AI, analytics and the future of Saudi Arabia’s workforce

AI, analytics and the future of Saudi Arabia’s workforce

AI, analytics and the future of Saudi Arabia’s workforce
The state wants to cultivate a workforce of 20,000 AI and data specialists. (Shutterstock)
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Saudi Arabia is making significant strides in the world of artificial intelligence, in pursuit of its ambitious initiatives to position the Kingdom as a global leader in AI.

The National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence, launched in 2020, is a cornerstone of these efforts, seeking to attract $20 billion in investments by 2030 and cultivate a workforce of 20,000 AI and data specialists.

These initiatives are inextricably linked to Vision 2030’s overarching goals of social reform and economic diversification, which together aim to establish Saudi Arabia as a regional leader in technology and innovation.

AI represents a further significant advancement in human progress. Historically, businesses have leveraged technology to enhance productivity and efficiency by automating tasks that once required human effort.

The current era, often referred to as the second machine age, is distinguished by numerous instances of machine intelligence and the integration of billions of interconnected systems working collectively to improve our ability to enhance our understanding of the world and to solve complex problems.

AI and advanced analytics enable more accurate predictions, better decision-making and the development of new business strategies. In Saudi Arabia, these technologies are poised to transform industries, necessitating a reevaluation of human-machine collaboration.

The potential economic impact within Saudi Arabia is substantial. According to a recent report by the professional services firm PwC, the projected economic impact of AI in the Middle East by 2030 is $320 billion, with an estimated $135.2 billion attributed to Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, McKinsey suggests that 41 percent of work activities in the Kingdom could be automated. This presents both significant opportunities and formidable challenges.

The rapid advancement of AI, particularly generative AI, is revolutionizing how we work and live. Tools like ChatGPT represent some of the fastest-adopted technologies in history, significantly impacting productivity and decision-making processes.

This intersection of AI and the workforce is particularly relevant for Saudi Arabia, which is making significant strides in AI adoption and workforce transformation as part of its Vision 2030 agenda.

To future-proof its workforce, Saudi Arabia is placing a strong emphasis on continuous learning and development in AI and data analytics. The country also recognizes that collaboration between government and the private sector is vital for driving workforce transformation and ensuring readiness for future challenges.

Preparing the Saudi workforce for an AI-driven future involves equipping workers with the necessary skills and fostering an environment of innovation and adaptability.

However, this transformation is not without its challenges. The rise of AI raises concerns about misinformation, manipulation and the delicate balance between human judgment and machine algorithms.

Despite these challenges, the potential benefits in terms of efficiency and innovation are substantial.

Preparing the Saudi workforce for an AI-driven future involves equipping workers with the necessary skills and fostering an environment of innovation and adaptability.

Nicholas C. Lovegrove

Generative models like ChatGPT redefine data analysis and idea generation. They offer unprecedented capabilities for enhancing human productivity and creativity. Leveraging AI to augment human abilities can lead to significant improvements in various sectors.

Still, it is crucial to adopt a balanced approach to AI integration, one that maximizes benefits while minimizing risks. This includes addressing ethical considerations to ensure AI promotes inclusivity and equity.

Broader societal challenges associated with AI, such as the “alignment problem” and the “containment problem” also need to be addressed.

The alignment problem concerns ensuring that AI systems’ objectives align with human values, while the containment problem involves preventing AI systems from acting outside their intended scope.

Tackling these issues is essential for responsible AI integration.

Saudi Arabia’s strategic investments and workforce development initiatives position the Kingdom to potentially become one of the global leaders of the AI revolution.

By focusing on ethical AI practices and fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation, Saudi Arabia can ensure a prosperous and inclusive future, in which everyone in its workforce has equal opportunities to participate in and benefit from the AI-driven initiatives.

The Kingdom’s commitment to AI and analytics holds transformative potential, offering significant opportunities for productivity and innovation across various sectors.

As machines increasingly undertake cognitive tasks, the landscape of employment is changing, with human roles experiencing considerable transformation. For example, AI-powered chatbots are enhancing customer service efficiency, automated systems are streamlining data entry and robo-advisers are making financial services more accessible.

However, this shift should not be viewed as a conflict between human workers and machines. Rather, we should recognize the potential for augmentation, where AI can enhance human capabilities rather than merely replace them.

Despite these advancements, there remains a crucial need for human judgment and regulation to oversee AI systems, ensure ethical standards are met and address complex issues that machines alone cannot resolve.

By focusing on how AI can complement human intelligence, we can unlock new possibilities for innovation and productivity.

