Recently, the Middle East has seen a swarm of investments pooling in from domestic as well as international markets to boost their efforts in innovation and technological advancements.
When Amazon accessed a regional online shopping site ‘Souq.com’ for around $580m, it became a milestone for the technology sector and digital economy in the Middle East region. The GCC nations have been making headlines for a long time and their intent to make concrete advancements in digital innovative technologies is evident from the fact that the Gulf States are set to deploy 5G networks (mostly commercial 5G) by 2019. By 2025, the percentage of 5G mobile connections will account for almost 16% across Middle Eastern countries (which is ahead of the global average).
On the domestic front, there is a drift in investment interests from retail to technology with Middle East investors siding with technology. Region’s growing interest in AI, VR, Digital health and finance advancements is further strengthened with STC (Saudi Arabia’s reigning telecom service provider) launching a $500m technology investment fund. Saudi Arabia made it monumental when it’s Public Investment Fund launched a $93bn global technology fund with investors like Japan’s Softbank, Apple, Qualcomm to target AI and robotics sector specifically.
Government’s active participation to standardize blockchain and use of cryptocurrencies in the region not only indicates their seriousness for adopting new and latest global trends. It further helps bridge the skill gap that has been a cause of worry for investors across the Middle East countries.
From ‘Smart City’ ventures to introducing ‘Dubai IoT strategy’ to develop an IoT ecosystem and improve public’s standard of living through ‘Digital Wealth Initiative’, the region is set to a steady yet power-packed journey to deal with the future.
How GCC countries have adapted to the AI reform?
According to this report, the region has seen some tremendous growth in AI and Cloud computing in recent years. It predicts AI will further boost UAE’s GDP by $96bn by 2030.
Over the past year, Middle East nations have demonstrated a rapid increase in the development and usage of AI applications. Change in the nature of jobs and skillset demands have secured both, attention and momentum. A research conducted by IDC and Microsoft indicates that cloud computing alone will potentially generate over 500K jobs in key industries across MEA. This is a huge number and needs a lot of endeavour for meeting the skill gaps and managing the job transition.
Today, there are jobs and positions that nobody imagined would exist, a few years ago. With the advent of AI and advancements in Data Science, the face of employment has altered drastically. Let’s see how data science and innovative technologies are bringing new opportunities:
Cloud & AI Experts
With datacenter traffic expected to grow by 440% by 2020, markets in Middle East regions are set to embrace its impact. This marks a significant growth in cloud computing jobs ( the period between 2008-2013 saw 1700% growth in this sector alone). The progress in AI and Machine Learning technology will further take this ratio up and it could lead to upsetting results if skill gaps are not dealt with in time.
The Ministry of State for AI, under the leadership of HE Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama, inducted a ‘Summer Camp’ which attracted around 3500 students and focuses on building knowledge transfer and capabilities for developing solutions for future technologies. UAE’s determination to stay ahead in the recruitment reflects through it’s ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative in partnership with Microsoft.
This sets a Middle East region on a remarkable journey and highlights its pool of opportunities for the upcoming technologies.
Big Data Analysts
With advancements in cloud computing solutions and its acceptance, the data volumes have grown at a rate of 40% per year. This calls for a line-up of people who have the expertise for dealing with such large volumes of data.
Data Scientist has been termed as the best job in the US for consecutive 3 years with a job satisfaction rate of 4.2/5.
According to a publication by PwC, ‘Megatrends in Technological Breakthroughs’ focusing on how ME is dealing with the crunch of skilled professionals, it says, ‘85% of CEO’s in ME found technological change the most transformative of the global megatrends over next 5 years’ but businesses are way behind in terms of innovation and development. Also, it emphasizes an urgent acceleration in efforts to develop the task force for the upcoming diversification of jobs globally.
New Breed of Workers
While some worry that these unprecedented advancements in technology (for ex., automation) will kill a majority of jobs, others see the brighter side to the story and believe that a new breed of jobs will surface in the future. The need of the hour is to cultivate the culture of up-skilling and life-long learning so that the workforce is prepped for the change, way ahead of impact.
Though the Middle East is gearing up well in advance for these changes, it still lacks behind in generating the minimum required skilled workforce. There have been pro-active steps from the industries in alliance with some major industry giants to address this issue and devise strategies for developing up-skilling and life-long learning frameworks.
How GCC industries are changing and becoming more data-centric
The traditional business mindset in the Middle East has taken a detour from oil, retail, and property to IT and Digital Advancements. With new investments, strategies and products in fields like cloud, IoT, and e-commerce, the Middle East nations have shown their sincerity and dedication to stay ahead in the game of technological advancements. They are set to embrace emerging technologies such as AI and Machine Learning by devising efficient plans and pooling in capital investments.
GCC industries are shifting from their usual sectors and diverting their investments in Data Science, AI and Machine learning R&D and solution building.
