Interview with E.S. Dr. Ahmed Abdulla Saeed Bin Saeed ALMATROOSHI
The space program to Mars which the United Arab Emirates have recently launched, propels the country on the aerospace market. Could Your Excellency provide us with more details regarding the future projects of the UAE and the manner in which artificial intelligence and new technologies are used in the UAE, with a view to designing the future?
It is undeniable that the UAE’s story of progress since the unity of its Emirates has been an impressive story of success. Over a period of almost 50 years, the UAE has achieved many important milestones in the medical, educational, technological, cultural, space and social fields. It also witnessed impressive economic and urban revolutions, crowning the UAE as one of the leading touristic destinations and investment hub, both regionally and internationally. As far as the space sector is concerned, all UAE’s space programs embody the nation’s commitment to education, development, economic diversification and knowledge economy.
The Emirates Mars Mission – Hope Probe (EMM) is a strategic initiative that was announced by UAE’s President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum on 16th July 2014. EMM was initiated to accelerate the development of the UAE’s space, education, science and technologies sectors. The Hope Probe aims to build the first full picture of Mars’ climate throughout the Martian year. EMM is the culmination of a knowledge transfer and development effort started in 2006 by the Mohammed bin Rashed Space Center (MBRSC), which has seen Emirati engineers and experts working with partners around the world to develop the UAE’s space mission design and engineering capabilities. The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center was assigned by the UAE government to manage, develop, and execute all phases of the program, while the UAE Space Agency is charged with the general supervision of the mission.
The Emirates Mars Mission launched the al-Amal Hope unmanned probe on 19th July 2020, from Japanese island Tanegashima. The probe reached Mars on 9th February 2020, and successfully entered the Red Planet’s orbit. This milestone interplanetary mission was the first from the Arab world. The UAE became the 5th country in history to successfully reach the Red Planet’s orbit. This will not be the UAE’s first space mission. In addition to this, the UAE has sent four satellites into the Earth’s orbit (in conjunction with South Korea) and the UAE’s first astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, to the International Space Station in 2019.
It is worth mentioning that the Hope Probe reached Mars in the year that the UAE celebrates 50th years since its founding as a nation (2nd December 2021).
As far as the future is concerned, the UAE plans to establish a self-sustaining habitable settlement on Mars by 2117.
The key goals of the UAE National Space Program, include: overseeing the realization of the 2117 Mars settlement program and Mars Science City (currently in development in the desert outside of Dubai); launching the Arab Space Discovery Program, which in collaboration with the Arab universities and institutions, aims to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and expertise in space sciences and execute plans for space discovery; launching a UAE satellite-manufacturing complex to support the Emirates Mars Mission in 2021 and the first settlement on the Red Planet in 2117.
Regarding Mars 2117 and Dubai’s Mars Science City, it is noteworthy that in February 2017, the UAE revealed an ambitious 100-year plan to build a human settlement on the red planet by 2117. Research and development in preparation for this mission will be conducted in Dubai’s Mars Science City, which is currently in the design phase. The facility in Dubai will replicate Martian conditions to provide a realistic model to simulate living on the surface of Mars. The site will cover an area of 1.9 million square feet and is expected to be the largest space-simulation site in the world when finished. The facility will include a museum and laboratories for conducting zero-gravity experiments. It will also include the ‘Living on Mars’ project, which is an initiative to design and print the best buildings suitable for the Red Planet using 3D printing technology.
When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), the UAE has a policy objective to become a leader in the responsible use of AI and its tools, globally. The UAE ranks 19th worldwide on the government AI readiness index and first in the region.
Among the strategies of the UAE’s government, initiatives and programs that aim to effectively implement AI technology across sectors of UAE society with the goal of increasing efficiency, happiness and economic outcome as well as augmenting the UAE’s position as a global leader in innovation, are: The National AI Strategy 2031 which emphasizes that the UAE has a vision to become a world leader in AI by 2031, creating new economic and social opportunities for citizens, governments and businesses with a goal of generating up to AED 335bn in economic growth. The strategy is the first of its kind in the region and the world. The key elements of the National AI Strategy 2031 are: transforming the UAE into a welcoming destination for the development of AI products; new AI education programs championing good governance.
