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Communications of the ACM

Arab World special section: Hot topics

An AI-Enabled Future for Qatar and the Region

Doha, Qatar cityscape

Credit: HasanZaidi / Shutterstock

Qatar is a small peninsular nation on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar is endowed with abundant hydrocarbon resources and is the world's largest producer of liquified natural gas (LNG), which accounts for over 80% of its export earnings. Like many of its wealthy neighbors, Qatar faces a unique dilemma with the onset of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Despite having one of the world's highest per-capita income and a highly educated local population, the majority of Qataris are under-employed and working in government white collar jobs where they are unable to fully realize the potential of their level of education. These are precisely the occupations that are likely to be made redundant by AI.1 The bulk of the workforce in Qatar consists of expatriates drawn primarily from South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As the finite horizon of a natural resource-based economy comes closer, countries like Qatar have no option but to embrace AI to transition into a knowledge-based economy while protecting and perhaps enhancing their current standard of living.

In Qatar, the trade-off between AI and job loss will not be that stark because the majority of the Qatari population is overeducated and underemployed.

In October 2019, and in collaboration with Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), the government of Qatar released a National Strategy for AI.3 The aim of the strategy is to provide decision-makers and the wider public in Qatar with a nuanced and realistic view of AI technology and at the same time serve as a "call for action" toward a future where AI will become the defining technology of the 21st century and beyond.


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