Middle East banking sector is using predictive data analytics to strengthen their risk assessment, generate revenue and build fresh ventures by understanding the market conditions. They are progressively creating positions for Chief Data Officers, which sets the realization that data is a key asset for future endeavours. But, this is just one sector, other sectors like oil & gas, tourism, pharma, etc. are following the suit and joining forces with big data investments. Be it, UAE’s Ministry of Energy, launching Oil & Gas Big Data Project or leveraging technology to boost insulin production (a proven case study of Julphar – a UAE based Pharma Company), data has become the bargaining chip to success.
At the same time, Middle East nations understand the need for motivating the youth (which accounts for a majority of ME population) and workforce by streamlining education plans and conducting various awareness camps to cater to ever-changing work culture.
How are organizations in the Middle East adopting and leveraging Data Science
Some leading examples of businesses using technology as a market differentiator are:
- The region’s first unicorn (a start-up with a market capitalization of more than USD 1 billion) in the Middle East’s leading e-commerce marketplace. It has facilitated the connection of 75,000 Middle Eastern businesses12 with customers they would never have been able to reach previously.
- A regional online private car-booking service is another success story. Careem is able to compete regionally (against global giants like Uber) with a localized strategy focusing on B2B integration and additional features such as scheduled bookings—not just for their own fleet of chauffeurs but also for the cabs of, for example, the Roads and Transports Authority in Dubai.
This sets the preface for automation and how it’s changing the face of job opportunities in the region. According to this publication, it is estimated that almost 40% of all work activities in Kuwait are susceptible to automation and it’s a concern with already high percentages of youth unemployment in the region.
If not handled proactively, this could lead to major disruptions across major sectors, hampering the overall progress and economy.
Some of the major skills in demand across the region are as below:
- Statistical Analysis
- Data Mining
- Algorithm Designers
- Data Scientists/Analysts/Architects
- User interface designers
The World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs’ analysis found that, compared to 2015, 21% of core skills required across all industries will be different by 2020 in GCC countries.
The industries are focusing on newer horizons and to boost the economy they need specialists who can handle the pressure with their versatility and zeal to learning and constantly updating their skills.
A major example of organizations using data science for capability enhancement is:
Majid Al Futtaim: A leading integrated lifestyle provider in the region launched a School of Analytics & Technology to enhance company’s analytics capabilities and teach its employees the necessary skills for data analytics and ways to implement them across verticals.
Examples added to set the context
Another example to focus on skill development and how organizations are prioritizing it at local levels
How are GCC Governments using Data Science Machine Learning and AI
With the majority of the region’s governments responding to the urgency of investing in the digital sectors, it is quite evident that the Middle East understands that the energy sector will no longer be their best bet. Thus, they are making significant investments in the education sector and non-energy sectors to develop and harbor ‘skills of the future’.
By streamlining endeavors and regularizations, the government is committed to giving the existing workforce and the generations ahead, a support system and knowledge transfer framework to help them be well versed with latest trends and technological advancements.
According to research by Accenture, AI has the potential to boost the region’s economic growth rates by significant numbers. Middle East’s recognition of AI’s potential is further confirmed through the launch of UAE’s ‘Strategy for AI’, a major initiative to boost the government’s performance at all levels.
The clearest sign of this commitment, at least on paper, is NEOM – a planned $500 billion, 26,500 square-kilometer “megacity”: part technology and R&D hub, part international trade center, part business, and advanced manufacturing zone. “Everything will have a link with artificial intelligence and the Internet of things – everything,” said Crown Prince Salman.
This commitment was sealed when in the World’s first, UAE granted citizenship to a humanoid named Sophia.
However, is the government’s commitment to developments and addressing the needs enough to boost growth and development?
Need is to inculcate the need for up-skilling and re-discovering the job culture. With a majority of current jobs remodeled post AI disruption, once who do not act now will feel left out and will never be able to cope up with advancements and changes.
Thus, there is a need for desperate attempts to combat the future of jobs and options available.
By building foundational skills in Data Science, Business Analytics and Predictive modeling. 45% of the leaders believe it is a ‘must-have’ skill for all by 2020.
The focus must be to attain a thorough understanding of Data Science, associated terminologies and underlying principles of all the techniques involved. To fully equip themselves, people (professionals, students) aspiring to gain momentum, must try to understand multiple aspects of Machine Learning and AI. Most of all they must understand the importance of up-skilling and life-long learning.
The future ahead is all about moving with the pace of advancement and innovation. Today, there are various online modules and even in-person mentoring programs available to get you on track and steer you in the right direction.
At Clevered, we offer various Bootcamp Programs specially designed to cater to all your queries and aspirations. We understand the need of the hour and our subject matter experts are committed to providing abled guidance and knowledge for you to grow in your respective ambitions.
Our, ‘Data Science Foundation Program’ and ‘Machine Learning AI Bootcamp’ are conceived by subject matter experts. These programs aim to impart intelligence on essential concepts of Data Science and their applications to solve business problems.
Clevered forges partnership with its students well beyond their training helping them with guidance and business outreach.