“Our goal is to make the Disability Answer Desk a best-in-class support team for customers with disabilities and to use feedback to drive greater accessibility across our engineering teams,” says Sean Marihugh, an accessibility escalation engineer at Microsoft.
Technology has the power to strengthen opportunities for everyone, but it must be intuitive to have an impact. DAD gives customers the technical support they need while gathering critical feedback to improve the assistive features in products.
Each year, DAD experts field about 150,000 inquiries, assisting customers with products such as Office 365, Xbox, Windows and Skype, as well as third-party assistive technologies, such asscreen readers, screen magnifiers, and speech recognition software.
Microsoft has also established an Enterprise Disability Answer Desk, oreDAD, that supports enterprise customers. Available globally as a free service in English, eDAD also reports customer feedback to specific product teams so they can quickly resolve issues.
“With eDAD, we have the potential to empower people with disabilities to achieve more at work and school—and enable organizations to provide more accessible experiences to their employees and customers,” says Crystal Jones, alsoan accessibility escalation engineer at Microsoft.
Since introducing DAD in 2012, Microsoft has extended the service to customers in 11 English-speaking countries: the US, UK, South Africa, Ireland, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Australia, and India. The service has been rolled out to French– and Spanish-speaking countries, including France, Belgium, Canada, Mexico, and Spain.
With eDAD, we have the potential to empower people with disabilities to achieve more at work and school—and enable organizations to provide more accessible experiences to their employees and customers. —Crystal Jones
Over the years, Microsoft has gradually expanded the channels for accessing the service. DAD is available through 24/7 chat serviceand onTwitterby sending a direct message to @MSFTEnable.
DAD also hasAmerican Sign Language supportthrough videophone. People who are blind or have low vision can useBe My Eyes, a free app that connects customersthroughlive video calls.
In 2018, the team at the Microsoft Store in Jacksonville, FL, met a young lady that forever changed them. Her name is Molly, and she is a remarkable example of ingenuity, grit and gusto.
At the age of two, Molly’s parents learned that she was born with a neuro-developmental disorder called Rett Syndrome, a rare condition which, over time, has severely impacted her mobility and her ability to speak. But as Molly will be the first to tell you, the disorder has not impacted her interminable spirit or her intense desire to empower those around her.
With the support of her family, Molly found The Foundation Academy, a school that was able to accommodate her needs and has spent her academic career there.
Over the years, the Microsoft team has grown close to Molly and her mother, Robin. They’ve helped her with a number of projects, including one where she hacked the Xbox Adaptive Controller to make a dancing wheelchair. The team was happy to jump in to support her big ideas because it’s clear when you meet Molly that she is going to do great things for the world.
Last week, we had the honor of watching Molly give her Valedictorian speech at her graduation from The Foundation Academy. She has blossomed into a curious developer, eager to pursue a career in computer science and engineering, so she can one day develop new technologies to empower herself and others like her.
But the story doesn’t end there because, after all, graduation is just the beginning of a lifetime of learning and potential.
Our graduation caps are off to you, Molly, your family and the team at The Foundation Academy!
Share your story or a story about another Changemaker in education, submit here through the Microsoft Education blog.
To discover everything Microsoft has to offer and how we can work with you, please visit your local Microsoft Store.
Last month, Xbox and ELEAGUE announced the “ELEAGUE Gears Summer Series: The Bonds and Betrayals of Brotherhood” – a six-part event series focused on the stories and players behind the world of Gears Esports. During our special E3 Edition of Inside Xbox on June 10, we teased the show with a two-minute trailer. If this left you wanting more, you’re in luck! The first episode will debut on TBS tomorrow, Friday, June 14, at 11 pm ET/8 apm PT.
With one-hour long episodes, the series will provide an unprecedented look into the uniquely passionate world of Gears Esports through the lens of six of the most well-known professional players, including Gilbert ‘Xplosive’ Rojo and Danny ‘Identivez’ Santillana. The six episodes will explore each player’s intense connection to the game and each other as they navigate to become the best players in the world on Gears 5 Escalation 2.0, the mode designed specifically for Gears Esports.
