Complex Made Simple

Exclusive: Why are UAE’s upskilling and data literacy efforts at full throttle?

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, launched new initiatives to support startups and investors in the country. The implications are massive, both economically and legally

Employers will foster longer-term, substantial relationships with employees who will feel more valued Upskilling will push individuals to set up businesses that are innovative and legally compliant The ability to draw insights from data is no longer reserved for the statistically trained data scientist

During a recent visit to the Ministry of Economy, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched new initiatives to support startups and investors in the country.

“We launched a number of economic initiatives – an accelerator for family-owned businesses that supports them in accessing new markets; an economic research institute established in collaboration with leading universities (UAE Growth Lab); and a global investment conference (Investopia) to be held in March 2022 that will discuss strategies to leverage the opportunities created by the new economy,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

“We have also launched an entrepreneurial academy (Skill-Up Academy) and a new platform to support the growth of startups (Scale-Up Platform), in addition to a web portal (Grow in UAE) to provide comprehensive information about policies and investment opportunities in the UAE. Furthermore, we have launched a new national agenda to attract talent to the UAE,” he added.

A legal perspective on the initiative

Biancka Gracias, Partner & Head of Start-up & SME division at ICLO wrote to AMEinfo on how this initiative can help the start-up and SME community from a legal perspective.

UAE is currently 1st in the region and 4th globally on the Global Entrepreneurship Index. 

“Continuous education and learning new skills is crucial to any individual and in turn to any economy and this initiative, in particular, will foster rapid growth and accelerate the development of the economy. With innovation at an all-time high now in Dubai, it is becoming increasingly important to have employees with specialized skill sets and employees are requiring to certainly have more than one specialized skill in addition to the educational qualifications that they may hold,” Biancka wrote. 

“In addition, it will make it easier for innovative businesses to source individuals who have more specific skill sets, and this will, in turn, create less room for disharmony and dispute from an employer-employee relationship perspective.”

Biancka believes employers will possibly foster longer-term, substantial relationships with employees who will in turn feel more valued and could build a positive working environment with balanced contributions from all parties involved.  

The World Bank recently reported on its site that “750 million people aged 15+ (or 18 percent of the global population) report being unable to read and write, with estimates being nearly twice as large if literacy is measured through direct assessments.” 

Biancka said: “Skills development is something that is being taken seriously at a global scale with very few countries actually taking the initiative to do something about this issue.”

Everyone agrees that upskilling boosts creativity, builds tenacity, and drives creativity for an individual, while empowered individuals in the ecosystem will automatically derive intelligent results. 

“From a regulatory perspective, upskilling and learning will push individuals to set up businesses that are innovative and educated founders are automatically more inclined to be legally compliant which means they will tend to seek advice from advisors as a pre-emptive measure,” Biancka opined. 

“Preventing or pre-empting legal risks is equally important for successful businesses, and the private sector will flourish with a skilled workforce to support it.”

Biancka added that having a skilled workforce also makes for better support to an economy in terms of regulation, compliance, and overall productivity.  

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Data literacy and upskilling 

Richard Timperlake, VP, EMEA, at Alteryx wrote to AMEinfo explaining the importance of data literacy and upskilling as the only way for start-ups and SMEs to survive in the post-COVID-19 world.

“In a post-COVID world, companies are moving quickly in reaction to new market pressures; needing fast solutions to survive and thrive. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in attitudes towards data literacy and upskilling,” Richard said. 

He added that IDC estimates that by 2025 we’ll have created more than 175 zettabytes of data globally. 

“With an exponential surge in the amount of data generated, stored, and processed, the data skills required to make use of this information are experiencing a comparable increase in demand. Despite this, the availability of skills required to turn that data into insights are rare in today’s labor market,” Richard said.

According to a recent IDC study commissioned by Alteryx, 84% of organizations in the Middle East are unable to use their enterprise data for business decision-making. The study also revealed that almost half of businesses believe upskilling workers with digital skills will be essential for the future of business. 

“Without a comparable increase in the number of qualified data scientists or data analysts entering the market, the ability for businesses to adapt and remain agile is hindered.”

The problem, at its core, is a simple case of supply and demand, albeit one exacerbated by significant hurdles to increase the supply, and constantly increasing requirements, he explained. 

In his opinion, improving on the core data skills of existing employees, and further developing data literacy, now needs to be viewed as a crucial goal to meet business targets and improve resiliency when facing both known and unknown challenges. 

In the past, employees with huge expertise in their given specialisms were completely excluded from data analytics due to the high level of technical knowledge required. 

“With the advent of new self-service, code-free, and code-friendly platforms that do not require users to know complex coding languages such as R and Python, the ability to draw insights from data is no longer reserved for the statistically trained data scientist. By upskilling workers already in the line of business with key data analytic skills and providing them with the right technology, businesses can enable these domain experts – and not just trained data specialists – to solve complex data challenges, taking full advantage of valuable human insights,” Richard indicated. 

“By ensuring a strong base-level foundation in data work, and democratizing access to the data for solving problems, new teams can be developed to meet the challenge posed by an ever-growing workload and an increasingly tumultuous business landscape. 

Upskilling around analytics and data automation is critical to enable the creation of impactful and timely data insights.”