on the outskirts of the rich Emirate of Abu Dhabi, on October 7, 2015. (AFP)

LONDON - The United Arab Emirates has established the first artificial intelligence university, which is expected to revolutionise education in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) is a graduate-level artificial intelligence (AI) research institution that is part of the Emirates’ strategy to boost knowledge and scientific thinking and develop an AI-savvy workforce.

The university is named for Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

“Launching the world’s first graduate-level AI university in Abu Dhabi echoes the UAE’s pioneering spirit and paves the way for a new era of innovation and technological advancement that benefits the UAE and the world,” Sheikh Mohamed said on Twitter.

MBZUAI, which has its campus in Masdar City, is accepting applications for its master’s and doctoral programmes with classes to begin next September.

With its sole focus on AI, the university seeks to lure students from around the world to be part of a unique educational experience by offering full scholarships, monthly stipends, health insurance and accommodation.

UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence Omar Al Olama said researchers from around the world would use MBZUAI “to create AI solutions that are global from day one and also change the world starting from the UAE and impacting the rest of the world moving forward.”

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, minister of State and chairman of the MBZUAI board of trustees, said AI can lead to a greater societal and economic transformation. “The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence is an open invitation from Abu Dhabi to the world to unleash AI’s full potential,” he said.

Rachid Guerraoui, professor at the School of Computer and Communication Sciences in Lausanne and a specialist in AI, said MBZUAI’s success would be tied to the quality of both students and teachers.

“MBZUAI is a great initiative. It will contribute to the development of AI in the MENA region if it manages to attract good professors, which is very difficult since Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are paying AI experts huge salaries,” said Guerraoui.

The UAE government this year adopted the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031 to develop an integrated system that uses AI in key sectors as the United Arab Emirates seeks to become a global hub in AI.

The UAE Artificial Intelligence website predicted that AI technologies will boost the country’s GDP by 35% by 2030.

Accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimated that AI will contribute by $96 billion to the United Arab Emirates’ GDP in 2030 (equivalent to 13.6% of its GDP) because of the country’s commitment towards the development and implementation of AI technologies.

Growth in the contribution of AI is expected to be 20-34% per year across the Middle East, with the fastest growth in the United Arab Emirates followed by Saudi Arabia, PriceWaterhouseCoopers said.

A study by AI advisory firm Oxford Insights ranked the United Arab Emirates 19th in the world and first in the Arab region on the 2019 government AI readiness index. This reflects the Emirates’ commitment to boosting the AI sector and empowering the workforce with the latest technologies to drive economic growth.

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