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This country-specific Q&A provides an overview of artificial intelligence laws and regulations applicable in the United Arab Emirates.

What is the legal definition of artificial intelligence in the UAE?

Although a formal legal description is absent at present, the UAE National Program for Artificial Intelligence Guide (referred to as the "Guide") clarifies that Merriam-Webster's interpretation of artificial intelligence ("AI") characterizes it as a "division of computer science focused on emulating intelligent actions in computers." The Guide further elaborates that AI encompasses an array of technologies that empower a machine or system to possess human-like abilities, encompassing comprehension, learning, action, and perception.

Has the UAE developed a national strategy for artificial intelligence?

In 2017, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) designated H.E. Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama as the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. Subsequently, in April 2019, the UAE Cabinet sanctioned the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence 2031 (referred to as the "National Strategy") with the objective of positioning the UAE as a global leader in artificial intelligence. To execute this strategy, the UAE established the Office of Artificial Intelligence.

The National Strategy encompasses eight primary aims:

  1. Establish a renowned status as a hub for artificial intelligence.
  2. Enhance the competitive strengths of the UAE in priority sectors through the application of AI.
  3. Foster a thriving ecosystem conducive to the growth of AI.
  4. Integrate AI into government services to enhance quality of life.
  5. Attract and train a skilled workforce for forthcoming AI-enabled job roles.
  6. Collaborate with leading research capabilities worldwide to synergize with target industries.
  7. Provide essential data and infrastructure to become a testing ground for AI innovations.
  8. Ensure robust governance and effective regulatory frameworks.

The National Strategy will prioritise its efforts in key industries like logistics, energy, and tourism, while also giving attention to the increasingly vital sectors of healthcare and cybersecurity.

Are there any civil and criminal liability rules in the UAE that may apply in case of damages caused by artificial intelligence systems?

Article 316 of the Civil Code stipulates that any individual overseeing items requiring special care to prevent potential harm or mechanical equipment is accountable for resulting damages, unless the harm was unavoidable. This provision could potentially apply to AI-driven devices like the Tally Inventory Robot employed by Carrefour. In cases of product defects, strict liability is imposed. However, determining responsibility for AI-related incidents proves intricate, as various parties, including algorithm programmers, funding entities, and employing companies, could be deemed liable. Joint and several liability, as per Article 291 of the Civil Code, might theoretically address this, but practically dividing damages caused by AI remains challenging, as differing levels of culpability are debated.

Regarding criminal liability, Chapter 2 of Federal Decree Law No. 31 of 2021 highlights the key elements of a crime, namely actus reus and mens reus. The Penal Code's Article 32 defines actus reus as a criminal act or omission criminalized by law, while Article 39 defines mens rea as intent or fault. AI usage itself isn't inherently criminal, necessitating the classification of various AI applications into potential criminal acts. For instance, configuring an algorithm for an automated car is legal, but configuring it to drive on the wrong side of the road is illegal. While intent and act align clearly in some instances, challenges arise when AI, which can now self-learn, veers outside preset parameters.

Similar to Tally's malfunction, establishing culpability for AI-caused damages in a car accident proves intricate, necessitating identification of both the criminal act and intent. AI itself cannot be held liable as it is mathematically coded data science, although it can self-learn. Evolving the concept of joint and several liability is required to encompass these evolving scenarios.

To read the full article, follow this link -> United Arab Emirates: Artificial Intelligence

Dominique Lecocq
Dominique Lecocq
Founder and Managing Partner
Logaina M Omer
Logaina M Omer