Upskilling, however, remains a challenge as the region is still hindered by training programmes that are applied inconsistently
Half of data workers in the Gulf now rely on automation to carry out manual duties at work, placing the region in a unique position to further advance the benefits of artificial intelligence innovation, according to YouGov.
About 50 per cent of employees surveyed are now able to automate their day-to-day tasks, with 58 per cent able to produce faster results through the use of analytics technology compared to five years ago, according to YouGov research commissioned by analytics company Alteryx.
That compares with 16 per cent of UK workers and 24 per cent of German employees who are able to automate similar tasks, according to the study.
Still, despite the high uptake in automation, the research shows that the region is still hindered by inconsistently applied training programmes, with only existing experts – such as qualified data scientists – receiving vital data upskilling.
“While data is increasingly becoming the common language of business, few receive the training needed to deliver consistent benefit from it, with the remainder relegated to working in the dark,” said Alan Jacobson, chief data and analytic officer at Alteryx.
“The lack of foundational data skills remains a significant stumbling block on the Gulf’s upward trajectory towards AI led innovation. Big data needs context and human intelligence when applied to AI. What we now see is an AI ethics conundrum. If not driven by data science, unintentional data biases can creep in, leading to perpetuated discriminatory practices, as well as inaccurate and inconsistent AI models.”
About 97 per cent of Gulf workers agree that training needs to be made available to all data workers in the region to truly unlock business value, according to the survey.
Opportunities in the data industry are some of the most sought-after in today's current employment landscape, according to the latest study from human resources consultancy Michael Page.
Technology professionals in the UAE can earn up to about $34,000 a year, depending on their experience, according to the consultancy. Other popular jobs in the technology sector include software engineers, data analysts and scientists, and cyber security specialists.
Additional investment to improve workforce skills could boost global gross domestic product by at least $6.5 trillion and create 5.3 million new jobs by 2030, the World Economic Forum said last year.
Upskilling – along with reskilling, the process of individuals learning new skills to expand their capabilities – has become significant globally given the shifts in the business environment, specifically with the transition being witnessed as a result of digital transformation.
Employees that lack formal training are increasingly operating in the dark, further overloading at-capacity data science teams, the Alteryx study showed.
Data scientists spend a disproportionate amount of their time each week on tasks that could be completed by workers with less-advanced skillsets using automation technology and are stuck in a continuous loop of day-to-day tasks, according to the study.
"Many business leaders believe that transformation and AI projects are exclusively about the technology, but any technology is only ever a tool to deliver human ingenuity,” said Kerry Koutsikos, regional vice president for the Middle East and Africa at Alteryx. “The lack of consistent training and subsequent lack of standardised knowledge is a core challenge for the Gulf’s future technology projects – particularly new AI strategies."
The study carried out by London-based YouGov surveyed more than 300 data workers in organisations across the UAE and Saudi Arabia on the topic of data literacy. “Data workers” were defined as employees across all business units who work with data on a day-to-day basis.