By Scott Shuey, Business Editor

The growing tech industry in the Middle East will need to attract expats as well as develop local talent if it hopes to fill the estimated two million positions that are expected to be created by cloud computing and other data driven technologies over the next fours years, according to a Microsoft executive.

The recent rise in technologies such as artificial intelligence has many concerned about the possibility of job losses but, according to a recent report by market intelligence and advisory firm IDC, as many as 55,500 new jobs could be created in the UAE between the end of 2017 and the end of 2022.

The same report shows that nearly 520,000 jobs could be created in the key markets across the Middle East and Africa. According to the World Bank, for every new job created, an additional four support jobs are also created.

Necip Ozyucel, Microsoft’s Cloud + Enterprise Business Group Lead for the Gulf regions, says that means that as many as two million jobs in the Middle East could be created by 2022, but all of them will require some level of tech knowledge and training.

Ozyucel says the industry is aggressively looking at “up-skilling” and “re-skilling” current workers in the Middle East to fill the new jobs. Up-skilling refers to training current tech employees for newer technology, while re-skilling involves training someone for a new career.

Ozyucel said there should be a balance between attracting talent and educating or training existing workers.

“It should be balanced, both attracting talent as well as readying our base through up-skilling, re-skilling, and educating through universities.”

Microsoft says there are over 120,000 people currently in its Cloud Society programme, which is primarily aimed at up-skilling, Ozyucel said,

As for the jobs that could be eliminated by the new technologies, Ozyucel, citing a World Economic Forum report, said repetitive, transactional roles will likely be the most easily eliminated. He said roles that touch on data, such as “data scientists, big data analysis, predictive maintenance type of systems, those roles — in the near future — will be gaining traction. He added that college graduates should be looking at jobs that focus on data, because “artificial intelligence and machine learning are nothing without data.”

Ozyucel said the need to fill these positions was a key focus for Microsoft, as the company saw the inability to hire talented people as a barrier to growth.

“It’s a challenge, but I think we are going in the right direction,” he said.