In addition to the TBS episodes, ELEAGUE will host Gears 5’s first-ever esports tournament, with new Versus gameplay, from July 13-14 (Saturday to Sunday), live on Twitch and the premium live sports streaming service B/R Live. The ELEAGUE Gears Summer Series tournament will feature eight of the world’s top teams – many of which will star in the TBS series – competing live within ELEAGUE Arena at Turner Studios in Atlanta. The final two episodes of the TBS programming will showcase the most exciting moments from the live tournament.
KelechukwuIruoma and Ruth Olorounbi comprise a team investigating the toxic effects of oil spillage in Ogoniland, Nigeria, which has led to poisoned farmlands and compromised reproductive health. An estimated 13 million barrels of oil have been spilled since 1958: This makes an annual average 240,000 barrels of crude in the Niger delta, destroying the local livelihood and the very population’s survival. An award-winning investigative freelance journalist, Iruoma covers environment, education, agriculture and health in Nigeria. He is a reporting fellow of ICFJ and International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), and has been trained by the organizations as Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) and Global Rights Nigeria.
His reporting partner Olurounbi is the business editor at Per Second News, a U.S.-based organization. The Wole Soyinka Female Leadership and ICIR fellow has covered development and human right issues, business, and agriculture for more than 10 years. When she’s not writing, the award-winning journalist mentors young girls in her local community.
The second project is one man’s cultural retrospective on a country’s re-emergence to a superpower and tourist destination.Philip Cunningham’s story will take him across the globe, about 7,000 miles from his New York base to Beijing. A seasoned broadcast reporter, producer and documentary filmmaker who started as a Chinese history researcher and tour guide in China, he has worked with outlets like PBS, ABC, NBC, BBC, NHK and CCTV and has witnessed key events like the 1989 Tiananmen uprising, the 1999 anti-U.S. demonstrations, and the 2008 Olympics. His goal is to create an immersive travel odyssey of Beijing across time and space that’s at once personal and political, cultural and historical. In addition to plumbing his photo and video archive, a past Nieman Fellow and Fulbright scholar, Cunningham plans to revisit key locations — some of which have changed beyond recognition. Since his first visit in 1983, not only has China changed radically, but so has journalism and the toolkits for a documentarian. A student’s retelling of one of his own stories inspired Cunningham to explore how the latest technologies might enrich the age-old art of storytelling.
Two very different stories, both told and amplified through immersive storytelling.
Supporting these three journalists has been part of our larger effort to help newsrooms and journalists deliver impactful stories and empower them through technology to find, create, and share information in unprecedented ways. We operate on the industry and individual level: be it hosting workshops at NICAR in southern California and the upcoming GEN Summit in Athens, working directly with newsrooms like the AP or Recode or assisting individuals like our ICFJ grant recipients, our goal is help journalism in what is our shared values: the pursuit of truth so that people and communities can make the best decisions in their daily lives to guide their future sustainability.
We look forward to sharing stories on what the ICFJ grantees are learning and how they are affecting change in these communities. Please visit ICFJ to see and support all the tremendous projects it is undertaking–and while you’re at it, wish the center a happy 35th anniversary.
This project will result in 17 new buildings; 6.7 million square feet of renovated workspace; and $150 million in transportation infrastructure improvements, public spaces, sports fields and green spaces.The new campus will be a modern workspace that fosters a sense of community.
Click through the images below to look at how the campus has changed over the years.
Breaking ground, then: In 1985, Microsoft moved its headquarters from Bellevue, Washington, to nearby Redmond. The original campus included six buildings constructed on its wooded, 30-acre setting.
Breaking ground, now: Demolition begins in January 2019, as Microsoft modernizes its headquarters. Thirteen buildings will be decommissioned using sustainable practices.