The journey toward an AI-driven future is filled with both opportunities and challenges. Saudi Arabia’s proactive approach, underpinned by Vision 2030 and significant investments in AI and workforce development, demonstrates its commitment to harnessing the power of AI for economic diversification and social reform.

By embracing AI and analytics while addressing ethical considerations, Saudi Arabia is well positioned to become a global leader in technology and innovation, paving the way for a future that is not only prosperous and inclusive but also forward-looking.

In shaping a world where the transformative power of AI acts as a catalyst for unprecedented progress, Saudi Arabia’s efforts resonate as a beacon of promise and potential.

• Nicholas C. Lovegrove is a professor of the practice of management at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake
Updated 26 min 9 sec ago
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Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake
  • Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle

LONDON: A Brazilian conceptual artist swapped a historic British coin for a fake in the British Museum to highlight the large number of foreign objects it holds.
Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle.
He asked for an English Civil War-era silver coin because “It is one of the few British things in the British Museum” and then created a diversion while he swapped it for the fake.
Sartuzi told Reuters he deposited the original coin in the museum’s collection box on the way out. The Art Newspaper first reported his act, which he recounted in a video made for his master’s degree at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The British Museum said it would inform police about the incident, which took place in June.
“This is a disappointing and derivative act that abuses a volunteer led service aimed at giving visitors the opportunity to handle real items and engage with history,” a museum spokesperson said when asked for comment.
Sartuzi said institutions such as the British museum and France’s Louvre view themselves as the “holders of the treasures of humanity. The problem is that these institutions are the basis of imperialist cultures that looted a lot of these objects from the global south and world.”
The British Museum has been under scrutiny over the way it acquired some of the artefacts it holds, with some countries asking for pieces to be returned. Examples include the Parthenon Sculptures and Nigeria’s bronzes looted by British troops in 1897. It did not respond to Sartuzi’s allegations.
Sartuzi, who has exhibited in Brazil, Portugal and London, said he had sought advice from an art lawyer before swapping the coin.
The Museum dismissed an employee a year ago and ordered a review of security after it discovered hundreds of items had been stolen from its collection or were missing.


Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy

Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy
Updated 31 min 43 sec ago
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Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy

Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy
  • Traders, residents were protesting against Pakistan’s strict passport and visa policy at Chaman crossing with Afghanistan since Nov. 2023
  • Balochistan official says protesters have accepted the government’s passport and visa policy, however, protest spokesperson says otherwise 

QUETTA: A body of local tribesmen and traders on Sunday called off its nine-month-long sit-in protest against the government’s strict visa policy in the southwestern Chaman town bordering Afghanistan, with its spokesperson saying the decision had been taken after the government accepted its demands and released detained protesters. 

Pakistan’s interim government last year tightened its travel policy for citizens of all neighboring countries following deadly attacks in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and southwestern Balochistan provinces. Pakistan shares a 2600-kilometer porous border with Afghanistan which lies through KP and Balochistan. The Chaman border crossing is one of the key border crossings between the two countries in Pakistan’s Balochistan that connects with Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. 

Since Pakistan’s independence from British India, Islamabad has been practicing a relaxed travel policy for residents living in border towns on either side. Local tribesmen and traders in Pakistan’s border areas could previously cross into Afghanistan through Chaman by showing their National Identity Cards. Afghan nationals in Kandahar, meanwhile, were allowed to enter Pakistan after showing their Afghan national identity document, also known as “Tazkira.”

But the Pakistani government in October 2023 announced a strict policy that allows only residents of Chaman and Kandahar to cross the border by showing their proof of residence. The rest of the citizens from both countries were required to have passports and visas to travel across the border. Furious traders in Pakistan had opposed the move, saying the strict policy would hamper their economic activities as daily over 15,000-20,000 people use the border crossing to travel between the two countries. They staged a sit-in protest for nine months at the border crossing, causing trade between the two countries to remain at a standstill. 

Raja Athar Abbas, Chaman district’s deputy commissioner, said organizers of the sit-in protest had agreed to follow the government’s visa policy. 

“There will be special areas for laborers depending on daily wages through the border trade and only they can travel with their National Identity Cards,” he told Arab News on Sunday.

Malik Inayat Kasi, former Balochistan home minister and tribal elder who addressed the protesters on Sunday, said the government had succeeded in addressing a key issue of the province. 

“The protesters have accepted the passport and visa policy at the Chaman border that was announced by the Government of Pakistan,” he told Arab News. 

However, Olas Yar, the spokesperson of the protesters, said the sit-in had been called off after the provincial government had accepted all of their demands and released detained protesters who were charged with various crimes. 

