RIYADH: With Artificial Intelligence disrupting the global economy, the Middle East cannot lag behind as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates drive the adoption of AI in the region .
The Middle East is expected to accrue 2% of total global AI benefits in 2030, or $320 billion, with Saudi Arabia expected to register the largest gains over this period, with AI contributing more than 135 .2 billion to its economy, according to a PwC report.
While businesses can reap great benefits from using AI applications, industry experts Arab News spoke to pointed out that the region has a number of hurdles to overcome.
“We need to build the right ecosystem for AI and all other new technologies. We also need to ensure good and effective investments in collecting ‘data’, data privacy, developing smart infrastructure and developing human resources,” said Fawwaz Al-Shammari, senior vice president and national head of digital industries at Siemens.
Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of adopting the latest technologies in the region as part of its Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program 2020.
He underlined that the private sector – be it companies, startups or entrepreneurs – should first see the real need of the market to find the right solutions and develop the right skills within the Kingdom. .
While from the government’s perspective, Al-Shammari suggested that the investment should be in the right regulations to ensure the implementation of the legal framework “which will regulate the market and also enable private companies, startups and entrepreneurs easily invest in AI applications”. and solutions.
Attract foreign investment
Saudi Arabia aims to attract SR75 billion ($20 billion) in investment in data and AI as part of the target set under the National Strategy for Data and AI.
While there are investments in AI in Saudi Arabia, backed by a government commitment to digitally transform the country, the PwC report highlighted that “investments are currently largely driven by domestic sources, and in particular the country’s sovereign wealth fund.
“In order to maintain the momentum of the pace of technological progress in the country, it is necessary to attract more foreign investment which is currently constrained by the challenges of the business environment,” the report noted.
The PwC report suggested that “addressing the concerns raised by the business community will enable the Kingdom to attract outside investment which will bring with it skills and expertise to improve the skills of the local population”.
Saudi Arabia aims to transform its workforce by training and developing a pool of 20,000 AI and data specialists and experts, 5,000 of whom will be equipped with strong skills and will be highly qualified in line with the national strategy for data and AI.
Talal Al-Tamimi, co-founder and chief technology officer at Ebana, said there are two ways to use AI to help businesses grow in Saudi Arabia.
“First, businesses that need humans can be replaced by technical solutions that use AI. The second way is to use AI to improve performance, reduce costs and increase productivity of internal processes.”
He noted that “many pioneer workers are rushing to adopt certain technical solutions, such as AI, blockchain or others, without first seeing if there is a real need or problem that they can solve for people. that they wish to help.”
“They end up failing and wasting their investment,” Al-Tamimi pointed out.
He believes that the technologies in which AI is used are “not the goal, but are only a tool at your disposal”.
“They are useful when there is a real need. There are several requirements for the success of any AI, such as a high volume of data and a solid infrastructure to use these tools,” Al-Tamimi added.
As a new technology revolutionizing many markets and disrupting all kinds of businesses, Al-Shammari pointed out that there are several risks and challenges associated with the adoption of AI.
Regulations and data privacy are the main global challenges for AI, but he said the Saudi government is tackling these challenges early on by establishing the Saudi Data and AI Authority as well as the National Center for Artificial Intelligence.
“They have a clear mandate to develop the strategy that highlights the opportunities, set the roadmap and address all challenges by finding the right solutions and technologies based on best practices,” Al-Shammari said.
He said another major challenge is to create the talented people required in the country, which will meet the real need for AI and provide the right solutions and applications.
Mohammed Mohaya Al-Mutairi, Quality and Institutional Excellence Advisor, pointed out that AI applications are important in many areas, “but they are more important than ever in the current era for business organizations.”
He said that the use of AI applications allows companies to achieve several benefits, including improved decision-making processes, solving administrative problems, reducing costs and improving quality. , all of which contribute directly and indirectly to improving the competitiveness of business organizations.
“This will ensure the creation of a competitive advantage and benefit from economic intelligence, which helps to stand out and create new opportunities for excellence and growth in a competitive environment,” explained Al-Mutairi who is also a director of institutional excellence to the General Authority. for endowments.
He urged business leaders to focus well while deciding whether and when to apply business intelligence within the organization.
“Only after making this decision can they embrace the project and begin to implement it and provide support to the teams to overcome challenges and difficulties to create a nurturing and enabling environment that supports creativity and innovation,” Al-Mutairi concluded.