Qatar Center for Artificial Intelligence (QCAI)

Artificial Intelligence in Qatar

We now stand at the cusp of a major transformation in human technological advancement. Artificial Intelligence (AI), the grist of many works of science fiction, is fast becoming a reality. AI will usher in a brave new world where autonomous agents will begin to share the world with humans (1). These agents will learn by interacting with the environment and begin to operate independently. Robots are the most visible form of autonomous agents, but AI is much more than robotics. Modern AI applications are enabled by computer programs, fueled by Big Data and executed on massive computing infrastructure.
Contemporary societies, including Qatar, are already reaping the fruits of advancements in AI. From digital AI assistants, personalized recommendations from shopping websites, smart map navigation to machine-driven language translation services, AI is steadily permeating our daily lives.

Embracing AI

Qatar is a prosperous country endowed with rich natural resources and its inhabitants have fully embraced AI technology. More than 94% of the Qatari population use the Internet, one of the highest rates in the world, and thus have access to many AI applications (2). However fundamental questions emerge as AI-based decision-making systems begin replacing humans in crucial areas. Is it ethical to let an autonomous agent decide who should get a scarce organ transplant ? Who should be held liable if a self-driving car is involved in an fatal accident ? Should artificial sentient beings be given legal protection ? Modern AI is powered by data and societies are grappling to understand the “weaponization” of data. In fact the blockade of June 5th 2017 was catalyzed by a “data attack” on Qatar’s information infrastructure. Where should governments draw the line between the benefits of AI, privacy and the usage of data? The reliance of Qatar on a migrant labor force is likely to decrease as AI systems proliferate (3). Will the fall in population have a positive or negative impact on Qatar’s economy?

Shaping the future of AI

The Qatar government’s long-term objectives are embodied in the Qatar National Vision (QNV) 2030 development plan. Organized around four pillars: economic, social, human and environmental, the QNV lays down a thoughtful pathway for developing the country. AI can serve as a powerful technological enabler for all the pillars. For example, the economic pillar calls for the development of a “knowledge-based economy.” By investing in AI education and homegrown AI solutions, the effort to build the economy based on knowledge capital can be accelerated. Similarly developing an endogenous AI-based technology for promoting transportation efficiency can help reduce pollution and foster an environment-friendly development.

The industrial revolution completely changed the global balance of power and a select group of countries (where the industrial revolution began) enjoyed complete political, economic and geographic domination for over three hundred years. In 1700, China and India accounted for 45% of the world’s GDP. Lack of technological innovation and the loss of political autonomy due to imperialism reduced it to 5% by 1950 (4). A similar fate will be faced by societies who miss the AI revolution. It is imperative that Qatar not only be a consumer of AI but take steps to influence the evolution of AI technology.


The Qatar Center for Artificial Intelligence has the following goals to make Qatar an international hub of AI-led transformation:
  • Make the study of AI an integral part of the education curriculum at all levels
  • Attract top AI education, research and entrepreneurial talent to Qatar
  • Establish a research and policy center in Qatar to coordinate AI programs and initiatives
  • Incentivize local businesses and government entities to embrace organic homegrown AI solutions
  • Promote the use of AI in the developing world as part of an integrative solution to alleviate poverty and improve living-standards

The Qatar Center for Artificial Intelligence is to open in Fall, 2018.

  1. While data-driven AI has made a lot of progress there is not unanimous agreement about when (and not if) autonomous agents will become a reality. See Prof. Rodney Brooks for a view which is skeptical of the current hype in AI.
  2. World Bank (2016)
  3. QCRI developed an AI-based transcription service which was deployed at an international media outlet. This led to massive efficiencies and reduction in personnel who were carrying out the task manually.

Follow Us

  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS Feed
  • Linkedin
  • github-web.png
Back to Top

In the Media

Forbes fake news pic.jpg

Can AI Put An End To Fake News? Don't Be So Sure


Fake news was the Collin’s word of the year for 2017 with good reason. In a year where politics-as-usual was torn apart at the seams, high-profile scandals rocked our faith in humanity and the ...

Read More


MIT/QCRI system uses machine learning to build road maps


Map apps may have changed our world, but they still haven’t mapped all of it yet. Specifically, mapping roads can be difficult and tedious: even after taking aerial images, companies still have to ...

Read More

Economist story pic.JPG

Improving disaster response efforts through data


Extreme weather events put the most vulnerable communities at high risk. How can data analytics strengthen early warning systems and and support relief efforts for communities in need? The size and ...

Read More


Past Events


Eman interns pic 2017.jpg

QCRI Summer Internship Program

Download ICS File 06/05/2018  - 05/07/2018 , Hamad Bin Khalifa Research Complex

Each year, Qatar Computing Research Institute organizes a summer internship program for undergraduate students studying computer science, computer engineering and other disciplines. The internship is unpaid, and QCRI does not provide any visa support.

Read More


Public Talk by Prof. Regina Barzilay "Artificial Intelligence for Oncology: Learning to Cure Cancer from Images and Text"

Download ICS File 27/03/2018 ,

Artificial Intelligence for Oncology: Learning to Cure Cancer from Images and Text A talk by Professor Regina Barzilay, MIT CSAIL Winner of 2017 MacArthur ‘genius grant’ At Education City Student ...

Read More


QCRI & MIT-CSAIL Annual Project Review 2018

Download ICS File 27/03/2018 ,

Executive Overview Sessions Open to public Date:    Tuesday, March 27, 2018 Time:    9:00AM – 3:00PM Venue:  HBKU Research Complex Multipurpose Room To view full agenda, please click here . To RSVP, ...

Read More


Darb Al Saai QCRI 2017.JPG

QCRI to offer kids’ computing activities at this year’s Darb Al Saai


Tech fun and robotics computing activities will be available to children attending the annual family celebration from December 12 to 20.

Read More

Sofiane Abbar in his office.jpg

Global experts in artificial intelligence for transportation to visit Qatar for TASMU-QCAI workshop


Urban computing experts from Europe, the US and Qatar are to discuss state-of-the-art advances in artificial intelligence for transportation with local stakeholders.

Read More

Francisco Martin - Source_TelefonicaOpenFuture_.jpg

QCAI to Conduct Joint Machine Learning School with BigML


Two-day crash course to provide hands-on introduction to machine learning for industry practitioners, developers, graduate students and undergraduates.

Read More