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Free Zones in Dubai: Accelerators for Artificial Intelligence in the Gulf

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Abstract

The government of Dubai is committed to advancing artificial intelligence (AI) innovation across the emirate and within the United Arab Emirates, where national strategies and economic policies aim to develop a technology-driven, knowledge economy. Since the 1980s, Dubai has implemented another economic strategy built—in large part—upon a free zone-led development model. The January 2019 launch of the emirate’s 50-year charter demonstrates Dubai’s long-term commitment to free zone development. This chapter presents the first academic investigation of free zones as useful vehicles for the effective implementation of AI technologies. Using a multi-disciplinary, political economy approach, the author argues that AI and free zone-centric economic strategies need not proceed in parallel. Rather, better alignment between AI innovation and ongoing free zone developmental processes not only complements a range of economic policies, from diversification to coordination between emirates, but also maximizes the impact of AI services and applications by providing an amendable and sustainable environment for AI technologies. The chapter also addresses the social and political ramifications of efforts to better develop and employ AI technologies within free zones, and offers specific policy recommendations for better aligning AI innovation with free zone development.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-981-16-0771-4_8
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Notes

  1. 1.

    Figures based on author’s fieldwork and site visits in Dubai.

  2. 2.

    The following figures refer to registration numbers as of December 2017. The author remotely collected this data on 13 December 2017 from an employee of Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Centre, a program of Dubai Silicon Oasis.

  3. 3.

    Personal interview, partner at a consulting firm, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 9, 2018.

  4. 4.

    Leaked government cables suggested that Oman’s rebuff of a UAE offer to purchase a 50 per cent stake in the Salalah Free Zone stemmed from fears that the Emiratis would dump undesirable free zone clients into the zone.

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Correspondence to Robert Mogielnicki .

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Mogielnicki, R. (2021). Free Zones in Dubai: Accelerators for Artificial Intelligence in the Gulf. In: Azar, E., Haddad, A.N. (eds) Artificial Intelligence in the Gulf. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-0771-4_8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-0771-4_8

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore

  • Print ISBN: 978-981-16-0770-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-981-16-0771-4

  • eBook Packages: Economics and FinanceEconomics and Finance (R0)