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How can the Middle East lead in AI innovation and growth while addressing job displacement

By harnessing the potential of AI, the Middle East can be a dynamic player in the global AI landscape

How can the Middle East lead in AI innovation and growth while addressing job displacement
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Artificial intelligence has proven to be one of the most transformative and disruptive technologies the world has ever seen. And we’re only getting started. 

In an extremely short time, many countries globally have witnessed the remarkable impact of AI on industries, economies, and societies. The Middle East is no exception, as countries recognize AI’s strategic importance in economic and social development. 

However, as governments invest in AI research and infrastructure to transform their nations, a concern arises about job displacement. 

This year, Fast Company Middle East’s Impact Council, comprising influential entrepreneurs, technologists, and innovators, has partnered with BCG to organize two sub-committees. 

One of these sub-committees, the AI panel, is dedicated to understanding the transformative impact of AI on the Middle East. These leaders will discuss the opportunities presented by AI in the region, paving the way for transformations and advancements.

Dr. Lamya Abdulaziz AlOmair, AI & Technology Research Advisor in Saudi Arabia, says, “The Middle East has a unique opportunity to be a global leader in AI innovation and can spur economic growth by investing in key sectors like healthcare, renewable energy, tourism, and fintech. Focusing on upskilling and educational reform is essential to mitigate job displacements.”

She believes responsible AI development can be achieved through ethical governance and public-private partnerships that resonate with the region’s cultural and societal values. 

On the other hand, Waleed I. Alsobhi, an executive expert, Data and Analytics at Thiqah, underscores the need for a multifaceted approach. He suggests governments should invest in AI education and research to cultivate a skilled workforce capable of driving innovation.

“Firstly, governments should invest in AI education and research, nurturing a skilled workforce capable of driving innovation and creating AI-based solutions. Simultaneously, promoting collaboration between academia, industry, and startups can accelerate technology adoption,” he says. 

Dmitriy Dovgan, Head of Data Science at Al-Futtaim, shares the same thoughts. He believes that investing in AI education and research and development, strengthening international cooperation in AI open-source projects, enabling a startup ecosystem, and promoting AI-driven industries can help the region harness the potential of AI innovation for economic growth.

He says, “To ensure responsible AI development, it is vital to establish robust regulation prioritizing transparency, fairness, and inclusivity in AI applications to uphold societal values.”

Addressing concerns about job displacement, Alsobhi supports proactive retraining and reskilling programs to transition workers into higher-value roles in AI-related fields. He also emphasizes the importance of a regulatory framework prioritizing ethical AI development, focusing on transparency and accountability.

Continual dialogue with society ensures that AI aligns with the region’s values, fostering trust and responsible AI adoption, he adds.

In addition to workforce development, responsible AI growth in the Middle East hinges on research and education. “By establishing AI research centers and dedicated educational programs, fostering public-private collaborations, and promoting AI-driven industries in areas like healthcare, finance, and education, the region can create a skilled workforce adept at harnessing AI’s potential,” says Ritesh Dhanak, Chief Innovation and Digital Officer and member of the GEMS Innovation Committee.

He emphasizes the importance of international collaboration for inclusive development and formulating comprehensive national AI strategies. This approach will enable the region to achieve sustainable AI-driven growth while prioritizing education, addressing challenges, and nurturing an ethically conscious society.

By adopting a holistic approach, the Middle East can create a sustainable AI ecosystem that drives economic growth while remaining socially responsible.

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