Come back home

The UAE is launching Arabic AI software

An artificial intelligence group with links to Abu Dhabi’s ruling family has launched what it described as the world’s highest-quality Arabic AI software, as the United Arab Emirates pushes ahead with efforts to lead the Gulf’s adoption of generative AI. 

The large language model known as Jais is an open-source, bilingual model available for use by the world’s 400mn-plus Arabic speakers, built on a trove of Arabic and English-language data. 

The model, unveiled on Wednesday, is a collaboration between G42, an AI company chaired by the UAE’s national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al-Nahyan; Abu Dhabi’s Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI); and Cerebras, an AI company based in California. 

The launch comes as the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been buying up thousands of high-performance Nvidia chips needed for AI software amid a global rush to secure supplies to fuel AI development. The UAE previously developed an open-source large language model (LLM), known as Falcon, at the state-owned Technology Innovation Institute in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, using more than 300 Nvidia chips.

Earlier this year, Cerebras signed a $100mn deal to provide nine supercomputers to G42, one of the biggest contracts of its kind for a would-be rival to Nvidia. “The UAE has been a pioneer in this space (AI), we are ahead of the game, hopefully.

We see this as a global race,” said Andrew Jackson, chief executive of Inception, the AI applied research unit of G42, which is backed by private equity giant Silver Lake. “Most LLMs are English-focused. Arabic is one of the largest languages in the world. Why shouldn’t the Arabic-speaking community have an LLM?”

However, the Gulf states’ goal of leadership in AI has also raised concerns about potential misuse of the technology by the oil-rich states’ autocratic leaders.

The most advanced LLMs today, including GPT-4, which powers OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s PaLM behind its Bard chatbot, and Meta’s open-source model LLaMA, all have the ability to understand and generate text in Arabic.

However, G42’s Jackson said the Arabic element within existing models, which can work in up to 100 languages, was “heavily diluted”.