AI Visionary And Innovation Leader Sumaya Al Hajeri Of The UAE AI Office May Be Exactly What This World Needs – Forbes

Sumaya Al Hajeri- Head of Governance and Data at the UAE AI Office
Women always are inspired or motivated by not only challenges but also by consternation. I keep teaching this to my fellow women colleagues, my team, and my children. I teach how to stand up and walk again after a fall.”
For my final interview with The 9 Inspirational Women Leaders In AI Shaping The 21st Century, I had the privilege of speaking with Sumaya Al Hajeri. She is an executive professional in the field of regulations for Technology, telecommunications, Outer Space, and the digital economy with 15 years of experience. She is heading the Governance and Data section at the Minister’s Office of AI, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Application. She was assigned the responsibilities of implementing the AI National Strategy by rolling out several policies and initiatives; the most notable are: Federal Law No (44) on the Establishment of the UAE Data Office and the Federal Law No (45) regarding the Personal Data Protection Law and the UAE Digital Economy Strategy.
Her unique and layered perspective on AI is something all women and girls considering a future in AI and tech need to hear.
Sumaya AlHajeri as a speaker
I identify myself as a professional in technology policies and regulations – in telecommunication, outer space, and AI – with 14 years of experience. I am currently the Head of Governance and Data at the Minister of AI Office within the Prime Minister’s Office and was able to head different policy functions across the different departments of the UAE government (AI, Outer Space, Telecommunication Competition, Radio Spectrum Planning, Defense). I was privileged to contribute to achieving several significant projects for the UAE government and guide leadership decisions through my interdisciplinary background. I influenced substantial national strategy and policy agenda, such as Federal Law on Personal Data Protection, Establishment of the UAE Data Office, Digital Economy Strategy, AI Strategy implementation, Outer-Space Policy, Federal Law Regulating Space Activities in the UAE and Digital Infrastructure.
I joined the UAE AI office in 2020 from the UAE Space Agency, where I headed the policy and data governance and was developing strategies and policies related to AI. Slowly the mandate of the Ministry of AI grew, and we started to handle more essential portfolios in the field of Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, which are all interconnected to AI.
At the same time, we were executing the UAE AI strategy, which is being implemented in three phases. The first phase was mainly making sure that the infrastructure was available: AI talent, Data, R&D activities, and the regulations. We ensured different initiatives for up-skilling and re-skilling talent, mainly in government. Then there’s the availability of diverse and high-quality data, and that’s the fuel of AI and R&D. All are governed by enabling regulation in the form of standards and incentives rather than enforcing constraining regulations, especially at the early stage of building a critical mass of AI businesses.
In the UAE, data governance was seen at an emirate level. In 2020, in the digital economy era and accelerated digital transformation, there was a need to harmonize federal data governance legislation. This is something that we’ve been working on for the past year. And we managed to finalize the project in only four months. It is the proudest achievement. I believe the success factor of such a project is the strategic conversation approach and consultation rounds with industry and concerned stakeholders. And being a woman is what we are good at; Women leaders lean towards a collaborative leadership style.
Now we’re looking forward to starting and kicking off the implementation of phase two, that’s, developing the business ecosystem, attracting more companies in AI, increasing the adoption rate in the government, and so on.
Sumaya Al Hajeri
I am a telecommunication engineer specializing in radio spectrum management who decided to do law at some point based on my line manager’s advice back then at the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority. The attendees and experts also inspired me at the international telecommunication union radiocommunication sector(a UN body specializing in radio and telecommunication topics). I saw many representatives from member states who are doing radio, but at the same time, they are certified lawyers. They were like combining both fields and both bits of knowledge and that’s important. This is why I decided to learn the law so that I understand my limitation as an engineer.
I was able even to facilitate the discussions whenever there were lawyers and engineers at the same table, and I was able to explain complex technical concepts to non-technical people, including economists.
I had space in mind from a very young age. Every kid dreams about space, and I was inspired by movies like Star Wars, science documentaries, and other TV shows like Bill Nye. I was also inspired by Arab astronauts like Prince Sultan bin Salman from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Arab scientists like Farouk Al Baze, one of the key scientists who helped NASA plan and identify the Moon landing location for Apollo 11.
Sumaya AlHajeri – UAE Embassy in Washington
I remember conducting this study as part of my academic role within the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government in Dubai. I studied for my second master’s degree related to public policy in science, technology, and innovation. In terms of women’s empowerment and women’s equality, it’s all about the culture, and leaders are the ones who drive culture. The UAE leadership recognizes the importance of women’s equality here in the UAE. Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak has been the driver behind the woman empowerment agenda in the UAE since the very early beginning of the UAE establishment. Society enabled women, and today women are enabling society!
