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Lee Miles, the VP for CEMEA at Red Hat, speaks to Future Tech about the development of the AI arena in the region.

What sort of development have you seen in the AI arena in the region?
AI can fundamentally reimagine Middle East markets through the creation of innovative new services and futuristic business models. We have seen increased development on multiple fronts in the AI arena across the region in recent times, in terms of spending and adoption.

In the Middle East and Africa, AI spending grew by almost 43 percent last year alone due to higher investments in AI-enabled projects and platforms. And through 2022, spending is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 19 percent. Compelling use cases in AI applications are visible in areas including manufacturing, finance, retail, telecommunications, and the public sector – and AI has the potential to make significant contributions to these sectors over the next decade.

From a government perspective, they can obtain and analyze vast amounts of citizen data, and it is their responsibility to meet the requirements of millions of people and deliver essential public services. The need to provide services efficiently and at scale, together with the ability to leverage vast amounts of data, means AI is an ideal avenue to sustainability. Cities including Riyadh, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi are well-positioned to capitalize in the coming years due to their respective government-led AI initiatives. More will likely be launched as the current programs serve as an inspirational example for the rest of the region.

What sort of AI factor have you seen or recommend in combating COVID-19?
Through advanced planning algorithms, OptaPlanner is among the most prominent AI factors that have helped keep medical staff and patients safe while combating COVID-19. Some of the most common challenges in the healthcare sector include assigning doctors and nurses to hospital shifts, establishing a fair schedule, and maximizing leave day request approvals. During the ongoing situation, these issues have been solved easily due to this innovative AI factor. Advanced planning algorithms are superior to human planning in far less time, and valuable time saved has subsequently been utilized by medical professionals in a variety of vital areas.

How can companies transform into an AI company post-crisis?
Companies can make the transition to becoming fully AI-enabled following the crisis through Open source software. Although predictive analytics and AI capabilities can offer valuable insights and actionable intelligence, organizations operating in the public sector requires more to achieve their ambitions concerning AI – they need ‘explainable AI.’ With Open source software, companies can develop more transparent AI solutions through technology and development methodology that are much faster – resulting in greater efficiencies and more accurate, trusted decisions.

Do companies understand the benefits of cloud-based AI?
If they do not already understand the benefits of cloud-based AI, more and more companies are becoming familiar with the advantages. With cloud-based AI service offerings from major players across the region driving government-funded public initiatives, the uptake of related services and solutions will increase. SMEs are also adopting emerging technology, which promotes the benefits across the public sector ecosystem even further.

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