As the global economy becomes more reliant on digital products and services, the importance of the digital economy in major world markets continues to grow. In the Middle East, public and private initiatives are especially necessary to re-skill workers to succeed in the increasingly digital landscape.

To remain competitive, gulf countries must equip professionals with the skills and tools needed to fill the growing number of high-tech jobs being created each day. While digital transformation has been a buzzword in the corporate world for a few years now, it is now a priority across the Middle East. There’s a pressing need for a trained workforce that can actively contribute to the ongoing success of the region.

Maximizing the Value of the Digital Economy

Currently, the digital economy in the Middle East is worth more than $30 billion, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Qatar leading consumer adoption. According to a McKinsey report, in these countries, 100 percent of the population has a smartphone, while 70 percent are on social media. 

This shows that everyday citizens are already comfortable with digital platforms, and now it’s time for businesses and government entities to catch up.

The McKinsey research also identified a significant relationship between a country’s GDP per capita and its score on the McKinsey Digitization Index. Increased GDP opens the door to higher spending on digital adoption, which improves ratings on the index. Higher digitization, in turn, leads to more economic growth and GDP. The analysis concluded that 160 million potential digital users by 2025 could contribute up to 3.8 percent annually in GDP, translating to about $95 billion in revenue. This represents an undeniable value proposition.

Shifting from a Traditionally Petroleum-Based Economy

The Middle East is perhaps best known for its rich petroleum resources. As the world transitions to more environmentally friendly energy streams to combat climate change, the region needs alternative revenue sources.

Across leading Middle Eastern countries, areas for development include:

  • Smart cities
  • Connected classrooms
  • Digital-first government
  • Enhanced tourism

Each of these concepts relies on the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), cyber security, and cloud computing to achieve a true digital transformation.

Fortunately, it seems that organizations in the region understand the importance of this transition. According to Gulf News, Middle Eastern organizations plan to spend more than $25 billion on digital initiatives. Business leaders seem to be in agreement that tech development is essential for growing the local economy. With advancements in robotics, augmented reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT) driving production and customer experience around the world, companies can’t afford to lag behind.

Addressing the Skills Gap

While Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries largely understand the need for digital transformation, there’s still the challenge of creating and filling digital jobs. Currently, 1.7 percent of GCC professionals work in the digital space, compared to 5.4 percent of workers in the European Union.

To address this challenge, organizations must show the value of digital skills and how they can advance careers. Whereas most of the workforce has prioritized management and leadership skills, recruiters are seeking out candidates with skills like: 

  • Analytics
  • Design
  • Development
  • Search engine optimization

This skills gap is hampering efforts to build a digital economy, even as corporations and other entities realize the value of doing so.

To address this issue, organizations at all levels within the GCC region must consider ways to attract and train the future digital workforce. This is especially pressing now, as COVID-19 has heightened the need for remote work, ecommerce availability, and contactless payment and delivery options. All these demands require a highly trained digital workforce.

A New Hope

Sometimes, a central motivator is all that’s needed to spur development. In the case of the Gulf region, the Hope Mars Mission has provided inspiration in spades. Spearheaded by the UAE, the Hope Mars Mission successfully launched a satellite headed toward Mars aboard a Japanese rocket on July 19, 2020.

The launch took place just six years after it was conceived by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE. The mission presented several challenges but was ultimately successful in creating a satellite and sending it on its way to the red planet.

The satellite has a primary aim of studying the climate and atmosphere of Mars, but it also serves a greater purpose—the Hope satellite reaffirms the Arab world’s position as a leader in science and astronomy. Inspiring the next generation of engineers to pursue aerospace and technology as opposed to the oil sector can indeed move the country to a new, more advanced economy. Digital training will be key to the continued success of this mission and others, which will require an increasing number of highly skilled professionals to program systems, analyze data, and interpret findings.

Already, the Hope mission has pushed more students to enroll in science degrees, as well as pushing schools to consider new graduate degree offerings. The research is also receiving additional funding, which will further help to create jobs in this sector.

Success Starts in the Classroom

While 2020 has been a unique year in all respects, education remains a critical focus for creating a robust digital economy. In fact, it’s the growing presence of online services that has enabled students to continue learning despite lockdowns associated with the pandemic. Through distance learning and virtual classrooms, students have been able to continue their studies safely while getting familiar with some of the technologies that will help build their digital futures.

For postgraduate students looking to upskill during this time, Simplilearn has several partnerships in the Middle East to equip students for the digital economy. It has also partnered with leading institutions to offer post-graduate programs for working professionals, including:

  • MIT
  • California Institute of Technology
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Purdue University 

Through these relationships, Simplilearn supports corporate and government-sponsored programs to address the skills gap throughout the region. Our corporate training in the latest digital technologies helps companies ensure that their teams are equipped to excel in IR4.0. Explore the many options available today and reach out to our consultants to create the best training program for your company.

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