Dubai: – Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be the key to eradicating tuberculosis (TB), the world’s deadliest disease, according to His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence.

H.E. Al Olama told the audience on the first day of the UN World Data Forum 2018 – organised by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA) at Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah on October 22-24 – that although AI is quite controversial, it can have many positive outcomes for millions of people across the world.

The technology could be used to prevent, cure and diagnose specific diseases, H.E. asserted, focusing specifically on TB, which kills more people than any other disease across the world. TB affects more than 10 million people, killing around 2 million every year, he said. “It’s a big weight on our shoulders, we need to cure the disease and can deploy technology to do so.”

“We, in the office of the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence in the UAE Government are working on an algorithmic solution that can be used in the detection and diagnosis of TB from chest X-rays,” H.E. Al Olama said. “You can upload any image of a chest X-ray and the system will identify if a person has the disease. The algorithm determines the probability of Pulmonary TB infection.”

“The disease is preventable and curable and there is no excuse for not tackling it,” H.E. asserted, noting that the biggest challenge was that a lot pf people did not know they had the disease or did not show any symptoms of having it. “If AI is deployed, the detection process becomes a lot simpler. A team goes to an area thought to have TB and use an AI-powered tool to screen people en masse. X-rays are put into an algorithm and it identifies who has TB and who does not.”

The system offers many advantages: firstly, it allows us to pinpoint specific geographies where TB is spreading. Also, a physical doctor is not required, which significantly reduces costs. Last but not least, the system offers a much more efficient diagnosis, allowing for more certainty that the infection in question is indeed TB.

H.E. concluded by stating that once developed, the algorithmic solution will be open to any nation to use in the fight against Tuberculosis, adding that nations would have to work together to finally tackle the world’s disease burden.

The second UN World Data Forum will welcome more than 2,500 data experts, policy-makers, and representatives from academia, private companies and civil society organisations (CSOs) from around the world. The event follows the inaugural Forum, which took place in 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa.


About the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA)

The Fe Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA), is a UAE Federal Government entity created by Presidential Decree No. 6 of 2015. The Authority’s mission is to strengthen and enhance the UAE’s national data and competitiveness capacities and support the country as it works to achieve the UAE Vision 2021. The FCSA is the official government source for national statistics and is one of the government representatives on matters related to national competitiveness. The FCSA seeks to improve the UAE’s ranking in global competitiveness reports by working with stakeholders to outline and implement reforms and polices across sectors.

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