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Alibaba considers integrating Generative AI. What does it mean for Middle East businesses?

Selina Yuan of Alibaba says AI and cloud computing will be critical drivers of growth and innovation in the Middle East.

Alibaba considers integrating Generative AI. What does it mean for Middle East businesses?
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Every day top technology companies are jockeying to capitalize on the surge in interest in generative AI, which can spit out text or other information after learning from pools of data culled from the internet. 

Microsoft plans to release software to help large companies create chatbots similar to ChatGPT and incorporate OpenAI technologies into its products. Even Salesforce will release software incorporating AI to help salespeople, customer service agents, and marketers do their jobs. Meta is poised to harness Generative AI technology to transform its platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp.

While many tech powerhouses seek to capitalize on the attention in multiple ways, now Alibaba, one of China’s biggest cloud computing players and the country’s biggest e-commerce company, could be integrating Generative AI to drive growth and innovation.

“We are investing and exploring new opportunities to leverage these technologies to drive value for our customers and partners,” says Selina Yuan, the Vice President of Alibaba Group and General Manager of International Business, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

Generative AI is expected to make further strides with its growing applications set to transform how digital content is produced, says Yuan. “Generative AI will become an inclusive technology that can significantly enhance content creation’s variety, creativity, and efficiency.”

According to the top technology trend forecasting unveiled by Alibaba Damo Academy, one of the leading technology trends that could

shape many industries in the years is Generative AI. Damo launched a natural language processing model with 27 billion parameters in 2021, after OpenAI released GPT-3 with 175 billion parameters in 2020.

“We are excited about the potential of cloud computing and AI to transform industries and drive innovation in the years ahead,” she adds.


According to Gartner, Alibaba is the world’s third-largest cloud computing player behind Microsoft and Amazon. While cloud computing is a small part of Alibaba’s overall business, the company’s management sees it as critical to future growth and profitability.

The GCC markets have evolved into one of the most dynamic markets for cloud services, with the accelerated adoption of AI technologies and the increasing growth of the digital economy.

According to Yuan, cloud and AI are reshaping businesses in the Middle East by enabling greater efficiency and cost savings, serving their customers with tailored products and services, deploying new applications and services, and experimenting with new business models. 

“Meanwhile, AI technologies like computer vision and predictive analytics can help businesses identify new opportunities and make intelligence-driven decisions,” adds Yuan.

The Middle East has been a key focus for Alibaba Cloud and has seen enormous growth, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.  

“Cloud computing in the Middle East is poised to become the next wave,” she says.

With the region seeing rapid adoption of cloud technology in recent years, driven by increasing demand for digital transformation, growing awareness of the benefits of cloud-based services, and a supportive regulatory environment, Yuan adds, “This has created a huge opportunity for us to help businesses increase efficiencies through our service offerings in the Middle East.


Over the past few years, Alibaba has opened new data centers outside China to win customers in other markets, such as the Middle East. Recently, the cloud provider announced a collaboration with Dubai Holding to upgrade its Dubai-based data center with a wider range of products and services in analytics, databases, industry solutions, and AI services.

With the rapid growth of data centers in the region, which uses enormous amounts of electricity and water, Yuan says greening data centers is critical for a sustainable future. “As a critical part of the data infrastructure that underpins the digital economy, it is imperative that we migrate to eco-friendly data centers. 

“One of Alibaba’s largest hyperscale data centers in China runs entirely on clean energy. A number of our data centers also doubled the use of clean energy,” she adds.

Alibaba Cloud’s self-developed immersion cooling technology has reduced the energy consumption of the data centers, with power usage effectiveness (PUE) reaching as low as 1.09. 

Alibaba Cloud has set an ambitious goal to achieve 100% clean energy consumption in our global data centers by 2030. 


Yuan says Alibaba Cloud is closely following the Web3 ecosystem development in the region and is committed to supporting its growth. During the recent Alibaba Cloud Dubai Summit 2023, it announced a collaboration with Dubai Silicon Oasis, an integrated free zone technology park, to launch the Web 3.0 Association to explore new business opportunities and support the growth of the ecosystem.

“We believe that several technology innovations have the potential to play a key role in enabling and accelerating the development of Web3 in the region,” she says.

And one of these innovations is blockchain technology, she adds. 

Last December, it announced a roadmap for launching its first Blockchain Node Service to facilitate the growth of the evolving Web 3 ecosystem.

The China-headquartered company has also developed a range of AI-based technologies and solutions, including its natural language processing and computer vision technologies, which can be applied to support global developers for a wide range of Web3 applications.

“A key technology innovation we are betting on is AI. It can transform the Web3 ecosystem by enabling new use cases and applications, such as autonomous agents and intelligent contracts,” says Yuan. 

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Suparna Dutt D’Cunha is the Editor at Fast Company Middle East. She is interested in ideas and culture and cover stories ranging from films and food to startups and technology. She was a Forbes Asia contributor and previously worked at Gulf News and Times Of India. More

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