Dubai Opens Global Centre for 4IR

What will Dubai’s Centre for the 4th Industrial Revolution in partnership with World Economic Forum mean for the knowledge economy?

By Xische Editorial, May 9, 2019

Source: Unchalee Khun/ Shutterstock

Source: Unchalee Khun/Shutterstock

How do you build a knowledge economy? This question is front and centre for leaders around the world and especially those in the Middle East. Since hydrocarbon resources are finite, investment in a knowledge economy is the best safeguard for the future economic health of countries in the region.

With a large youth population, world-class internet infrastructure, and trade connections to virtually every corner of the world, the UAE has become one of the leading technology centres in the emerging world. The opening of a new World Economic Forum (WEF) centre for the fourth industrial revolution in Dubai is a testament to how far the UAE is along in building its knowledge economy and should be unpacked to see how other countries can replicate the UAE’s success. The new centre will help the UAE and other countries in the region approach critical governance questions related to 4IR and thus ensure that the country remains on the cutting.

Let’s take a closer look at WEF’s programme for the study of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). The explosion in global internet usage has led to the present moment being characterized by a shift towards automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT). The development of these platforms collectively is referred to as 4IR. The sector is dynamic and largely misunderstood given how fast technology is developing.

WEF has created several think tanks in Japan, China, the United States, and India to study the 4IR and consider the societal impact of the shift. Dubai’s centre is the latest member of the team and it will focus on the impact of AI on the UAE and the Middle East by working closely with governments, businesses, academics, and other organisations.

It is hard to overestimate the gravity of changes the 4IR will bring to the world economy. According to a recent WEF Future of Jobs report, 4IR shifts could result in the loss of 75mn jobs by 2022 in major economies. These jobs would be replaced by automation, robotics, and AI. But it is not all doom and gloom. The same report found that new technologies could also create 133mn new jobs that involve working with machines and data.

Speaking at the launch, the UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence Omar Al Olama noted that, “in the UAE, we have never been scared of technology – instead we embrace the future. But the challenge will be one of governance. We need to understand how governments can deal with development and the deployment of new technology, and what the requirements are in terms of policy and legislation.”

Mr Al Olama captures something profound with this comment. As technologies develop at breakneck speed that have an incredible impact on how society operates, governments need to keep up with the changes. But the reality is that many lawmakers around the world simply don’t understand the intricate nature of the technologies and thus struggle to make the right decisions for how to govern them. To create a viable knowledge economy, you need political leaders that are open to learning about new technologies so that they can create smart regulations that push industries forward instead of stifling their development.

Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is critical part of this puzzle because part of its mission is to create intellectual output that will help educate and inform lawmakers in the crucial decisions of this period. But it doesn’t operate in a vacuum. The reason why WEF has been attracted to Dubai is exactly because the UAE is not shy about embracing new technologies. It has created an environment where everyone from a normal person on the street to a high government official is using cutting edge technology. It is fostering an understanding of new technologies through an embrace of innovation and the free exchange of ideas.

This foundation is what ultimately builds a knowledge economy and it can be replicated in other places. Given its warm relations with countries around the emerging world, Dubai can export its expertise at building a knowledge economy and developing healthy governance models to other places. It can thus tap into the incredible creative energy in dynamic emerging cities from East Africa to India. Watch closely as new governance paradigms need to usher in the 4IR emerge from places like the UAE.