Now that the UAE has become the first country to appoint a minister for Artificial Intelligence, growing economies across the world are confronted with the same question – does every country need a minister for AI? Should countries be ready for a “broader uptake of AI in government” and the host of challenges in deploying it, particularly the legal, technical and human resource challenges of deploying these technologies. While there are dozens of areas in public sectors that could benefit from AI potentially, such as transport, healthcare and education, governments are grappling with the number of factors that need to be taken into account to implement a nation-wide strategy.
According to a working paper by the Centre for Public Impact, there is a clear need and demand for Artificial Intelligence in the government’s operating models. The recent transition to e-governance has paved the way for a more evidence-based policymaking. The paper emphasizes these current trends have helped lay the foundation for the use of AI in the public sector.
But to steer the initiative, it is important that ministers and policymakers become more familiar with the process and lay down frameworks to mainstream the technology in public sector. For any country to succeed on a global scale, the government’s endorsement of AI is necessary.
UAE Leads The Race In AI Preparedness With The World’s First AI Strategy
If you are still wondering why the UAE appointed a minister for AI, it was to make AI the ubiquitous technology. The recently appointed minister H.E. Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama also unveiled the world’s first AI strategy, which will help in making UAE a leader in AI research and strategy. According to a recent statement by UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, “We want the UAE to become the world’s most prepared country for artificial intelligence”.
The comprehensive AI strategy spans across nine major sectors such as health, transport, technology, education, space, traffic, environment, water and even renewable energy and lays down plans to achieve the objectives of UAE Centennial 2071. Undoubtedly, the goal is to make the country a frontrunner in AI research, development and innovation.
So far, reports indicate that the country’s futuristic efforts are centred on Dubai -- a cornerstone of innovation with plans underway for a Mars science city (futuristic space city to attract science experts), Hyperloop transportation system and pilotless flying taxi services. Given that the country is already home to robot cops and flying firefighters, a policy for implementing Artificial Intelligence-based solutions fits in the scheme perfectly.
Here’s why every forward-thinking country should have a Minister for AI
If anything, the UAE hopes its AI initiatives will pave the way for other countries to follow suit and implement an AI-powered future. By making it one of the top priorities for future development, AI can usher in smart infrastructure, education, health, cities and other public sectors. If nations want to strive ahead in the AI race and position themselves as global powerhouses, it has start from the top. Since building an AI strategy requires sustained leadership and investment, it can start by creating a new position that focused on development of AI-based solutions.
For example, by making a public appointment, the government can set aside:
- Fund for the “design, development and deployment of AI”
- Set up a government-backed committed to develop an industry-led AI council to ensure coordination and collaboration on AI
- Lay down an Open Data Policy that can be leveraged to build AI-powered solutions
AIM lists down top 5 reasons to appoint a Minister for AI
Move the needle & set things in motion: Even though a lot of growing economies have taken steps towards digitization, AI is a different ballgame. Only an AI Minister can grapple with the complexity of laying down a framework and it is a challenge the government cannot meet alone. For this, the policymakers will have to collaborate with the industry, academia and civil society to innovate and identify the strategic areas of importance that can be addressed.
Address Open Data Policy: There is a lot of value that can be realized from Open Data and for governments to implement an AI-first strategy in Public Sector, they have to first provide better access to data to train build and train predictive models for AI-based solutions. According to Capgemini report, Open Data must be seen as the cornerstone of a country’s digital transformation, meaning there is a lot of potential in tapping Open Data for public sector. This will be a fundamental approach towards enabling an AI-based solution. Of late, countries have shown a readiness for Open Data policies and this has also improved the transparency in the democratic process, improved citizens’ participation in decision-making process and driven gains in public service delivery.
Set aside a budget for universities to create AI talent: The AI race is equivalent to the arms race and for nations to strive ahead, they should have China’s zeal and hunger to produce AI talent that can compete on the global stage. Accordingly, Minister for AI should lay down a plan to attract and nurture the best AI talent. The government can propose a budget for educational institutions to create more AI-related disciplines, in addition fund doctoral studentships and also back industry-focused masters programs that will help in producing the best AI talent in specialist areas.
Put data-based policy formulation in motion: Even though there is a lot of narrative out there on data-driven policy-making, in reality, governments are only scratching the surface when it comes to using technology to collect and analyze data and base decisions on it. Even though there are pockets of success (state agencies in US have laid down the groundwork for smarter decision-making), large data gaps make it seemingly difficult for the government to chart a clear path. By putting a robust data collection process in place, the Minister for AI can use the data for more precise policymaking.
Build an Advanced Sciences portfolio: Just like the UAE, the AI Minister can fuel research, development in AI by building an Advanced Sciences portfolio and lead specific missions that are crucial to the country’s development. Under the portfolio, the government can also lay down a blueprint – outlining the integrative approach towards AI and how it can be leveraged to create jobs.
Countries That Are Boosting AI Capabilities
Canada aims to become the hub for AI: Canada’s charge in becoming a world leader in AI research have been taken up by the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau who has spoken publicly about the country’s ambitions at forums. So far, the efforts are mostly concentrated in Montreal, home to Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) and world-renowned AI researchers like Yoshua Bengio and Aaron Courville. Reportedly, Trudeau has taken up the mantle of investing in “quantum, AI, robotics and high-value, innovative, groundbreaking areas”. The Go North initiative has gained a lot of currency and one of its outcomes was Facebook opening its AI research lab in Montreal (also to be close to the best AI talent from University of Montreal). The Menlo Park giant joined forces with tech giants Samsung and Deep Mind which unveiled their research labs in Canada earlier this year.
Singapore steps up AI research: The vibrant island nation is home to the most innovative AI startups and research labs. And for most Indian AI startups, setting up a Singapore office to fuel sales, collaboration and research has become the norm. Case in point – Active.ai, Aureus Analytics and Crayon Data among others. The city-state recently set up AI Singapore – a national program that will bring together all Singapore-based research institutions and the vibrant ecosystem of AI start-ups and companies together to develop AI products and create the tools and develop the talent to power Singapore’s AI efforts.
China’s AI dominance: China’s AI awakening has been well-chronicled. It has outstripped all nations in investment in technology, creating AI talent, issuing supportive government policies and is home to the world’s biggest AI companies. Today, the country has a rapidly growing pool of AI talent, publishes the most frequently cited research papers and has the best universities (Tsinghua University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology) that can compete on a global level. According to Elsa B. Kania, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, today China has the data, the talent, the money, the regulatory environment and the government vision to become an AI superpower.
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Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.