“Today we have ended our protest after Mr. Kasi assured us that the government has accepted all of our demands,” Yar told Arab News. 

He said the protesters will observe the situation during the next two days, warning that if the government does not allow them access to border markets in Afghanistan under the previous conditions, they will protest again. 

Pakistan has been witnessing an uptick in militant violence in its northwestern and southwestern regions, particularly after the Pakistani Taliban called off their fragile truce with the government in November 2022. The militant group, which is said to have sanctuaries in neighboring Afghanistan, is separate from but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban.

The recent attacks also prompted authorities in Pakistan last year to ask all illegal immigrants to leave the country by November 1, 2023. Islamabad says it has so far deported over 620,000 Afghan nationals who were living in the country illegally and has vowed to continue doing the same. 


Russia downs 75 Ukraine-launched drones, some near Tuapse oil refinery

Russia downs 75 Ukraine-launched drones, some near Tuapse oil refinery
Updated 34 min 56 sec ago
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Russia downs 75 Ukraine-launched drones, some near Tuapse oil refinery

Russia downs 75 Ukraine-launched drones, some near Tuapse oil refinery
  • Russian defense ministry did not say whether its defense systems destroyed the drones, or whether the attack had caused any damage
  • Russian officials rarely disclose the full extent of damage inflicted by Ukrainian attacks

Russia’s air defense systems destroyed 75 drones launched by Ukraine overnight, including eight near the town of Tuapse on the Black Sea where Russia’s oil major Rosneft has a refinery, the Russian defense ministry said on Monday.
Forty-seven drones were downed over the Rostov region in Russia’s southwest, 17 over the waters of the Black and Azov seas, eight over the Krasnodar region, where Tuapse is located, and single drones over the Belgorod, Voronezh and Smolensk region, the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.
The ministry did not say whether its defense systems destroyed the drones, or whether the attack had caused any damage.
Sergei Boiko, head of the Tuapse district in the Krasnodar region, said on Telegram infrastructure and residential buildings had not been damaged.
Russian officials rarely disclose the full extent of damage inflicted by Ukrainian attacks. The Tuapse refinery has been a target of several Ukrainian air attacks since the start of the war that Russia launched against its smaller neighbor in 2022.
Russia’s SHOT and Mash Telegram news channels reported that a series of blasts were heard near the refinery early Monday.
Reuters could not independently verify the Russian reports. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine. Kyiv has often said that the attacks on Russia’s military, energy and transport infrastructure are in response to Russia’s continuous attacks on Ukraine’s territory.


Fire-hit tanker enters Malaysia terminal area after being detained by coast guard

Fire-hit tanker enters Malaysia terminal area after being detained by coast guard
Updated 44 min 16 sec ago
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Fire-hit tanker enters Malaysia terminal area after being detained by coast guard

Fire-hit tanker enters Malaysia terminal area after being detained by coast guard
  • The supertanker Ceres I left the scene of a fiery collision with another tanker
  • Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil-trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port

SINGAPORE: A tanker that was involved in a collision near Singapore last week entered the area of Malaysia’s Bertam floating oil terminal on Monday morning after it was intercepted by local authorities on Sunday, shipping data from LSEG and Kpler showed.
The Sao Tome and Principe-flagged supertanker Ceres I left the scene of a fiery collision with another tanker, the Singapore-flagged Hafnia Nile, on Friday.
The Ceres I was found in Malaysian waters with two tugboats towing it, the coast guard said in a statement on Sunday.
The Ceres I and the two tugboats have been detained by the coast guard for further investigation, it said.
The Bertam floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) terminal is located in the South China Sea off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
The Ceres I is a very large crude carrier (VLCC) supertanker capable of carrying around 2 million barrels of oil. AIS data on LSEG showed that Ceres I is empty.
Ceres I has loaded crude and fuel oil from Iran and Venezuela through ship-to-ship transfers between 2019 and March 2024, Kpler data showed.
Shanghai Prosperity Ship Management is the manager of the Ceres I, according to LSEG data. The company could not be immediately reached for comment.
Separately, Hafnia, the manager of Hafnia Nile, said over the weekend it was in discussions with Malaysian authorities to safely move the vessel.
The Hafnia Nile, a 74,000-deadweight-tons capacity Panamax tanker, was carrying about 300,000 barrels naphtha for Japan, according to ship-tracking data from Kpler and LSEG. Naphtha is a raw material for making petrochemicals.
Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil-trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port. Its surrounding waters are among the busiest global sea lanes.
Malaysia’s coast guard said on Sunday that aerial surveys conducted by the coast guard found minor traces of an oil spill at the location of the collision between the Ceres I and the Hafnia Nile, which occurred in the waters about 55 km (35 miles) northeast of the Singaporean island of Pedra Branca.
“The environment department has been informed and will conduct further monitoring,” it said.


