Why closing the digital divide is key to long-term prosperity Why closing the digital divide is key to long-term prosperity
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Why closing the digital divide is key to long-term prosperity

Why closing the digital divide is key to long-term prosperity

Upskilling and empowering workers today can make up for the talent pipeline bottleneck


In the UAE, there is a significant disconnect between those who are able to take full advantage of our burgeoning digital ecosystem and those who are not. Traditionally, the ‘digital divide’ is a distinction between those who can and cannot access the internet itself. But as our digital ecosystem has evolved, so too has the experience level required to be considered digitally ‘literate’.

While the initial definition, one of accessibility, has been met admirably by the UAE’s shift from eGovernment to mGovernment in 2013, there is a requirement to move beyond just the digitisation of priority services and to take decisive action to close our current skills gap in both the public and private sector.

Today, organisations are in the midst of one of the largest business resets in history. Spurred by the pandemic, our new global business reality has forced companies to adapt. While the transformational undertaking required for businesses to survive through the pandemic built a solid foundation, the benefits can be heightened further by empowering workers through increasing data literacy.

Challenging the skills shortage
With a population of 9.94 million, and 9.84 million active internet users – a 99 per cent connectivity saturation – the UAE is uniquely primed to begin a digital revolution through upskilling.

Statistica, in their global CIO survey, noted that amidst the famed IT skills shortage, specialists with Big Data and Analytic talent were in the shortest supply. With 44 per cent of CIOs reporting they struggled to identify and recruit specialists in this area, compared to just 39 per cent for cybersecurity, 34 per cent for security and resilience, and 31 per cent for business analysis specialists.

In an area famed for its global skills shortage, finding qualified and experienced data specialists is the most challenging by far. Further, according to a recent PwC report on the potential impact of data-rich AI in the Middle East, we see the true potential that harnessing data can provide.

By 2030, fully utilised data-rich AI is expected to contribute an additional 12.4 per cent GDP – a total of $135.2bn.

Analytics and data automation are now critical to enable new forms of data interaction and usage, with education and upskilling a key ingredient to accelerate this transformation adoption further.

This automation starts with fixing pain points for workers who are spending their time on recurring manual processes and controlling the flow as this new data arrives. Thanks to the evolution of technology, a wave of smarter, more accessible data systems can be deployed by any organisation to harness the power of data and automate manual processes and pull out actual actionable insights without the need for specialist qualifications or code.

Trending towards visibility
While collecting data is easy, employees in every industry are struggling to harness it. Delivering insights has become increasingly challenging as the volume, velocity, and variety of data continues to expand beyond the capacity for some businesses to utilise it. In the first instance, by automating these manual, repetitive data-driven workflows, actual insights can quickly be linked to business goals.

Upskilling goes hand in hand with any transformation journey. Any company in the midst of transformation must first invest in its workforce and their career prospects – not only to encourage a comparable investment from them into your business, but to make them feel more valued and digitally literate. Empowering those closest to a process – those people who know exactly where the problems are – are the best placed to turn raw data into insights.

The end-goal is to ensure that more people across more organizations have access to usable data – an environment where employees can improve their own digital literacy. With such a significant shortage of established data specialists, breaking down the digital divide and upskilling existing teams is the next logical step to take advantage of today’s business environment.

In the next decade, the definition of digital divide will change even further. The next hurdle – the analytic divide – will split organisations between those who can and cannot use the information at their disposal to accurately plan future requirements and meet new challenges.

Upskilling and empowering workers today can make up for the talent pipeline bottleneck but, as ever – the businesses which do not take advantage of the data-driven insights available will be left behind.

Abboud Ghanem is the vice president, Middle East and Africa at Alteryx

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