Omar al Olama, minister of AI for the UAE, said that countries should be in communication on AI. (Source:

AI Minister from United Arab Emirates Credits Covide for the Country’s Tech Growth

Omar Al Olama, the UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, said he believes that the shift to technology sped up the UAE’s adoption of AI in government and public health, and has established the Emirates as a world leader in AI.

The 31-year-old was the first AI minister when he was appointed in 2017 at age 27. Since then, he has been implementing AI in the country’s infrastructure, an effort that was accelerated during Covid.

“We actually were very open to many different solutions, and many different theories out there,” he said. “And we worked with everyone, from the East and the West, to try to find the right solutions that can be deployed in the UAE to make us go back to living a relatively normal life. Not the normal life that we’re used to. People still need to wear masks. There’s still a lot of focus on the general community’s safety, but AI played a big role in getting us to this point.”

The AI-based Alhosn public health application allowed the country to do rapid testing and tracking for COVID and anticipate needs for various stages of the pandemic — such as the number of ventilators and vaccines required.

The process “produced a great return on investment for the UAE, because we were quickly able to become one of the leading countries in the world in terms of vaccination rates,” said Al Olama. “The reason why it was a calculated risk and the outcomes were very positive is because we leveraged every technology and human ingenuity with it to plan forward for this COVID-19 pandemic, while also deliberating continuously to understand if there are any changes that might affect these plans. So when a new variant came out, we actually had to go back, reassess the situation, understand what it means for our plans, and if there wasn’t a big risk on it at the time, we would continue and make a few tweaks. If there was a big risk, then the plans would change.”

Olama said the UAE is also “serious” about autonomous vehicles and that he believes that the U.S., China and other countries should have a “continuous dialogue” on AI.