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Power letters 2019: Sayed Hashish, Microsoft Gulf’s regional GM

Power letters 2019: Sayed Hashish, Microsoft Gulf’s regional GM

Private citizens will see a lot more benefits in their everyday lives because of AI.

Microsoft Gulf has had a busy 2018, forging key partnerships in the government and private sectors. Our mission is to empower every individual and organisation to achieve more, and right now that means stepping up and enabling them to overcome the challenges presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

But this is only possible for organisations that embrace what we call a ‘tech intensity’ culture, which reflects a company’s ability to develop digital capabilities and drive tech adoption.

Digital transformation has the potential to engage citizens and customers, empower public servants and employees, optimise operations and reinvent products, services and business models. In response to overwhelming demand for the trusted Microsoft Cloud, in March we announced the building of data centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which will serve our customers in the Middle East.

There are many examples from 2018 of regional organisations that have placed their trust in the Microsoft Cloud. Dubai Airports announced its migration to Microsoft Azure. Telecoms giant du recently partnered with us on an AI programme that will include assessment of technologies such as cognitive services and facial text speech for intelligent customer care and predictive maintenance. And ENOC teamed up with Microsoft to develop the Service Station of the Future, leveraging mobile apps and AI to personalise the customer experience.

In Saudi Arabia, Microsoft signed the first Azure transformation engagement with Ithra – a world culture centre developed by Aramco – to perform an Azure Cloud readiness assessment. Also, THIQAH Business Services, owned by the Saudi Authority for Accredited Valuers (TAQEEM), adopted our modern workplace solutions to enhance security, mobility and collaboration. Additionally, the Saudi Ministry of Housing joined with Microsoft to empower their employees and better engage with citizens.

As we enter 2019, and prepare to say goodbye to another decade, we stand on the brink of many breakthroughs, but also many challenges. Private citizens will see a lot more benefits in their everyday lives because of AI. From healthcare to retail experiences, from travel to public safety, we will all see the future in front of us.

But the region’s citizens, residents, governments, businesses and non-profits must face up to the fact that we all bear responsibility for surmounting the challenges that accompany the benefits. First, we must safeguard the livelihoods of those displaced by automation. Microsoft is committed to this goal, through lifelong learning programmes and the steady creation of jobs.

An IDC study shows that cloud computing, including the Microsoft ecosystem, will create more than 520,000 jobs across key markets in the MEA region in the coming five years. Our data centres (set to open this year) will play a large part in this. But critically, the World Bank tells us that for every technology job created, 4.3 more are generated across industries and income groups.

The coming years could also see a widening skills gap in the region, and this is something Microsoft has taken very seriously. Our initiatives – including the Microsoft Cloud Society, and partnerships with entities such as Dubai Future Foundation (on AI Summer Camps and the One Million Arab Coders programme in the UAE) and the MiSK foundation and Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia – are aimed at upskilling and reskilling the region’s people to fill the jobs that have yet to be created.

Further into the New Year, as the next wave of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge computing continues to take centre stage, quantum computing will also gain traction across the world. These next-generation machines will be able to solve in hours problems that the entire world’s supercomputers running in parallel would take the lifetime of the universe to crack. We could finally take on climate change, create new superconducting materials and take massive leaps forward in AI.

Microsoft also believes we will see a continuation of the mainstream adoption of mixed-reality solutions. While we continue to guard the digital estates of our customers, enabling them to innovate free from boundaries, we will also see a swell in the number of devices and volume of data. This will lead to a more sinister cyber-threat landscape, even as the need for compliance with privacy and protection regulations escalates.

The future is bright, but it will take bold policy-making to keep us on the right track. We look forward to playing our part in empowering the region’s governments, businesses and individuals to embrace their ‘tech intensity’ and achieve more each day.

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