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| 02 October, 2017

GCC states should offer more digital education programmes to meet market demand: study

Digital jobs in the GCC represent just 1.7 percent of the overall workforce, compared to 5.4 percent in the European Union. Image used for illustrative purpose

Digital jobs in the GCC represent just 1.7 percent of the overall workforce, compared to 5.4 percent in the European Union. Image used for illustrative purpose

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A lack of digital education and training programmes in the GCC has meant that fewer digital jobs are on offer in the region compared to other parts of the world, a new study has shown.

The study conducted by LinkedIn and Strategy&, a consulting arm of PwC, suggested the need for the six GCC states to work harder and more closely with the private sector to increase digital education and training opportunities in the region to meet a growing market demand for digital jobs.

The study showed that digital jobs made up for just 1.7 percent of the total GCC workforce for 2015 (with the exception of data for Bahrain that dated back to 2013). The number was significantly lower than the average of 5.4 percent in European Union (EU) countries, 6.9 percent in Singapore, 7.8 percent in the United Kingdom, 8.4 percent in Finland and 8.5 percent in Estonia.

Speaking at a press conference announcing the results in Dubai on Monday, LinkedIn’s Middle East and North Africa director, Ali Matar, said the regional figure was “pretty humble when we compare it to Europe”.

He added that if the GCC’s percentage were to rise to the EU average, it would lead to the creation of over 1.3 million new jobs, including 700,000 in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s largest economy.

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Most of the six Gulf Arab states still rely heavily on oil revenues as a main source of income. Saudi Arabia, which owns around 22 percent of the world’s proven petroleum reserves and ranks as the biggest exporter of petroleum, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), reported a $79 billion budget deficit in 2016.

Partnering with private sector

Samer Bohsali, a Dubai-based partner with Strategy& in the Middle East, said GCC governments should consider working with the private sector and consultancy firms to help transform the region from an oil-dependent economy to a digital economy.

“In the region in the past few years… We have seen immense focus on transforming from oil-based economy(ies) to the next big thing….digitising economies,” Bohsali said, speaking at the same press conference.

“It is almost impossible to imagine big transformations without digitalisation. Practically, that does not happen,” he added.

The Gulf region’s majority young population have been quick to adopt advanced technologies. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are among the top countries worldwide for mobile phone penetration, according to Reuters.

The GCC’s e-commerce market is expected to grow to $20 billion by 2020, according to a report by global consultancy firm A.T. Kearney published last year. 

UAE

According to Monday’s report, the UAE had the highest percentage of workers in digital jobs in the region in 2015 – at 2.9 percent of its total workforce. Saudi Arabia followed with 1.5 percent, Oman and Bahrain had 1.4 percent each, while Kuwait had just 0.6 percent of its workforce in digital jobs.

In April, Dubai announced it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with IT company Avanaza Solutions to move ahead with plans to implement a citywide blockchain-based payments platform, according to a former press release issued by the firm.

This followed on from a partnership agreement with tech giant IBM in February to launch a scheme using blockchain computing technology for goods shipments’ records and transactions, according to Reuters.

According to Bohsali, 93 percent of the GCC’s digital professionals registered on the LinkedIn website gained their degrees from universities outside the region. Bohsali said digital professionals include IT and media professionals, among others. 

“Is that a bad number or a good number? It is too much,” he said.

He argued that the GCC does not provide enough educational or training opportunities to allow digital professionals to learn or develop their careers. “You need to be in an environment that allows you to continuously learn. We don’t have that here yet in the GCC,” Bohsali said. 

Challenges

Bohsali said one of the main challenges facing education providers is the pace of change in the industry.

“It is going to be a continuous learning effort. I have done consulting 12 years ago and it did not change much; same PowerPoint, same process. In digitisation, it will move,” Bohsali added.

The report also highlighted an underdeveloped entrepreneurship ecosystem as another barrier to regional digital jobs growth.

“Many digital entrepreneurs prefer to found their startups outside the GCC where they benefit from favourable regulations, smoother company setup processes, as well as more favourable bankruptcy and intellectual property (IP) laws,” the report said.

The UAE has introduced a bankruptcy law late last year, but it has come under criticism from some small business owners and legal experts, who said that its 231 articles covering seven sections over 137 pages was too complicated for many to comprehend.

 © Zawya 2017