Embracing tomorrow: Unraveling how the UAE views AI

This surge in AI development has propelled discussions around AI into a significant and captivating topic among UAE residents

In recent years, the UAE has actively pursued the development and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) through various initiatives like the UAE National Program for Artificial Intelligence (BRAIN), the UAE AI and Robotics Award for Good and many others, driven by the UAE’s AI Strategy 2031.

These initiatives are supported by private and public institutions like Abu Dhabi’s Artificial Intelligence Office, the AI HUB as well as the Advanced Technology Research Council and its newly launched entity AI71.

This surge in AI development has propelled discussions around AI into a significant and captivating topic among UAE residents, attracting attention not only from the business community but also the public.

In line with Ipsos’ eagerness to uncover and understand how the public perceives AI in the UAE, a survey has been recently conducted among UAE residents, including locals and Arabs, aged 15 years and above.

Navigating Tech Optimism: Channeling AI Excitement in the UAE

Regarding people’s general attitudes, the majority in the UAE holds a positive view of technology.

An impressive 9 in 10 individuals believe that technology is crucial for addressing future challenges, and 4 in 5 demonstrate the ability to keep up with its rapid evolution.

Despite this optimism, a notable one-third express concerns about AI posing a potential threat to job security.

People in the UAE show keen interest in AI and its applications, integrating AI tools into their daily lives.

Notably, 94 per cent utilise language translation apps, 90 per cent employ facial recognition apps, and 86 per cent utilize speech and audio tools.

Interestingly, not everyone explicitly connects these tools to AI. Whereas more complex technologies are generally more closely associated with AI, with 4 in 5 linking robotics and self-driving cars to AI.

Unveiling Concerns: Delving into Doubts and Apprehensions About AI in the UAE

Highlighting the dual sentiment surrounding AI in the UAE, there is a notable blend of excitement for its potential alongside a degree of doubt.

59 per cent express excitement about AI tools and applications, with half of the population optimistic about its future.

However, a significant 63 per cent indicate a lack of trust in companies utilising AI compared to those that do not.

While many associate AI with being futuristic and innovative, around 3 in 5 consider it a subject of controversy, with half viewing it as a disruptive tool and 2 in 5 regard it as threatening.

However, despite the widespread belief in AI causing work disruption, 55 per cent of individuals in the UAE approach the topic cautiously, expressing concern with AI making important decisions in their personal lives.

Diving into nuanced perspectives on AI benefits and challenges, around one-third assert that the benefits outweigh the risks, while an equal one-third holds the contrary viewpoint.

Moreover, there is a prevailing interest in AI’s potential benefits, as 50 per cent express that AI holds the capacity to improve data insights, automation & efficiency, while 42 per cent believe that AI can potentially enhance customer service.

Conversely, concerns arise about the potential misuse of AI, unveiling a plethora of challenges linked to the technology.

Among the frequently discussed challenges, the primary concern is the absence of human touch, voiced by 48 per cent in the UAE.

Moreover, concerns about job loss due to automation are notable, with 43 per cent associating AI with potential job displacement.

Data privacy and violations is also a topic discussed among those in the UAE, with one-third stressing data security as one of the foremost challenges associated with AI.

In the pursuit of AI-inspired abilities, the most sought-after skill is mind-reading, followed by aspirations for super intelligence, perfect decision-making, and teleportation.

To conclude, the report captures the country’s nuanced perspective on AI, blending optimism with caution.

While people hold a positive view of technology’s potential, concerns about its threats, particularly regarding potential misuse and impacts on human connection, job displacement, and data security, remain deeply rooted.

Ultimately, the UAE navigates the AI landscape thoughtfully, embracing transformation while remaining mindful of potential consequences.

-By Athanas Jamo, Chief Client Director, Ipsos- a market research company