Changing office space, then: an employee at work in 1989.
Changing office space, now: Treehouses are part of a larger redesign that gives people the chance to work outside.
Life on campus, then: a soccer match in 1996.
Life on campus, now: In addition to a soccer field for recreation, the Commons, which was completed in 2009, is a place where employees can shop and eat.
Dining options, then: meal prep in 1999.
Dining options, now: Microsoft now has more than a dozen places to eat on campus.
An evolving design, then: Microsoft’s original 1980s-era, X-shaped buildings.
An evolving design, now: a view of Microsoft’s future campus.
The Hack is back! Hack the Classroom will be streaming live on the Microsoft Education Facebook channel from ISTE in Philadelphia–Tuesday, June 25th from 6:15 p.m. to 7:10 p.m. EST! After the Facebook event, we’ll be switching over to Twitter around 7:10 p.m. EST for a live Q&A with our presenters and studio audience.
RSVP & join us Tuesday, June 25th from 6:15–7:10 p.m. EST on Facebook here. Please note: the livestream will kick-off from our Microsoft Education page, but we will add a direct link to the livestream on the event page as soon as we are streaming live on Tuesday, June 25th.
Join us on the @MicrosoftEDU Twitter channel and ask our speakers your questions immediately after the Facebook livestream.
What’s it all about?
Hack the Classroom is a live, digital event devoted to changemakers in education and the passionate innovators driving student-centered learning. Join us and learn from educators who are integrating technology in order to better connect with and support students as they become active and engaged learners. These determined educators will generously share their techniques and philosophies for creating better student outcomes so that you can apply them in your own classroom the very next week! These events are interactive, so join, ask questions, share and connect with educators from all over the world. You can check out past events and see last year’s Hack the Classroom live from ISTE here.
Who’s in the live event this time?
This Hack the Classroom will focus on student-centered learning and how supporting students’ social and emotional well-being can improve all aspects of learning. During the live event, we’ll debut our next Changemaker story about Microsoft Innovative Educator, Samantha Skubal from Chicago, Illinois.
We will also be sharing stories from superstar students and teachers from the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, who’ll share how they’ve embraced our free Hacking STEM lessons in their classrooms.
Tune in to see:
Jessica Tozzi, I Promise School(Ohio, US), share how her school is empowering students through a focus on social-emotional learning.
Samantha Skubal, Sterling Morton District (Illinois, US), show how she is providing real-world, future-ready experiences through their Technology Internship Program.
Luis Oliveira, Middletown H.S. (Rhode Island, US), demonstrate how he is supporting autonomous learning for English Language Learners through Immersive Reader and Flipgrid.
Today’s special E3 edition of Inside Xbox was chock-full of world premiere trailers, developer interviews, exclusive gameplay and general celebration of all things gaming and E3.
We delved deep into the hectic, strategic and violent new game mode for Gears 5, Escape, with Rod Fergusson and showcased the fast and fluid 4v4 competitive gameplay of Ninja Theory’s brand new IP, Bleeding Edge. We welcomed Phil Spencer to the stage to discuss Team Xbox’s vision for gaming, plumbed the depths of Halo Infinite’s moving new trailer with Chris Lee, got details on the incredible partnership with Smilegate to bring Crossfire X to Xbox One, and gave a hearty welcome to Double Fine’s Tim Schafer, the newest member of the Xbox Game Studios Family.
Also highlighted on stage were Sea of Thieves, including their brand new Halo-themed livery – available now until June 15 at 4:00 pm PT – Watch Dogs: Legion, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, State of Decay 2’s new story-focused expansion Heartland (Trumbull Valley lives!), and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, along with world premiere trailers for The Surge 2, Code Vein, Age of Wonders: Planetfall, Zombie Army 4, Journey to the Savage Planet, and Phoenix Point.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Inside Xbox if it didn’t break some news along the way.