Trump campaign switches gears to confront a Harris challenge

Trump campaign switches gears to confront a Harris challenge
Updated 57 min 29 sec ago
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Trump campaign switches gears to confront a Harris challenge

Trump campaign switches gears to confront a Harris challenge
  • Trump campaign to cast Harris as ‘co-pilot’ of administration polices it says are sources of voter discontent
  • Donald Trump: ‘Harris will be easier to beat than Joe Biden would have been’

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will try to show swing voters that his likely new rival, Vice President Kamala Harris, has her fingerprints all over two issues he is counting on for victory in November: immigration and the cost of living.
Sources within the Trump campaign said it will cast Harris, the likely Democratic candidate after President Joe Biden quit the race on Sunday, as the “co-pilot” of administration polices it says are behind both sources of voter discontent.
Biden’s sudden exit and endorsement of Harris has upended the race, just eight days after Trump survived an assassination attempt at a campaign rally.
Sources told Reuters that Trump’s campaign had for weeks been preparing for Harris should Biden drop out and she win her party’s nomination.
“Harris will be easier to beat than Joe Biden would have been,” Trump told CNN shortly after Biden’s announcement on Sunday.
Trump’s campaign has signaled it will tie her as tightly as possible to Biden’s immigration policy, which Republicans say is to blame for a sharp increase in the numbers of people crossing the southern border with Mexico illegally.
The second line of attack will revolve around the economy. Public opinion polls consistently show Americans are unhappy with high food and fuel costs as well as interest rates that have made buying a home less affordable.
“She’s the co-pilot of the Biden vision,” said one Trump adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity during last week’s Republican National Convention, where a unified party anointed Trump as its nominee in the White House race.
“If they want to switch to Biden 2.0 and have ‘Cackling’ Kamala at the top of the ticket, we’re good either way,” the adviser said, repeating an insult the campaign has been trying out for weeks focused on how the vice president laughs.
Make America Great Again Inc, a super PAC backing Trump, said on Sunday it was pulling anti-Biden television ads that had been set to run in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania and replacing them with an ad attacking Harris.
The 30-second ad accuses Harris of hiding Biden’s infirmity from the public, and it seeks to pin the administration’s record solely on her. “Kamala knew Joe couldn’t do the job, so she did it. Look what she got done: a border invasion, runaway inflation, the American Dream dead,” the narrator says.
Trump, known for using insulting and sometimes offensive language to attack his opponents, gave supporters at a rally in Michigan on Saturday a taste of the insults he is likely to fling at Harris in the coming days.
“I call her laughing Kamala. You ever watch a laugh? She’s crazy. You can tell a lot by a laugh. She’s crazy. She’s nuts,” he said.
ALTERED RACE
The Democratic Party has yet to determine how to move forward, and there is as yet no guarantee that Harris will emerge as the party’s nominee despite Biden’s endorsement.
Harris as the Democratic nominee would alter the race in perhaps unforeseen ways, political strategists said.
A 59-year-old woman who is Black and Asian-American would fashion an entirely new dynamic with Trump, 78, offering a vivid generational and cultural split-screen. The United States has yet to elect a woman president in its 248-year history.
Rodell Mollineau, a Democratic strategist and longtime congressional aide, said Harris would be able to mount “a more energetic campaign with excitement from younger voters and people of color” after Biden struggled to energize these important Democratic Party voting blocs.
A former prosecutor and California attorney general as well as a former US senator, Harris would be able to use “her years of litigation experience to effectively prosecute Trump in the court of public opinion,” Mollineau said.
Chip Felkel, a Republican strategist, cautioned that it would be a mistake for the Trump campaign to assume Harris could serve as a simple stand-in for Biden, because of her potential appeal to different parts of the electorate.
Recent polls have shown Harris to be competitive with Trump. In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, Harris and Trump were tied with 44 percent support each in a July 15-16 Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Before Sunday, the Trump campaign had already begun discussions about how they would redeploy campaign resources should Biden drop out of the race, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
Jeanette Hoffman, a Republican political consultant, said despite the contrasts Harris would bring to the ticket, her close ties to Biden would be a drag on her candidacy.
Harris “doesn’t represent the change America is looking for,” Hoffman said.
MAGA Inc. CEO Taylor Budowich said his group has commissioned opposition research on several possible Democratic candidates. “MAGA Inc. is prepared for all outcomes of a Democrat Party who has only brought chaos and failure,” he said.