AI takes the center of every stage at GITEX 2023

The five-day annual event extensively explores the most significant aspects of the AI era and features 1,000 AI-integrated companies.
18 October 2023

The five-day annual event extensively explores the most significant aspects of the AI era and features 1,000 AI-integrated companies.

  • In his keynote address at GITEX 2023, UAE Minister Al Olama said countries need a fresh approach to governing AI.
  • The Dubai government pavilion brought  more than 40 government and private-sector entities to GITEX 2023.
  • Dubai Police showcased its new driverless police car.

This week, life is all about AI in Dubai, the most highly-populated city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubai is currently hosting its annual Gulf Information Technology Exhibition, more commonly known as GITEX 2023. Dubbed the world’s largest technology event and startup show, Dubai took the chance to display its capabilities in the technology the city had embraced long before ChatGPT made generative AI mainstream.

It all started in October 2017, when Dubai announced its National Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031, making it also the first government in the world to have a minister dedicated to the development of AI. Since then, Dubai’s strategy has focused on utilizing AI to enhance government services and improve efficiency across public and private sectors.

So it was an intelligent move for the UAE city, in the thick of a global AI revolution, to set the theme of GITEX 2023 as ‘The Year to Imagine AI in Everything.’

“If you resist artificial intelligence, you will be finished,” H.E Omar Sultan Al Olama, the Minister of State for AI Digital Economy for the UAE government, said at the annual event’s opening.

HE Omar Sultan AlOlama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy UAE Government, at the opening of the inaugural GITEX 2023 CTO World Congress.

HE Omar Sultan AlOlama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy UAE Government, At the opening of the inaugural GITEX CTO World Congress.

Indeed, the AI influence at the ongoing 43rd edition of GITEX Global cannot be overlooked. Over 6,000 companies from 180 countries and thousands of attendees flooded the Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC) for the five-day event that launched on October 16, 2023. The annual technology event spans 41 exhibition halls, showcasing tech giants and startups, specializing mainly in AI, cybersecurity, and mobility

The event also expanded significantly across Dubai Harbour, where Expand North Star, a startup focus event hosted by the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy, took place concurrently. Dubai’s vested interest in AI was apparent in both events. So much so that the city has drawn more than 1,000 AI-infused companies to participate, according to organizers. Conversations were mainly on AI governance, regulations, and job security.

“AI needs to be unleashed, rather than confined and restricted,” Al Olama told reporters on the sidelines of GITEX 2023. In sharing the view of his administration, the Minister claimed that “governments’ responsibilities around the world should revolve around increasing awareness, reducing ignorance, and ensuring that people can access AI tools.”

Al Olama said the world was entering an era that will separate countries that embrace AI and those that don’t. “That’s going to be the key differentiator. If you embrace AI, you will try. If you don’t, unfortunately, you will remain stagnant,” he told reporters.

Governing AI the right way: a hot topic at GITEX 2023

During his keynote address, Al Olama advocated a global consensus on AI governance. He mainly stressed governing AI use cases, rather than the technology itself. He called for discussions to be more solution-focused, rather than dominated by fear.

“I think the current global discussion on AI governance is a non-starter,” he told reporters about regulating the technology during a media briefing on day two of GITEX 2023.

UAE Minister Al Olama during a media briefing at GITEX 2023.

UAE Minister Al Olama during a media briefing at GITEX 2023.

Al Olama, who became the world’s first minister in the AI field in 2017, believes that governments must openly address concerns around AI. “Fear should not dominate the discussion,” he reiterated. He, however, thinks a global problem for governments is tackling the issue of deepfakes.

“I think deepfakes need to be addressed because they erode the people’s trust in the content,” said Al Olama. “It’s a big problem, so we must be heavy-handed with deepfakes.” The Minister suggested that governments should also take a firm stance against using tools that create misinformation, as those tools too can erode trust – this time in governments.

The Minister, who was recently named by Time magazine among the 100 most influential people in AI, highlighted the remarkable journey of the UAE as an early adopter of AI. A 2019 report on the Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index², which examined over 190 countries worldwide to determine their readiness rankings, placed the UAE at the top of the Arab world for its readiness to adopt AI technologies. 


