Although the term AI has appeared in literature as early as the mid-1950s , there still
is some confusion with regard to its exact definition and context. The very early
developments of AI were driven by the gaming industry, particularly to develop a
computer program that can play chess . After around half a century in 1997, a
computer program (DEEP BLUE) won in a 6-game match against Grandmaster Gary
Kasparov, demonstrating the success of AI and its ability to outperform the human brain
at a given task .
Fast forward two decades, AI has now evolved from being driven by the development
of computer games to complicated systems needed during our daily lives. As defined
in a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) , “AI is a collective term for
computer systems that can sense their environment, think, learn, and take action in
response to what they are sensing and their objectives.” AI systems can have various
levels of autonomy and adaptiveness, ranging from systems that assist humans to
perform tasks more efficiently to ones with automated decision-making processes
without any human intervention .
AI applications have gained a significant momentum in recent years across various
sectors such as healthcare (e.g., medical data analysis and telemedicine), retail (e.g.,
product recommendations), manufacturing (e.g., assembly line automation),
infrastructure (e.g., smart cities and driverless cars), finance and banking (e.g., fraud
detection), and education (e.g., personalized learning).
AI is a disruptive technology in today's’ global economy. Beyond its implications on
how people live and work, it has a tremendous economic potential that remains
untapped both globally and at the GCC level. AI is predicted to contribute $15.7 trillion
to the global economy by 2030 and US$320 billion to the Middle East economy (11%
of GDP) .
Among the six countries of the GCC, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is expected
to benefit the most from the move towards AI with an expected contribution of
US$135.2 billion towards its economy. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), in turn, will
benefit from a contribution of US$96.0 billion, while the remaining four countries are
expected to share a total growth of US$45.9 billion. In relative terms to the GDP of
each country, the AI contribution to the UAE economy will be the highest with 14% of
its GDP .
Acknowledging this tremendous economic potential, various AI initiatives have been
undertaken in recent years especially in the UAE and KSA. Examples from the UAE
include establishing a ministry for artificial intelligence , launching a national AI
strategy , in addition to other initiatives such as the autonomous transportation
strategy . In turn, the Saudi government has identified digital transformation as a key
enabler for its 2030 vision, which includes diversifying the economy and promoting
knowledge-based sectors .
Despite the highlighted initiatives and overall economic potential of AI, related efforts
have typically been segregated and remain limited in comparison to other growing
economies such as China and India. Important barriers exist that hinder the full
deployment of AI in the GCC. These include - but are not limited to - locally-generated
knowledge, economic barriers, social risks, and rigid institutional and policy structures.
As such, important questions arise and need to be further studied:
1. Are the Gulf countries on track to catch-up with the global push towards AI?
2. Are the current physical and institutional infrastructures ready for such
3. Is local talent available and ready?
4. Is the GCC economy ready for such job market evolution?
5. Will GCC countries be adopters of AI knowledge and technology or will they
evolve to become effective developers and contributors at the local and national
The goal of this workshop is to explore the current state, opportunities, and challenges
related to AI in the GCC. Scholars and decision makers will discuss current challenges
and practices currently adopted in Gulf cities. Promising and novel implementations
of AI concepts and technologies will be mapped and assessed.
Throughout the workshop, the exchange of knowledge aims to bridge the current gap
between different stakeholders such as government policy makers, researchers and
innovators, and private sector entities. In addition, the workshop will specifically
address the key elements that the GCC countries need to focus on in the next decade
in order to leverage the potential of AI and transition towards more knowledge-based
Workshop Scope and Proposed Topics
This workshop will have four general themes (T1 to T4) to address the prospects and
challenges of AI in the Gulf. The themes are illustrated in Figure 1 and detailed below:
T1–Technology and Infrastructure: Big data, machine learning, Internet of Things
(IoT), networking and transportation infrastructure, automation, autonomous cars, etc.
T2–Education and R&D: Industry research & development, AI training and skill
development, new AI degrees and technical diplomas, role of academic institutions,
T3–Policy & Legislation: Governance and regulations, AI and the law, cybersecurity
issues, new emerging threats, etc.
T4–Social Implication & Responsibility: Robotics and machine ethics, social
connections VS isolations, equality VS inequality, telemedicine and medical condition
diagnosis, jobs made obsolete VS created, etc.