WEF futures gathering closes with new initiatives from UAE government

Updated 12 November 2017
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WEF futures gathering closes with new initiatives from UAE government

DUBAI: The World Economic Forum (WEF) wound up its two-day brainstorming session on future policy with commitments to new initiatives in technology, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) by the government of the UAE.
The annual meeting of 700 thought-leaders from the WEF’s global future councils was formally closed by Mohammed Al-Gergawi, UAE minister for Cabinet affairs and the future, who announced a plan to develop a center for future readiness, and a global framework to assess progress toward it.
He also unveiled plans to create new positions as “future ambassadors” for the UAE, and to work towards global protocols for artificial intelligence and the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” — the WEF’s term for the rapid technological transformation of society and economies.
“This meeting is a key performance indicator for governments in the world. The commitment to the future continues to grow in momentum. A human-centric strategy, ministerial council and governance framework are now in place,” Al-Gergawi said.
He added that the Global Futures Councils would meet again to assess progress and decide on other initiatives next November. The WEF council on AI and robotics agreed to act as an adviser to the UAE’s new ministry for artificial intelligence.
The meeting also heard that young people in the Middle East expect a “massive disruption” to their lives and work patterns from changes in technology, but that many feel comfortable with living and working in an environment where robots exist alongside humans, according to a WEF survey.
The WEF polled 1,600 people between the ages of 18 and 35 in the summer, and found that 58 percent of them in the Middle East and North Africa expect to experience significant changes to their jobs and careers as a result of technological change, while 52 percent believe that studying and learning will be similarly affected. But 23 percent said they would trust a decision made by a robot on their behalf.
In the same survey, 24 percent of respondents said that they had shared a news article on the Internet or social media that they later learned was fake, with a further 17 percent admitting that they probably had done so without realizing it.
The gathering was told that the world’s cities have to become more active in influencing climate change policy, because they are responsible for 75 percent of global carbon emissions.
“Shanghai, Dhaka, Karachi, Hong Kong and Miami are literally going under water,” said Robert Muggah, research director of the Igarapé Institute, Brazil.
By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will be urbanized. Tokyo’s GDP is already greater than that of Russia, South Korea or Canada.
“If we get our cities right, we just might achieve the 2030 sustainable development goals and we may limp through the 21st century, but if we get our cities wrong — we’re doomed,” he added.
“Global decision-making remains dominated by nation states. It’s time to offer the cities a place at the negotiating table. Cities also need greater freedom to solve their own problems by focusing on becoming greener and smarter,” said Muggah.
Jean Marie Guehenno, chief executive of Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said that cities are becoming more fragile, and urban violence is on the rise in many parts of the world.
Regional rivalries in the Middle East and Asia have become more pressing. “A function of the retreat of the US is that all countries feel more on their own,” he added, warning that this rising violence, along with unprecedented levels of forced migration, were posing major risks to developing countries.


Bahrain to use Huawei in 5G rollout despite US warnings

Updated 26 March 2019
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Bahrain to use Huawei in 5G rollout despite US warnings

  • Washington has warned countries against using Chinese technology
  • ‘We have no concern at this stage as long as this technology is meeting our standards’

DUBAI: Bahrain plans to roll out a commercial 5G mobile network by June, partly using Huawei technology despite the United States’ concerns the Chinese telecom giant’s equipment could be used for spying.
Washington has warned countries against using Chinese technology, saying Huawei could be used by Beijing to spy on the West. China and Huawei have strongly rejected the allegations.
VIVA Bahrain, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian state-controlled telecoms firm STC, last month signed an agreement to use Huawei products in its 5G network, one of several Gulf telecoms companies working with the Chinese company.
“We have no concern at this stage as long as this technology is meeting our standards,” Bahrain’s Telecommunications Minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed told Reuters on Tuesday when asked about US concerns over Huawei technology.
A senior State Department official said the US routinely urges allies and partners to consider the risks posed by vendors subject to extrajudicial or unchecked compulsion by foreign states.
The US Fifth Fleet uses its base in Bahrain, a Western-allied island state off the Saudi coast, to patrol several important shipping lanes, including near Iran.
Bahrain expects to be one of the first countries to make 5G available nationwide, Mohammed said, although he cautioned it would depend on handset and equipment availability.
Early movers like the United States, China, Japan and South Korea are just starting to roll out their 5G networks, but other regions, such as Europe, are still years away and the first 5G phones are only likely to be released in the second half of this year.
Bahrain’s state-controlled operator Batelco is working with Sweden’s Ericsson on its 5G network, while the country’s third telecoms group Zain Bahrain is yet to announce a technology provider.
No foreign company is restricted by the government from providing equipment for Bahrain’s 5G network, Mohammed said, adding mobile operators choose who they work with.
Australia and New Zealand have stopped operators using Huawei equipment in their networks but the European Union is expected to ignore US calls to ban the Chinese company, instead urging countries to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks.
Mohammed said the rollout of the 5G network was an “important milestone” for Bahrain, which is hoping investments in technology will help spur its economy, which was hit hard by a recent drop in oil prices.
“It is something we are proud to have,” he said.