By June of this year, special task forces within 30 government entities in Dubai had been formed to harness the power of AI to transform government operations and services. 

Some of those government bodies were present at GITEX 2023, and our sister site, Tech Wire Asia, had the opportunity to visit their booths and peek at their AI innovations.

Digital Dubai

Digital Dubai inaugurated the Dubai Government Pavilion at GITEX 2023, bringing together more than 40 government and private entities in the Emirate of Dubai. Director general of Digital Dubai, Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, said that “the Dubai Government Pavilion at GITEX Global 2023 offers a glimpse into Dubai’s digital future, where emerging and advanced technologies play a central role in ensuring happiness among citizens and residents, offering them quick, easy, and integrated digital services.”

The Digital Dubai platform this year includes 40 pavilions, each representing a government or private entity from various fields, who came together to strive for a common purpose – to position Dubai as a global digital hub and an inspiring international capital. Among the services showcased were Dubai.AI. In partnership with the Dubai Center for Artificial Intelligence (DCAI), the AI platform allows users to quickly and seamlessly access services and information about Dubai across various sectors. 

Dubai.AI has been developed in partnership with government entities in the emirate. It can be populated with accurate information and services from reliable sources, and make them available to all users.

There was the ‘Al Maha’ project on cybersecurity, an advanced scanning tool designed to locate all government digital assets on the internet, whether hosted in the UAE or abroad. 

The smart gate at the RTA's pavilion to demonstrate how commuters can paying public transport fares through facial recognition.

The smart gate at the RTA’s pavilion to demonstrate how commuters can paying public transport fares through facial recognition.

The platform can identify vulnerabilities in these digital assets, classify them by severity, and suggest the most effective methods to address them. Additionally, Digital Dubai is introducing the Application Programming Interface (API) Tester, a portal that lets users, developers, and security officers evaluate and test their API endpoints. The API scanner will identify gaps and weaknesses in the provided API requests, letting developers and users patch and secure their APIs.

Digitizing Dubai’s Metro

At Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) pavilion were an array of AI projects and initiatives, including a smart gate for paying public transport fares through facial recognition. The RTA plans to roll out the smart gates next year, with plans to test them out at public transport stations where there is a lower volume of passengers before they’re rolled out across all stations after the Proof of Concept succeeds.

The RTA plans to adopt the same facial recognition technology in all other modes of public transportation in Dubai, including trams, buses, abra (a traditional small ferry-like boat used to ferry people across the Dubai Creek), and taxis. The RTA aims to move from physical and digital cards to a facial technology system.

The convergence of AI and Arabic at GITEX 2023

The UAE has recently made strides in large language models, having unveiled two major large language models of its own to underline its intentions of becoming a leader in the industry. At one of the government pavilions at GITEX 2023, the LLM models, Jais and Falcon, were showcased.

Jais, an open-source bilingual Arabic-English LLM, was developed through collaboration between Inception, an AI company in Abu Dhabi, the G42 unit, Mohammed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, and Silicon Valley’s Cerebras Systems. Jais is designed to make the Arabic language a prominent player in AI.

Meanwhile, Falcon is a flagship LLM by the UAE’s Technology Innovation Institute (TII). Among the best proprietary LLMs, Falcon 180B is closely ranked just behind OpenAI’s latest GPT-4 and matches the performance level of Google’s PaLM 2 Large, the model that powers Bard, per the company’s statement. 

Driverless police patrol car

Adding to the variety of Dubai’s government entities flaunting their AI innovations was an autonomous Dubai Police patrol car that could handle the city’s streets. The vehicle, equipped with a drone launcher, radar detector, and surveillance camera, will provide Dubai Police with an innovative and effective method for city patrolling. 

The department has concluded its research and development phase, and the vehicle is currently in production. It will be operational on the city’s streets within the following year.

“It took 65 engineers five years of research to build the vehicle named Autonomous Police Patrol M02,” according to a spokesperson, and it can function with an accuracy rate of 99.9%.

Dubai Police'e new self-driving security patrol.

Dubai’s Police new self-driving security patrol.

Welcome to Gitex 2023.