Inside Xbox revealed the final wave of backward compatibility announcements for Xbox One, as the engineering team that brought one of the most beloved Xbox One features to life moves on to ensure your Xbox One library is backward compatible on Project Scarlett.
The team announced eight new original Xbox game entries into the backward compatibility catalogue: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict, Armed and Dangerous, Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb, and Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy.
The newly announced Xbox 360 backward compatibility titles are Asura’s Wrath, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, Enchanted Arms, Far Cry Classic, Far Cry Instinct Predator, Infinite Discovery, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Movie of the Game, Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands, Skate, Star Ocean, Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo, The Syndicate, Unreal Tournament 3, and Too Human, which is available right now for free in the Microsoft Store.
Finally, eight Rare classics have received the Xbox One X Enhanced treatment: Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Kameo: Elements of Power, Perfect Dark and Perfect Dark Zero.
The team also announced some exciting new updates coming to Gamertags! First, you’ll now be able to use character scripts to represent over 200 languages, with even more support coming in the future. This means you can use characters native to your own language in your Gamertag.
You’ll also be able to now select any name you like for your Gamertag. If someone else has selected the same Gamertag, you’ll be assigned a 3-4 digit ID suffix separate you from those that have chosen the same Gamertag.
Finally, if you like your current Gamertag, nothing changes. Yours will always be the original version of that Gamertag and will not include a numerical suffix. For all the details on the coming updates to Gamertags, check out the blog post here.
Phil Spencer announced the return of our global celebration of all things Xbox, with X019 slated for November 2019 in London. The event will be filled with news, first looks and plenty of surprises, all kicking off with the biggest Inside Xbox episode of the year. Thousands of fans will join in person, and we’ll have more details on how to participate in X019 at gamescom in August.
Inside Xbox may be done, but the there’s plenty more left in store during E3 week. Keep your eyes peeled on Mixer.com/Mixer for wall-to-wall E3 coverage throughout the week, and don’t forget to check out the full episode of Inside Xbox.
2019 release wave 2 plan, AI Builder, updated AI capabilities, and a new look for Power BI, PowerApps Portals, and enhancements for Microsoft Flow all coming this year.
Today, I had the opportunity to join more than 4,500 members of our community at the Microsoft Business Applications Summit (MBAS) in Atlanta. MBAS is a special event for us because it’s our chance to connect in person with the makers, thinkers, and developers that make up our community.
This is also a moment when we get to showcase some of the amazing work our customers are doing. We’re thrilled to have so many customers join us in Atlanta this year, including G&J Pepsi and Grant Thornton, who joined me onstage during the opening keynote.
Second—we’re announcing important Power Platform advancements.
Earlier this year I outlined our vision for the Power Platform. Along with Satya and the rest of the leadership team, I am bullish and enthusiastic for all things Power Platform. But what I appreciate most is the work of our community and what they DO with the Power Platform.
Today, we are giving our community more tools so they can take full advantage of what the Power Platform has to offer. On behalf of the entire team, I am incredibly proud to announce the following:
AI Builder and PowerApps Portals—two brand new capabilities
Accelerating intelligent automation in Microsoft Flow with built-in AI
Updated AI capabilities and an exciting new look for Power BI
This is a great time to be innovating with Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform, and I love being on this journey with you all. Please find more information below about today’s news along with details for how customers and partners like G&J Pepsi are already taking advantage of this work.
Introducing AI Builder
Today, we’re excited to announce AI Builder, the no-code AI capability on the Power Platform supporting PowerApps and Flow.
AI Builder enables everyone to leverage AI and machine learning to make their apps and automations more intelligent. It takes common AI scenarios and provides point-and-click solutions for app makers to solve everyday tasks like forms processing, object detection, and text and binary classification.
PowerApps already enables employees to easily create applications for your business. AI Builder now provides a way for app makers—professional and citizen developers alike—to add AI capabilities to those apps.