We can see it even by numbers, like 77% of the Emirati women are enrolled in higher education after secondary school, which makes up to 70% of all the university graduates in the UAE. Also, the studies found that almost 50% of engineering graduates are women. Those numbers resonate with whatever I have been experiencing as an engineering student. It’s even exceeding the numbers in different other countries in Europe. Women occupy 66% of public sector jobs here in the UAE. So almost two-thirds of government jobs in the UAE are occupied by women. And 30% of the 66% are women handling leadership positions and decision-making roles. However, in the private sector, more efforts are needed to increase Emirati women’s participation in the workforce.
One crucial success factor of the high women’s participation in the public workforce is the women’s role models. The UAE female ministers handle extensive portfolios such as space, culture, food security, and the youth. And every little girl in school or woman in universities and the workforce would look up to them and see them as role models. And that’s what leadership is. And now, looking into the private sector, another study that I’ve been doing within my capacity as a researcher requires more effort to catch up with the public sector.
Now, what are the roadblocks? The only roadblock I see is not only in the UAE, but it’s a global roadblock: the blue washing of the woman empowerment implementation in the organization. And what is known as selective disclosure. So they disclose a different culture than the authentic culture, the truth that is happening within the organization, revealing that is not the truth of the organizational culture. And culture, as I said, it’s driven by leadership, so leaders are the ones who can eliminate all of this bluewashing and roadblocks.
They do give attention to enabling organizational woman networks as well. That’s an essential practice that has been seen in different organizations to create a woman network that they back up together to establish a voice of women and build leadership skills and help networking. This is where leadership also can recognize that network, the woman network in organizations, instead of having it there without giving it that much weight, they should understand that women make better leaders, not only because of being empathetic or a good listener or nurturing by nature so that they can enable teamwork and so on. But also, women have a very collaborative leadership style which makes them even better significant public policymakers.
One is AI ethics. Different driving forces redefined our ethics and ethical principles and values in ethics. And one of them you can see is from the various industrial revolutions. Each industrial revolution was a driving force that made humans re-think Ethical principles and redefine new ones. With the invention of the computers, the third industrial revolution was another strong driving force that changed our ethical principles. Now, Artificial Intelligence and the fourth industrial revolution embrace another more potent driving force to redefine our ethics. In addition, I would consider the pandemic as another driving force that reshaped our understanding or meaning of privacy. It’s mainly about balancing individualism and societal benefits in terms of privacy. How much I would like to share out of my privacy for the use of public societal benefit and security for my security. I believe the metaverse will bring a new driving force for a new set of ethics in the near future. And policymakers shall kick off the discussion on that aspect.
The second topic would be straightforward tasks and process routines. That’s what AI usually does, and this is where it’s best to work. I’ll be curious to see how much AI would grow in its overall intelligence.
I believe this will only be enabled by standardization. Instead of countries doing more of the constrained type of regulation, I would like to see more international standards to facilitate interoperability and international operation in making AI happen worldwide and reducing the gaps between nations. We have countries behind, while others are far away from the top. International standardization would be a perfect approach to reduce that gap. And then we have another method which is incentives. Incentives as part of regulation and policies to enable AI. We need to get to a world of international standards incentives instead of constraints.
Sumaya Al Hajeri’s experience of the recent past and her vision for the future is a mighty pairing to move AI forward over the years to come. The idea of a global standard for AI to open the opportunity for innovation to all nations is groundbreaking and genuinely visionary. Imagine if all countries with brilliant minds work within the same standards. Then we would see the true potential of AI and AI for Good.
Sumaya Al Hajeri
Sumaya Al Hajeri is a leader in the field of Technology, telecommunications and Outer Space regulations. She is currently heading the Governance and Data section at the Minister’s Office of AI, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Application. She was assigned the responsibilities of implementing the AI National Strategy by rolling out a number of policies, strategies and initiatives, the most notable are: the UAE Digital Economy Strategy, Federal Law No (44) on the Establishment of the UAE Data Office and the Federal Law No (45) regarding the Personal Data Protection Law. Moreover, she was the Head of Space Policies and Regulations at the UAE Space Agency. She contributed to achieving several projects, such as the UAE’s participation in the UN Committee of the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs, the Federal law No (12) of 2019 regarding the regulation of the UAE Space Sector and other related strategies and policies. Sumaya has several professional and academic contributions in the field of Competition regulations, competitiveness, Industry and Technology Cluster Policies, Smart Specialization Policies, Microeconomic Cluster Mapping tool, women in ICT as part of the ITU agenda, Women in Space as part of the UNOOSA agenda, increasing Emirati women participation in the workforce, Space Policies and Strategies.


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