Egypt has made great strides in implementing its national strategy on artificial intelligence (AI) that will be used in the country’s digital transformation, according to Amr Talaat, Minister of Communications and Information Technology.
Talaat pointed out that an ambitious programme for capacity-building has been launched with the aim of providing knowledge of artificial intelligence to all segments of society. As part of this, a comprehensive programme will be launched to educate all government employees on the uses of AI, to make government operations more efficient and transparent.
The minister’s remarks came during a speech at the recent opening session of the Arab regional consultative meeting, held via video link. The meeting, organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), took place to discuss the draft text of UNESCO recommendations on the ethics of artificial intelligence for Arab countries. The two-day event was hosted by Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
He added that an Applied Innovation Center has been established to implement a number of AI-related projects, including machine translation, the early detection of diabetic retinopathy, and the accurate calculation of irrigation water needed for agriculture. These projects were selected for presentation at the upcoming 2020 Paris Peace Forum in November.
Talaat explained that Egypt is undertaking efforts to optimise use of AI technology, having established the National Council for Artificial Intelligence. The council has been placed in charge of supervising the implementation of the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence across all sectors. The move comes in addition to issuing a law on protecting personal data and governing the relationship between data owners and users.
The minister commended UNESCO’s efforts in seeking common ground between various stakeholders to agree on the ethical principles of AI. He noted that the cultural organisation had done so by involving all regions on an equal footing in deliberations, and by forming an international team of experts.
The text of UNESCO’s recommendations on the ethics of AI was prepared by a team of 24 experts and leaders in the field, who were appointed by UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, earlier this year. This was done in line with a decision by the 40th General Conference of UNESCO last November, in which it was recommended the text be presented to the various stakeholders for their opinions. The text will be submitted to UNESCO Member States at regional consultative meetings for approval during the next year.
The consultative meeting is the only one of its kind to be held in the Arab region, and includes 30 participants from across the Arab region representing different sectors and fields. They include representatives from government, the private sector, media, scientific research, arts, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It provides opportunities to share and exchange experiences in addressing the ethical issues of artificial intelligence in the Arab region.
Egypt was chosen as a member of the advisory working group tasked with discussing the preparation of an international technical document on the ethics of artificial intelligence.