The potential uses for AI Builder span industries and scenarios for banking, hospitality, manufacturing, and more. For example, an organization may want to improve customer service so they can use AI to analyze customer feedback responses, map them into categories, and generate an AI model to classify and respond to customer feedback as it’s received.
G&J Pepsi, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, has more than 1,600 employees focused on manufacturing, distributing, and marketing the full line of Pepsi-Cola products. The G&J Pepsi IT team used AI Builder and PowerApps to create the next generation of their Store Audit App, enabling better mobility and efficiency for field personnel whose job is to assess product needs on the shelves in stores.
“With AI Builder, we were able to easily build an AI model to help automatically identify and track our products using the object detection model. For our field worker, it’s now as simple as taking a photo and letting AI builder do the rest.” – Eric McKinney, Enterprise Business Systems Manager at G&J Pepsi.
Delivering intelligence in Microsoft Flow
The no-code AI Builder capability is also coming to Microsoft Flow. Flow provides a powerful visual experience for a range of users to build everything from personal automation to business-critical enterprise-wide processes. With AI Builder, we are now making it easier for users and organizations to optimize these processes with intelligence without having advanced knowledge of how AI works.
For example, Flow makers can now extract meaningful data from images and text that can drive logic in their processes. Today, many processes involve paper forms such as a rental or job application. Historically, the first step in processing these forms would be to have someone look at the paper and manually type in each of the fields on their PC.
Now with AI Builder and Microsoft Flow, flows can automatically pick up scanned documents from an incoming email or a file server and recognize all the content. Based on the values in the form, different steps can run—from sending out simple notifications to performing a credit check.
Beyond parsing content in documents, AI Builder can also learn based on historical performance. For example, it can predict the risk of an application and, depending on how high that risk is, add additional approval actions to a business process. All of this is possible for Flow makers without having any expertise or experience with AI by leveraging guided, point-and-click experiences.
Leveraging blockchain in PowerApps and Microsoft Flow
Blockchain can bring trust and transparency to business processes that span multiple business partners. Using blockchain is easier than ever with the ability to write low-code applications using the Power Platform and Azure Blockchain Service.
Applications built on blockchain using PowerApps and Microsoft Flow can easily create attestable workflows that bring together data from every point in the business process across the value chain. For mobile clients, PowerApps enables developers to effortlessly capture all of the information from the phone’s sensors (barcodes, photos, GPS coordinates, etc.) and send it to a smart contract on a blockchain. Using connectors for popular enterprise blockchains in Microsoft Flow, you can easily integrate blockchain with popular SaaS, legacy enterprise systems, web and messaging services, and different types of data technologies.
Some industry examples that leverage the power of blockchain and the Power Platform include:
Multi-party supply chain: Building applications and workflows that provide irrefutable proof of delivery of shipments to manage shrinkage risk between point-of-manufacturing and point-of-sales.
Food safety: Users can get real time insights when goods that can be impacted by temperature and humidity are in transit. Blockchain can provide real time insight with trustworthy data that can help avoid costly public health issues, streamline return processes, and dispute resolution.
Attest genuine media: Many industries have a need to ensure that documents have not been tampered with. Build applications that can attest and/or validate that media is genuine with PowerApps and Flow.
Announcing PowerApps Portals
PowerApps can now reach users external to an organization with PowerApps Portals, coming soon to public preview.
PowerApps customers can now create websites that can be accessed by external users with a wide variety of identities including personal accounts, LinkedIn, and other Azure Active Directory organizations, and enable anonymous access to content. Portals works exclusively over data in the Common Data Service and customers benefit from its robust security and advanced capabilities for modelling business processes, which now includes low-code AI with the release of AI Builder.
PowerApps Portals also comes with a reimagined maker experience, embracing the core PowerApps principle of low-code productivity for everyone. With these new capabilities, app makers can create a website from scratch using pre-built templates, and then customize the layout and content using components like forms, views, and dashboards.
