RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the UAE are uniquely placed to drive artificial intelligence innovation post-coronavirus pandemic, a new report has revealed.
The findings of a YouGov survey commissioned by American analytics automation company Alteryx showed that 50 percent of the employees quizzed in the two countries were now able to automate their day-to-day tasks.
And 58 percent of staff questioned said they were able to produce faster results through the use of analytics technology compared to five years ago.
In comparison, only 16 percent of workers in the UK, and 24 percent in Germany, said they could automate similar tasks, the report found.
YouGov surveyed more than 300 employees in Saudi Arabia and the UAE who worked with data in large companies.
However, the research discovered that inconsistently applied training programs still hindered the region with only existing experts — such as qualified data scientists — receiving vital upskilling. Highlighting the scope of this need, 97 percent of Gulf workers agreed that training was necessary for all staff that handled data.
Muhammad Khurram Khan, a professor of cybersecurity at King Saud University in Riyadh, told Arab News: “The advancement of AI and automation has enabled machines to outperform human workers in more aspects, resulting in enhanced productivity, increased efficiency, and reduced labor costs.”
He said the Alteryx findings showed how Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries had become tech-savvy and willing to adopt digital transformation.
“Saudi Arabia, as an early adopter of technologies, is harnessing the potential of AI with a plan to inject $135.2 billion into its economy by 2030, equivalent to 12.4 percent of the national gross domestic product.
“This will not only make the Kingdom one of the global leaders in AI but will also transform it into a knowledge-based and data-driven economy.
“Data and AI are at the heart of the Saudi Vision 2030, which has been manifested by the recently launched initiatives and strategies spearheaded by the Saudi Data and AI Authority. This will not only develop Saudi Arabia as a data and AI powerhouse but will also make it a global hub in research, development, business, and innovation,” he added.
Khan pointed out that one of the stumbling blocks that may hinder AI-driven innovations was the upskilling and reskilling of experts and professionals with state-of-the-art tools, techniques, and knowledge in data science and analytics.
He said: “Therefore, it is imperative to launch modern educational and training programs to keep the workforce prepared for new challenges in this field.”
Tauseef Ahmad, a health informatics analyst at King Saud University, told Arab News: “It is inspiring to see the new findings with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region adopting technology to update day-to-day operations. Recent years have seen rapid adoption of updated technology.
“The report showed that employees’ productivity increased 58 percent faster as compared to five years ago, which shows that these significant successes could never have been achieved without the help of data scientists. However, proper training and workshops would help cover the remaining 42 percent of employees.
“By delivering a foundation of data skills to all employees and removing the pressure from data and technology teams, business leaders can minimize the challenges they face,” he said.
As the advancement of AI and automation has enabled machines to outperform human workers, Saudi smart apps such as Absher, Tawakkalna, and Sehhaty have made things easier during the pandemic by offering innovative and smart interactive services to cater for public needs.
The number of registered Absher users exceeded 23 million last year, with the platform providing more than 300 individual, business, job seeker, and government e-services while also allowing online transactions.
The Tawakkalna app, launched last year by Saudi authorities to help track COVID-19 infections, is available in 75 countries worldwide. It has been designed around the prevention and management of COVID-19 and has a section to help people avoid entering areas with a high incidence of cases. The app has been updated to show the COVID-19 health status of an individual.
The Saudi Ministry of Health’s Sehhaty app enables users to access health information and medical e-services provided by health organizations throughout the Kingdom. These include booking appointments for COVID-19 tests and vaccine jabs, self-assessment checking, vital signs updates, tracking prescribed medicine, and retrieving and sharing sick leaves.