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Indians playing big role in turning Middle East AI-compliant

Around 84% organisations in the Middle East are adopting AI-compliant methods for various operations, as per a survey.

The pitch of artificial intelligence (AI) that Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised at B20 India Summit on Sunday is already being traversed by Indian firms and tech professionals in the changing Middle East landscape. While some Indian firms are exploring to develop their own AI products, some are in talks of collaboration with M-E companies, Indian professionals employed in tech firms are spearheading several such drives and others with linguistics skills are being wooed to join the fast-developing AI dubbing market in the region.

According to a business-oriented portal Zawya.com, around 84% of total Middle East organisations are adopting AI in a rapid way. “The AI landscape in the Middle East, both from a technological and regulatory perspective has changed dramatically,” said Elias Baltassis, Partner & Director, BCG X. “The rapid adoption of generative AI tools has brought AI to the forefront of conversations in the region. Yet, the fundamentals of responsible AI remain crucial.”

Echoing  PM Modi’s pitch for Responsible AI (RAI), Baltassis too said that most of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region companies are rooting for RAI.

In the M-E region, the components of Responsible AI (RAI) programmes encompass broad principles (43%), policies (49%), governance (76%), monitoring (49%), tools and implementation (51%), and change management (43%). Individual considerations within these RAI programmes include transparency and explainability (62%), social and environmental impact (59%), accountability (57%), fairness (54%), safety, security, and human wellbeing (68%), and data security and privacy (86%).

Moroccoworldnews.com says that a recent survey in the business community of the region found that most of the companies are training their staff for AI-powered jobs and target to become AI-compliant by 2030. “The Middle East companies will prepare their workforces for an increasingly automated and artificially intelligent future over the next five years,” the survey finding said.

The survey added that in the UAE, 38% of companies have begun training their employees for a more automated and AI-powered future, 45% of Saudi companies are doing the same. “Considering the growing importance of this new-age technology, by 2025 69% of companies will prepare their workforce for an automated future,” said the survey.

“With increasing automation and adoption of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, companies play a critical role in investing in new talent and strengthening workforce readiness for the jobs of tomorrow,” said the report.

Role of Indians

Majority of the workforce employed and holding key positions are made of Indian expats. A senior business reporter with Dubai-based daily Khaleej Times told India Narrative that Indians are working as AI trainers and even leading such in-house campaigns in almost all leading firms operating in the UAE. “Judging by the presence of Indians everywhere in the Gulf, it’ll be the same in Saudi, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar,” he said.

He added that AI pioneers will be new business leaders in the region.

Some of the companies contacted by the India Narrative to share their inputs about AI-linked functioning initiatives being taken by their organisations didn’t respond by the time of writing this report.

Meanwhile, there reports that an immediate flood of AI-connected jobs has been generated in the Middle East for dubbing news and entertainment in the video and digital formats.

Amir Jirbandey, head of growth and marketing at the UK-based AI start-up Papercup, was quoted by Al-Monitor saying that there is a huge demand for Arabic translation of foreign produced videos (both entertainment and news).

“The AI technology can help companies save money by translating content themselves rather than investing heavily into building audiences in the region right out of the gate,” Jirbandey said. The company works with organisations such as media and entertainment companies as well as content creators on YouTube,” Jirbandey observed.

Jirbandey said that for news, it is often Modern Standard Arabic, which sounds more neutral. For entertainment content, there is a high demand for an Egyptian dialect.

This is welcome news for a section of Indians working in the region. They are either madarsa-taught or madarsa-university taught and most of them are well-versed in different types of Arabic dialects, be it Egyptian, Syrian or Emirati. Afsal A.P., a Keralite, based in UAE, already reports and translates for Al Jazeera. He says that the new demand will be an easy employment opportunity for Indians with Arabic knowledge with know-hows of AI tools (or they may be trained for that) and for the jobless workforce of uprooted Palestinians, Egyptians, Syrians and Yemenis.


AI in India

Considering the importance and urgency to tap the use of AI, the Indian government has asked Niti Aayog to formulate an AI policy in 2019. The government has increased budget outlay for Digital India Mission by 67% and in 2022-23, it stood at $1.3 billion. This mission involves a plan for the effective utilisation of AI to promote financial inclusion, supplement the education sector, and transform the urban infrastructure. States such as Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Telangana are already utilising AI-based tools to support law and order, increase agricultural productivity, and improve healthcare delivery.

India is also the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence’s (GPAI) chair in waiting. In 2020, Indian companies were ranked second in AI adoption in the Asia Pacific.

Private IT giants like Wipro, Infosys and HCL Technologies have reportedly invested heavily to produce new AI methods that can be useful in sectors like agriculture, public governance, rural development, healthcare and emergency management.

The Middle East already being an attractive market for the Indian service sector, the fast-paced AI-isation of the region has also opened doors for Indian AI manufacturing.

“The UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have relied on Indian offshore services heavily but have [not often partnered] with Indian firms on research and development in the past. Now there is a keen focus on both developing intellectual property (IP) at home and partnering with global ventures that have breakthrough concepts. For example, dozens of Indian tech firms have set up to develop products in (the UAE) encouraged by incentives, funding, and a fast-growing ecosystem,” said Carrington Malin, a Dubai based consultant focused on emerging technologies, as quoted by the Economic Times.