Portals capability was previously only available as an add-on to Dynamics 365 and is used extensively by customers including the University of Canterbury, Internet Initiative Japan, and Wineshipping to serve millions of users for scenarios like partner management, customer support, community feedback, employee benefits, and more. With this release, we’re enabling the creation of a custom portal directly from PowerApps.com using the Common Data Service, which will open new categories of use cases.
New AI capabilities in Power BI
Power BI is a popular tool that millions of users trust for exploring data. More than 25 million models are hosted in the Power BI service, more than 12 million queries are processed each hour, and more than 20 petabytes of data are ingested into the Power BI service each month.
Today, we’re excited to announce new Power BI AI capabilities, and more.
Power BI has been a pioneer in applying AI to business intelligence and making AI accessible to everyone. We recently previewed several new AI capabilities that enable users to detect objects in images, analyze free-form text, build new machine learning models, and automatically understand what drives outcomes, all with point-and-click simplicity.
We have important updates to Power BI AI capabilities:
Text and image analytics in Power BI powered by Azure Cognitive Services, and the ability to invoke Azure ML models are both now generally available.
We’re announcing two new AI visuals: Distribution Changes analyzes what makes a distribution look different, and the Decomposition Tree enables users to drill into any dimension to understand what is driving a key metric.
We are expanding Power BI’s vision and text analytics capabilities and adding entity detection and text and handwriting recognition, enabling one-click transformations for insights on unstructured data.
For enterprises that need custom lifecycle management or further tuning, models created in Power BI can be exported to Azure ML.
And finally, we are extending Power BI’s natural language capabilities. The new updates include the ability to train Q&A so it understands and adapts to company-specific language like synonyms, phrasings, or specific domains, and the ability for report authors to see every natural-language question asked so they can make adjustments to how Power BI responds.
Kinepolis is a cinema group operating 53 complexes throughout Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Poland, as well as 44 cinemas in Canada. The company uses Power BI AI capabilities to understand how they can improve their visitor experience by analyzing the sentiment of customer reviews and tweets.
“Kinepolis serves visitors in and from many countries, who vocalize their opinion through various channels. With text analytics in Power BI, we are able to structure and analyze all this feedback. It allows us to score the sentiment of our visitor reviews without investing in the data science behind it.” – Carlo Wambeke, technical lead BI at Kinepolis.
Welcoming a new look for Power BI
In addition to the updates above, we’re also releasing a new look for Power BI, so it’s more closely aligned to the experiences in Office 365 already familiar to users around the world. The new user interface makes it easier than ever to create reports, explore data, get answers, and make decisions without having to learn specialized skills.
We’re also making users more productive through new features like report commenting which allows people to collaborate on their data, and Siri shortcuts for our iOS mobile app, simplifying how users find data.
New capabilities for a unified enterprise business intelligence platform
Organizations can now move to one modern, compliant platform as the single destination for business analytics with key enterprise-facing updates on enterprise-grade semantic models and reporting at worldwide scale. Paginated reports, available for over a decade in SQL Server and a staple of corporate reporting solutions, are generally available in Power BI this month, enabling pixel-perfect formatting and advanced export options. Additionally, organizations can encourage reuse and create a single source of truth with certified datasets, now available in preview. With future capabilities for data lineage, administrators can understand usage and plan changes.
For more information on today’s news, please refer to the following blogs:
A report commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by EY says the UAE has seen the second highest AI investment over the past decade, more than USD $2.15 billion
One in five companies in the country consider AI as their top digital priority
94% of C-suite leadership consider ‘AI strategy’ as an important topic and 35% of non-managerial staff are actively having AI discussions
June 10, 2019 – Dubai, UAE: New research shows the state of AI within businesses across the UAE is expected to improve dramatically over the next three years, particularly as a growing number of executives look to AI to drive their digital agendas.
Already, 18% of businesses in the country consider AI their most important digital priority. This is according to the AI Maturity Report in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) Click here – a new study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by EY.
