AI in the Middle East: 5 key takeaways from GITEX

Middle East tech leaders see industry, fintech as early adopters of AI, issue warnings on bias and the need for regulation, while Israeli participation adds a new element to the giant tech conference and exhibition.

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Middle East technology leaders face increasing competitive pressure to deploy AI applications, particularly in industry and financial services, and will need to grapple with related issues including regulatory oversight and bias.

That was the word from GITEX last week, where the opportunities and challenges posed by AI were a major focus of discussions by enterprise IT leaders, government officials and market observers.

GITEX, the biggest technology conference and exhibition in the Middle East, was held as an in-person event. A new development in the conference was the appearance of Israeli speakers and attendees, in the wake of recent normalization deals between Israel and Gulf states UAE and Bahrain.

AI adoption in the Middle East is taking place within a global context of rapid deployment of the technology. Despite the impact of COVID-19, 47% of AI investments were unchanged since the start of the pandemic and 30% of organizations actually planned to increase such investments, according to a Gartner poll. Only 16% had temporarily suspended AI investments, and just 7% had decreased them.

Dubai, the host city for GITEX, has forged ahead with AI implementation as part of its Smart Dubai strategy. For example, the city's utilities infrastructure increasingly relies on AI to operate smoothly, according to Matar Suhail Salem Al Mehairi, chief innovation officer, Innovation & The Future, at Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (DEWA).

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