Economic Update

Published 10 Dec 2019

Qatar has unveiled a new strategy to bolster artificial intelligence (AI) development.

In late October the government launched the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, a plan designed to identify economic opportunities and research potential in the burgeoning field of AI.

The strategy, developed by Hamad bin Khalifa University’s Qatar Computing Research Institute, is based on six pillars: the race for talent, data access, employment, wealth creation, research, and ethics and public policy.

While much of the world’s AI development takes place in the US, the EU and China, officials have underlined the importance of Qatar developing its own capabilities in the field.

With AI likely to be embedded in many aspects of life in the near future – a phenomenon known as AI+X – the strategy underscores the fact that many modern jobs, particularly in white-collar professions, may soon become obsolete as a result of automation.

This issue is particular pertinent considering that around 25% of Qatari workers are employed in clerical positions, according to a 2016 Qatar Labour Force Survey.

While challenges remain, the AI strategy notes that the expansion and advancement of this technology will also bring significant opportunities for social development and economic growth.

In particular, it highlights potential improvements in health care, which would enable the country to develop its medical tourism sector; and food security, with improved technology building on sustainable agricultural practices.

Technological advancements also have the potential to facilitate the development of transport and logistics infrastructure, while the oil and gas sector stands to benefit from improved efficiency and logistics optimisation.

See also: The Report – Qatar 2019

ICT expansion

The launch of the AI strategy comes amid significant investment and activity in the broader ICT sector.

On the sidelines of the Qatar IT Conference and Exhibition, which took place in Doha from October 29 to November 1, the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) announced that it will extend a digital accelerator programme to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the country.

The programme, which is expected to begin in early 2020, aims to develop SMEs in the fields of AI, augmented reality, virtual reality and the internet of things.

The announcement came as the MoTC signed a memorandum of understanding with German IT company TÜViT to set up the GCC’s first security technology lab in Qatar.

The lab, which is expected to be operational by the end of the year, will test security products for functionality and vet ICT products, forming part of the country’s efforts to bolster cybersecurity capabilities.

Another major development in ICT occurred in May last year, when the Doha-headquartered telecoms provider Ooredoo rolled out the first stage of its 5G Supernet network in the capital, considered the first commercial application of the technology in the world.

Economic diversification

Investments in AI and ICT align with broader national plans to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons.

Launched in 2008, the Qatar National Vision 2030 strategy aims to transform the country into a knowledge-driven economy, with significant emphasis placed on both public and private digital engagement.

For example, officials aim to digitise 100% of state services by 2020, and the government is continuing in its efforts to digitalise the internal and day-to-day operations of the public sector.