UAE and Saudi Arabia emerging as regional ‘tech powerhouses’

36th Gitex Technology Week in Dubai World Trade Center: New Technology exhibition in Gulf and MENA Region at DWTC, Dubai. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 March 2019

UAE and Saudi Arabia emerging as regional ‘tech powerhouses’

  • UAE and Saudi Arabia still have work to be done in order to catch up with countries with cutting-edge skill sets in technology, business and data science
  • Ahead of private sector expansion, business will be a key area for improvement in the UAE and Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: The UAE and Saudi Arabia show the most promise in terms of skills in technology, according to the Coursera’s Global Skills Index, an in-depth report on skill trends and performance across 60 countries in the Middle East and around the world.

“The UAE shows the most promise in Technology (#40) compared to Business (#52) and Data Science (#38). This may be a reflection of the UAE government betting big on AI and fostering a testing ground for robotics,” the report stated.

“Saudi Arabia ranks higher in Technology (#50) compared to Business (#58) and Data Science (#58). Its strong performance in Human-Computer Interaction (92%) is likely a reflection of the government’s investment in digitization,” it added.

“Although there’s been a significant increase in education investment in recent decades, MEA students still aren’t graduating with the right skills, as the 31% youth unemployment rate indicates.”

While they are on the right track, and are regional powerhouses, results show that the UAE and Saudi Arabia still have work to be done in order to catch up with countries with cutting-edge skill sets in technology, business and data science such as Spain, Austria and Switzerland.

Ahead of private sector expansion, business will be a key area for improvement in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The UAE’s lowest performing domain is business and it ranks #52 globally and #4 in the region. Saudi Arabia also ranks lower in business at #58 globally and second to last in the region. It lags the most in accounting and marketing (2%). Upskilling in business will be key areas to the region’s goals for private sector expansion.

“As the countries shift their industrial base away from natural resources, they must focus on building a knowledge-based economy that’s driven by a highly skilled workforce. The development of technology and data science skills, in particular, will continue to emerge with the adoption of new-age technologies such as Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and blockchain, underpinned by the UAE Vision 2021 and Saudi Arabia Vision 2030, respectively,” the findings stated.

Finland, Switzerland and Austria round up the top three worldwide respectively in terms of business skill sets, which include accounting, marketing, finance, sales, management and communication. Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Egypt, however, sit as the bottom three respectively.

Argentina, Czech Republic and Austria sit as the top three worldwide respectively in terms of technology, while Kenya, Pakistan and Nigeria round up the bottom three. Technology skill sets studied include computer networking, operating systems, human computer interaction, databases, security engineering and software engineering.

In terms of data science worldwide, Israel, Switzerland and Belgium are rated as the top three worldwide respectively, with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Nigeria sitting at the bottom three. Data science skills include math, statistics, machine learning, data management, statistical programming, and data visualization.

Coursera’s full Global Skills Index can be found below:


US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

Updated 10 December 2019

US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

  • Two years after starting to block appointments, the US will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body
  • Two of three members of Appellate Body exit and leave it unable to issue rulings

BRUSSELS: US disruption of the global economic order reaches a major milestone on Tuesday as the World Trade Organization (WTO) loses its ability to intervene in trade wars, threatening the future of the Geneva-based body.
Two years after starting to block appointments, the United States will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body, which acts as the supreme court for international trade, as two of three members exit and leave it unable to issue rulings.
Major trade disputes, including the US conflict with China and metal tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump, will not be resolved by the global trade arbiter.
Stephen Vaughn, who served as general counsel to the US Trade Representative during Trump’s first two years, said many disputes would be settled in future by negotiations.
Critics say this means a return to a post-war period of inconsistent settlements, problems the WTO’s creation in 1995 was designed to fix.
The EU ambassador to the WTO told counterparts in Geneva on Monday the Appellate Body’s paralysis risked creating a system of economic relations based on power rather than rules.
The crippling of dispute settlement comes as the WTO also struggles in its other major role of opening markets.
The WTO club of 164 has not produced any international accord since abandoning “Doha Round” negotiations in 2015.
Trade-restrictive measures among the G20 group of largest economies are at historic highs, compounded by Trump’s “America First” agenda and the trade war with China.
Phil Hogan, the European Union’s new trade commissioner, said on Friday the WTO was no longer fit for purpose and in dire need of reforms going beyond just fixing the appeals mechanism.
For developed countries, in particular, the WTO’s rules must change to take account of state-controlled enterprises.
In 2017, Japan brought together the United States and the European Union in a joint bid to set new global rules on state subsidies and forced technology transfers.
The US is also pushing to limit the ability of WTO members to grant themselves developing status, which for example gives them longer to implement WTO agreements.
Such “developing countries” include Singapore and Israel, but China is the clear focus.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Reuters last week the United States wanted to end concessions given to then struggling economies that were no longer appropriate.
“We’ve been spoiling countries for a very, very long time, so naturally they’re pushing back as we try to change things,” he said.
The trouble with WTO reform is that changes require consensus to pass. That includes Chinese backing.
Beijing has published its own reform proposals with a string of grievances against US actions. Reform should resolve crucial issues threatening the WTO’s existence, while preserving the interests of developing countries.
Many observers believe the WTO faces a pivotal moment in mid-2020 when its trade ministers gather in a drive to push through a multinational deal — on cutting fishing subsidies.
“It’s not the WTO that will save the fish. It’s the fish that are going to save the WTO,” said one ambassador.