The push by tech to get data and more onto the cloud will create unprecedented demand for the right sort of 'upskilled' worker. Image Credit: Supplied

The UAE has become a leader in the region in approaching the future with a digital-first attitude. The country became the first in the world to appoint a minister of state for artificial intelligence, and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority developed real-time augmented-reality tools for its “smart grid”.

And now, it uses advanced A.I.-infused bots for frontline customer service. Dubai Police’s Smart Services division deployed its first robot officers this year. And the emirate is also experimenting with self-flying taxis that could become reality within a matter of months.

Throughout its history, the country has demonstrated remarkable ambitions for its economy, and digital transformation has, in the past decade or so, served as fuel for this change. A change that is bound to accelerate as Expo 2020 Dubai generates jobs and growth. The global event will focus on the power of youth and is set to unlock the potential of one of the fastest growing talent pools in the world.

Seeding the ‘clouds’

The surging demand for cloud services in the region is a clear reflection that decision-makers acknowledge the importance of digital transformation as a cornerstone to their organization’s progress. And cloud adoption brings more jobs to the country as well. An IDC research found cloud computing is expected to create over 55,000 jobs in the UAE by 2022.

However, concerns such as a rising skills gap have emerged over organizational readiness to meet the challenges ahead.

Get them upskilled

Hence, upskilling existing employees is key to empowering their transition to new skill-sets, evolving workplace and market realities, and also new roles altogether. If not, digitisation initiatives could stall, and along with them, any further job creation.

More skilled staff will likely lead to greater innovation, better operational efficiency, enhanced customer experience, improved revenue growth, and, most importantly, to more empowered and happier employees. All these outcomes in turn lead to a greater ability to retain and grow the talent that generated them in the first place, helping make the outcomes repeatable and self-sustaining.

Make it life-long

In February, Microsoft’s Ignite, The Tour comes to Dubai for the second time. This is one of many initiatives we have undertaken to ensure skilling, upskilling and reskilling occur in a lifelong-learning cycle that keeps tech professionals relevant and allows those from other industries to retrain and gain new skills. The Tour extends a welcome to all those interested in learning about the latest technology advancements in areas such as cloud, AI, data science, web and app development, IoT and more.

If the UAE is to take its rightful place in the new global digital economy, a transformation will be vital. It has already enabled Etihad Airways, to establish the first AI Academy, to upskill its workforce, optimise its operations and create alternate revenue streams. Also, the Ministry of AI has taken significant steps to boost workforce capacity by announcing the creation of its AI Challenge Bootcamp.

And Abu Dhabi Digital Authority has formed a Cloud Centre of Excellence, which aims to build capacity to deliver cloud services and upskill the public sector workforce. The Centre will provide training to its employees that will empower them to make the most of technology and develop solutions that contribute to the country’s progress.

If such programmes continue, we will inevitably see leaps in the UAE’s progress to achieving its vision of developing human capital and equipping all professionals, regardless of their career stage, with the kinds of skills to plug talent gaps. And contribute to economic prosperity in the digital age.

- Ihsan Anabtawi is Chief Operating Officer at Microsoft UAE.