Technology holds key to proactive governments

AI has the potential to transform various sectors and make governments more responsive to the needs of their citizens. [iStockphoto]

The future of global governance, spurred by revolutionary technological leaps, dominated talk during this year’s World Governments Summit (WGS) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

And multiple speakers, who included more than 25 world leaders, technology experts and representatives from world organisations, agreed that it was better to embrace technology and adapt it to individual needs, rather than shun it.

In the best weather the usually sun-blasted city had to offer, and in the plush Jumeirah neighbourhood, one of Dubai’s crown jewels that overlooks the Persian Gulf, speakers told of the immense opportunities afforded by technology such as artificial intelligence (AI).

AI stood out for its potential to transform various sectors and make governments more responsive to the needs of their citizens.

Technology, the more than 4,000 delegates were told during the 110 different sessions, could help improve access to health, education and other government services and enhance agriculture and transport.

The perfect example of transport efficiency was the planned roll-out of air taxis in Dubai by 2026, with an American-made prototype showcased during the event.

The summit’s chairperson and the UAE’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi started by highlighting the advancements in technology, noting that AI’s capability to learn had multiplied 1000 times in a year.

He described technology as “a path of progress” as he opened up the event on Monday, noting that AI would take up 70 per cent of tasks in various sectors.

“Our productivity as humans will exceed everything we imagined using this technology,” he said in his opening remarks, setting the tone for the summit themed ‘Shaping Future Governments”.

World Economic Forum founder and executive chairperson Klaus Schwab predicted the advent of a “humanocracy” that would result in more interactions courtesy of technological advancements.

“We are not speaking about the fourth industrialisation. We are speaking about the transition of humankind into a new era, which is characterised by the technological age; a new era where humankind will enjoy more opportunities and possibilities,” he said, calling on governments to invest in skills that will be relevant in the future.

His remarks hit home in Africa, with Presidents William Ruto and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame agreeing that the benefits of technology outweighed the risks.

During a plenary interview on Monday, Kagame urged the need for “qualified and specialised leadership”, with Dr Ruto highlighting Kenya’s successes in adopting new technologies, such as M-Pesa, which has revolutionised mobile banking and mobile money transfer worldwide.

“From our experience with innovation in Kenya, I would say that it is wise to be vigilant against adverse implications… yet this must never be a ground to stand in the way of solutions to humanity’s pressing needs,” the president said on Tuesday.

Various other speakers touted technology as a potential source for good, with International Finance Corporation Managing Director Makhtar Diop calling on African nations to build basic infrastructure that would aid AI adaptation.

“Going digital is a good way for addressing issues in Africa. Once things such as basic infrastructure are addressed, Africa can leap-frog technology and move forward,” said Diop.

Amid concerns over the potential threats by AI, technological experts would offer assurances, most of which pointed to the current limitations of the available technology.

“We haven’t seen this much world-changing, and I think the reason is that the current technology we have is like a black and white TV screen,” said OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, noting that “we have a long way to go.”

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