It is worth mentioning that when it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI), the UAE had the world’s first Minister of State for AI, His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, who has been appointed Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, in 2017, and who is also the Deputy Director of the Future Department at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future. His Excellency contributed to the preparation of the UAE Centennial 2071 Strategy and the UAE Fourth Industrial Revolution Strategy
What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution? A technological revolution that merges physical, digital and biological technologies in order to deliver unprecedented products and services in new and emerging sectors.
The UAE Fourth Industrial Revolution Strategy (4IR), the first of its kind globally was designed to provide a practical framework for policy makers as well as supporting national efforts in adopting advanced technologies. The strategy aims at transforming future challenges into opportunities that better serve the country.
The UAE Fourth Industrial Revolution Strategy (4IR), focuses on a various sectors including; innovative education, artificial intelligence, intelligent genomic medicine and robotic healthcare, efficient government, sustainability and smart cities through the following: achieving future security of water and food supply by using bioengineering sciences and advanced renewable energy technologies ; enhancing economic security by adopting digital economy and Blockchain technologies in financial transactions and service; optimizing the utilization of satellite data in planning future cities; develop advanced defense industries by developing national industries in the field of robotics and autonomous vehicle technologies.
The UAE Centennial 2071 is a long-term, full-vision plan to fortify the country’s reputation and soft power. The plan is focused on future generations, preparing them with the skills and knowledge they will require to face rapid changes and to make the UAE the best country in the world by the next centennial in 2071. This will only be possible with the robust application of AI technology across sectors. The UAE Centennial 2071 is based on four pillars as follows: Future-focused government, Excellent education, a diversified knowledge economy and happy and cohesive society.
The Dubai Future Agenda is also important, in this context. It represents an integrated plan for strengthening Dubai’s position across sectors based on three pillars: Individuals, Organizations and Sectors. The Individuals pillar aims to build individuals’ the capacities in shaping the future. The Organizations pillar will enable organizations to drive innovation within their sectors. The Sectors pillar aims to support and strengthen the role of future sectors of the national economy. The Dubai Future Agenda is the strategic framework of the Dubai Future Foundation, which is an independent research think tank based on the Dubai Future Agenda that facilitates numerous programs and initiatives such as: Dubai Future Accelerators which facilitates partnerships between entrepreneurs, private sector organizations and government entities to co-create future focused solutions; UAE Drones for Good and the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good; World’s first 3D printed office in Dubai; Global Blockchain Council, which includes 42 government entities and private companies; Future Partners, a network of global partners in the areas of innovation, research and development; Future Cities Program, which works in cooperation with government entities to launch specialized strategies and pilot projects to achieve global leadership for the UAE in innovation; The Museum of the Future.
2. Your Excellency,
It is well known that the leadership plays an important role in the development of the state. How does Your Excellency see this aspect reflected on the field of higher education, in the United Arab Emirates?
One of the UAE’s highest priorities has always been and continues to be education. As His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the United Arab Emirates noted, “The greatest use that can be made of wealth is to invest it in creating generations of educated and trained people.”
The UAE has focused on educating both men and women. In 1975, the rate of adult literacy was 54 percent among men and 31 percent among women. Today, literacy rates for both genders are close to 95 percent. The UAE’s commitment to education has helped the nation diversify its economy and prepared a new generation of young people ready to compete in the global marketplace. Education is a constitutional right of every citizen in the UAE and the government recognizes and supports the important role education plays in building a knowledge economy for the post-oil era.
In 2017, the Ministry of Education introduced the National Strategy for Higher Education 2030. The strategy sets out to build and achieve the highest scientific and professional education standards to serve the UAE’s future generations.
It also aims to prepare a generation of Emirati professionals to sustain growth in vital sectors such as knowledge, economy, entrepreneurship and the overall development of the UAE’s labor market.
The UAE Government set four main pillars to achieve this strategy: quality, efficiency, innovation and harmonization.
As far as higher education in the UAE is concerned, the UAE has established an excellent and diversified system of higher education in a very short period. United Arab Emirates University, founded in 1976, was the first university in the country. Since then, the UAE has witnessed an increase in the establishment of public and private higher educational institutes and a continuous improvement in qualitative performance of existing institutes. Over 100 universities both private and public exist throughout the UAE today.
