AI takes hold in GCC as use cases emerge

In a first, students enrolling at Batterjee Medical College in Saudi Arabia this year will be able to type their way through the registration process via WhatsApp.

The Jeddah-based college has a Dubai-based startup, Arabot, to thank for this digital shift. Arabot has built a chatbot that taps into AI-enabled natural language processing (NLP) to deliver Arabic-language chat functions on WhatsApp.

For the prospective scholars, registration has been reduced to something resembling a cordial chat between friends; for Batterjee, a process that automates an otherwise arduous task, which is cherished by no one, is a massive relief.

Such emerging use cases reveal how artificial intelligence can not only liberate humanity from dreary and monotonous tasks, but also create new business models and achieve efficiency on a grand scale. This is far from the dystopian wasteland of wayward robots depicted in sci-fi movies, and which has come to shape much public opinion on AI.

At its most fundamental level, AI enables organisations to automate routine tasks, such as mundane inquiries on office location, working hours and job applications with the help of chatbots. Further up the food chain, AI is being employed to boost productivity and increase the quality and efficiency of industrial and manufacturing processes thanks to robots.


Saudi Arabia has put AI at the centre of its plans to diversify the economy and to accelerate modernisation as part of its Vision 2030 strategy.

LEAP, Saudi Arabia’s biggest tech festival scheduled for February 2022, will devote substantial acreage to showcasing AI tech. Exhibitors will display the latest technologies in machine learning, deep learning, NLP, chatbots, physical application, facial recognition and more.

Global AI experts we have invited will discuss among other themes, how to transform the economy using AI; how AI can make Saudi Arabia a top 20 tech-enabled country,  and; how to adapt to a future AI-powered workforce. 

“One of the major cornerstones of LEAP is to build the capacity of Saudi citizens so they become the tech engineers, developers, programmers and scientists of the future,” said Michael Champion, head of

“LEAP aims not only to create knowledge transfer but to inspire the youth to become entrepreneurs and establish their tech-powered businesses,” he added.

If the youth is to be inspired so, their collective skill set will require a substantial upgrade.


Just in time, as the region’s first graduate-level, research-based artificial intelligence university, the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), is set to welcome its first cluster of students in September this year. The university will offer specialised degree programs in the field of AI at masters and Ph.D. levels.

National AI strategies all require significant talent and consequently highlight the need to develop new skills, in large numbers and quickly, said Dr. Ling Shao, Executive Vice President and provost, Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI).

“Our courses are designed to provide graduate students with skills that will help them contribute to existing AI requirements, while also preparing them with the ability to use AI as a powerful tool for innovation, in ways that can help address some of the most pressing issues our global society faces – such as pandemics,” said Dr. Shao.

“We want our graduates to have the knowledge and the confidence to become leaders, with the ability to mould the future of the AI sector and reshape communities, industries and economies in the process,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved how artificial intelligence in healthcare can be leveraged to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. AI is being widely used in hospitals and testing centers, mobile tracking and tracing solutions, and in research centers to find effective treatments, medications and vaccines.


For example, medical imaging has emerged as an exciting space for AI innovation. “In the diagnosis of COVID-19 cases, AI-based image processing and analysis enables [greater] in-depth insight into chest X-rays or CT images, for further assessment and quantification,” Dr. Shao said.

“Incorporating AI into more medical facilities will solve one of the biggest challenges that medical imaging diagnosis faces today, which is a shortage of specialised doctors,” he added.

The factory floor of this century will look nothing like the one before. Automation, thanks to robots, will minimise the negative attributes of manufacturing such as safety failures while maximising the positives such as productivity and efficiency.

Saudi Arabia, which seeks to advance the manufacturing sector as part of its national transformation project, can jump right into the next era of manufacturing through digital technologies. “Both government and private sector entities are investing significantly in IoT, robotics, AI and machine learning to make our manufacturing industry more competitive,” said Eng. Nawaf Alhoshan, Deputy Minister for Technology Development at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

The impact of AI on our daily lives is only starting to emerge. The technology can help solve the challenges the region faces while simultaneously building a smart society.


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