AI skills academy launched to empower Emiratis

From imaginative robots painting their heart out to epic artificial intelligence versus human rap battles, the Dubai World Trade Centre came alive with some jaw-dropping experiences showing the real power of AI on Tuesday (April 30).

Among the several futuristic launches at the two-day AI Everything Summit 2019 was the launch of an AI Skills Academy.

The event is organised by the UAE National Programme for Artificial Intelligence in strategic partnership with Smart Dubai and under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The event was inaugurated by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, CEO and Chairman of the Emirates Group and Chairman of Dubai World, and the keynote address was given by Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence.

Addressing hundreds of guests and AI experts, Olama said: “The UAE Government works with innovators and companies from all over the world to innovate new solutions employing artificial intelligence technology and develop future sectors. The AI Everything Summit represents a global event that supports our efforts in the UAE to share successful experiences in the field of artificial intelligence and become a global leader in adopting this technology.”

Dr Aisha bint Butti bin Bishr, Director-General of Smart Dubai, said the event aims at exploring AI-based innovations across various sectors, including government, creative economy, social enterprises, education, energy, finance, healthcare, transport and logistics, travel and tourism, retail, security and telecommunications.

After a number of power-packed keynotes and talks by AI experts from around the world, such as Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera and the visionary who pioneered AI at Google & Baidu; Dr Lim Goh, the AI leader behind Nasa-HPE’s most powerful computer sent into space, came the launch of the AI Skills Academy. This academy was launched in partnership with the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) that was represented by Dr Abdullatif M. Al Shamsi, president and CEO of HCT.

“Our visionary ruler His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, during his last visit to HCT instructed us to convert our college into a free economic and innovative zone. To do that we have worked with the Ministry of AI to start this academy in line with the UAE AI Strategy 2030, with the aim of empowering UAE nationals to foster, formulate, partner, impact and develop. The academy aims at becoming the preferred partner of the public and private sector to position the UAE to become a leader in the AI global arena.”

Al Shamsi said that the academy was not a traditional academic programme but instead is very practical in line with different level of professions – whether related to machine learning, robotics, processing etc. It starts from the entry level to supervisor managerial and director level. “To deliver this academy, we have developed a model with the AI ministry so that it is truly integrated with the work environment and the applications are being implemented during work and not necessarily in a classroom.”

He concluded by adding: “The academy is not just short courses or training for a few days but is built on an ecosystem model starting from an academy board with advisers from the industry to help us update skills regularly; ensure funding and support is provided for the transition of student and industry; and sees to it that recruitment is provided for a career path with work-integrated learning and a full-time job. The AI academy aims at attracting mid-careers with their 5-10 years of experience to bring in their skills to the table.”