UAE citizens can attend government institutions free of charge, and the UAE has one of the highest application participation rates in the world. Ninety-five percent of all girls and 80 percent of boys enrolled in the final year of secondary school apply for admission to a higher education institution. Notable UAE public universities include: UAE University, Zayed University (ZU), Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT).
Notable UAE private universities include: American Universities of Sharjah and Dubai, Sharjah University, Ajman University of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi University, with campuses in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, Al Hosn University, Khalifa University of Science and Technology.
When it comes to the global partnerships the UAE have established in the field of higher education, it is worth noting that a number of international universities have campuses and/or programs in the UAE. Notable Global Partnership Programmes in the UAE include: The Sorbonne, which opened its Abu Dhabi campus in 2006 and awards qualifications under French regulations and standards set by the Sorbonne in Paris; New York University (NYU) Abu Dhabi; Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, which is helping establish a public health doctoral program in the Emirates. Other US institutions include the University of Washington, Boston University and Rochester Institute of Technology.
3. Your Excellency,
Please introduce us to the atmosphere of EXPO 2020 DUBAI, this cradle of inventios and new technologies, by providing us with more details about the participants and about the promoted aspects.
Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, hosted in a city of the future, in one of the world’s most inclusive, ambitious and future-focused nations, in the year of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee.
‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ is the theme and the purpose of Expo 2020 Dubai, and is based on the belief that innovation and progress are the result of people and ideas coming together in inspiring new ways. The three subthemes of Expo 2020 Dubai are areas which the UAE sees as essential to building a better world for everyone. The first is represented by opportunity which highlights the idea of unlocking the potential for individuals and communities to shape the future. Mobility, the second subtheme, aims at creating more efficient and effective movement of people, goods and ideas, both physically and virtually. The third one is sustainability, which emphasizes the importance of respecting and living in balance with the world we inhabit.
Expo 2020 Dubai is the world in one place – a global experience dedicated to bringing people together, communities and nations to build bridges, inspire action and deliver real-life solutions to real-life challenges. Expo is all about innovation, collaboration and inspiration, and is the UAE’s commitment to building a cleaner, safer, healthier future for everyone.
Expo 2020 Dubai will gather more than 200 participants – including 191 countries, as well as multilateral organizations, businesses and educational establishments – for a visually striking and emotionally inspiring 182 days. Through Expo’s Programme for People and Planet, participants will explore solutions to fundamental global challenges such as climate change, equal access to education and healthcare, and bridging the digital divide.
Visitors from all over the planet are invited to join the making of a new world as they explore new frontiers, embrace the opportunities of tomorrow and discover life-changing innovations that can have meaningful, positive impacts on our planet and its people.
Expo Programmes include: Expo Live, Expo’s global innovation and partnership programme is backing 140 projects from 76 countries, each offering innovative solutions to pressing challenges, helping to improve people’s lives or preserve the planet; Expo’s Global Best Practice Programme spotlights 50 projects already providing impactful, sustainable solutions to some of our biggest challenges, with a commitment to expanding them across the globe; The Expo Education Programme is inviting students from high schools and UAE and international universities to join specially curated tours, gain hands-on skills, and shape their future careers by connecting with peers, industry leaders and global experts; The Expo School Programme is inspiring the younger generation by engaging with UAE schools and educators. During Expo 2020 Dubai it will offer students a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience via four bespoke school tours; Expo’s World Majlis will bring global thought-leaders together for the conversations that matter, in the traditional Emirati majlis setting.
The UAE has shown the world what is possible through its remarkable transformation and progress. Expo 2020 Dubai, coinciding with the UAE’s 50th anniversary in 2021, engages people in this journey, inspires the next generation, and, together, sparks innovations that will mark the start of another 50 years of purposeful progress, contributing to the nation’s continued prosperity and enabling growth in the region and beyond. More than 80 per cent of Expo’s infrastructure will live on in the future city of District 2020 – a model global community for the future that will use state-of-the-art innovation, science and sustainability to create a cleaner, safer, healthier environment to live and work. Expo 2020 Dubai is committed to building a meaningful, measurable long-term legacy that will set a benchmark for future World Expos.