Much of the UAE’s progress in elevating the AI agenda is a direct result of leaders across the country recognising that the technology is quickly becoming a key differentiator across all sectors and actively pursuing their AI agendas accordingly.
In fact, 94% of companies in the UAE report involvement in AI at executive management level – the highest percentage of any surveyed country in MEA.
“When we examine companies with high AI maturity, it’s clear that the technology is driven directly by the CEOs themselves. This high level of involvement typically results in greater investment in AI, broader adopti on and a greater number of successful implementations,” says Sayed Hashish, regional general manager at Microsoft Gulf.
Leadership capability in the UAE is also rated high when compared with other countries in MEA. While 64% of respondents believe they have moderate, little or no AI leadership competency, 24% of executives in the UAE rated themselves as highly competent, with another 46 percent indicating they are either competent or very competent.
Most companies still consider themselves to be in the planned phase of AI maturity, meaning AI has not yet been put to active use. On the opposite end of the spectrum, just 8% of businesses perceive themselves as advanced in their application of AI.
A top regional investor
It’s not surprising that the UAE is the second highest regional investor in AI over the past ten years, investing $2.15 billion in total. The bulk of this investment went towards social media and Internet of Things (IoT) transactions. This was followed by notable spend across a further eight technologies, including smart mobile, gamification, and machine learning.
In fact, respondents ranked machine learning as the most useful AI technology, with primary emphasis placed on decision support solutions. This was followed by smart robotics and text analysis, where customer interactions were the key focus.
A healthy attitude towards new technology
The UAE’s open culture around AI is another highly positive indicator of the health of the technology within the country. 94% of UAE companies have ‘AI Strategy’ as an important topic at C-suite level and a significant 35% of companies say AI discussions are filtering down from top management right the way through to non-managerial levels.
As a result, employees in the UAE are less afraid of losing their jobs to AI than employees in other countries. In fact, they embrace opportunities to participate in skills training and pilot programmes.
Building a solid foundation for AI
Though UAE executives are providing clear direction for the development of AI within the country, converting this vision to actionable output remains a challenge. This is largely because many UAE companies are still building the foundations needed to develop AI maturity, including suitable infrastructure and good quality data.
“The biggest problem to date with AI is that it isn’t always right – AI has given us the ability to make data-driven predictions, decisions and actions faster than ever before, but it is only as effective as the data and algorithms it relies on,” says Steve Plimsoll, MENA Data & Intelligence advisory leader, EY. “So, while it’s great to see local companies investing in adoption of AI, the focus must be on building trust – that the underlying data and algorithms are reliable, the models ethical and the predictions are measurable and as accurate as they can be. Without trust, AI will be never fully move from fiction into reality.”
“Executives across the UAE are already investing significantly in the training and education of their employees. At the same time, businesses are engaging with external parties to promote skills transfer and making a concerted effort to identify relevant use cases for AI,” continues Microsoft’s Hashish. “In the past, organisations have undervalued the importance of their data assets, meaning their competencies around structured data governance and data stewardship are still developing. And it will take time for businesses to start producing large volumes of high quality, well-managed data.
“The country has made significant progress in elevating its AI agenda over the past three years, and all indicators point to the near future bringing significant improvement in the application of the technology as well.”
Customers a key focus
UAE companies are, in general, heavily focused on customer engagement when it comes to AI. The use of chatbots in the marketing space has become common, largely because they enhance the customer experience, ultimately demonstrating obvious value to management.
As with most other businesses across the region, UAE respondents expect AI to deliver greater operational efficiencies, drive down costs and, most importantly, enable them to be more competitive. Specifically, companies within the Emirates view prediction (76%) and automation (76%) as the most relevant applications of AI for their businesses.
Despite such challenges, 65% of UAE companies rate themselves as highly to very competent when it comes to drawing on external alliances to strengthen their AI capabilities. Ultimately, this enables executives to kick-start AI programmes, leveraging external competencies while growing their internal capacity.
To download the full report on the UAE’s AI outlook, click here