Blog: Bringing high-tech capabilities to start-ups and SMEs: the case for the democratisation of…
By: Necip Ozyucel, Cloud & Enterprise Group Lead, Microsoft Gulf
The future of technology lies in the ability to make better decisions, be it commercially, administratively or personally — from governments and enterprises right down to SMEs, start-ups and individuals. Artificial intelligence is already helping individuals and organisations all over the planet to achieve more, but Microsoft has long been urging careful thought about how we use smart solutions to solve problems, lest we concentrate the benefits disproportionately.
Our “democratisation” approach to AI governance would place the powerful engines of technology platforms in the hands of everyone, not just an influential few. In the Arab Gulf, economies tend to be made up of large majorities of SMEs and start-ups. Quashing innovation before it begins is, thankfully, not a strategy favoured by ambitious governments in the GCC, all of which are working feverishly through economic vision programmes to promote entrepreneurship, in a bid to diversify GDP makeups away from petrochemical dependency.
“two in five Middle East organisations have already adopted AI solutions and more than one third are planning to adopt in 2019”
Smarter, more productive, more secure
A recent Microsoft survey showed that almost two in five Middle East organisations have already adopted AI solutions and more than one third are planning to adopt in 2019. In addition, smaller businesses that fear the sting of a cyberattack are seeking the safe havens of large cloud providers. The same study unveiled that 63% of organisations lost either productivity or data to a cyber incident in 2018, with almost one in 10 victims reporting incidents “once a week or more”. This is poison to small businesses and start-ups. We need to ensure that SMEs receive enterprise-grade cyber-protection that lies within typical budgets.
These findings clearly point out that the region’s start-ups and SMEs are in need of a trusted and secure cloud in order grow, sustain and innovate. Speaking to this demand and with the recent uptake of its cloud services by governments and organisations of all sizes, Microsoft announced that it will deliver the trusted and intelligent cloud to its middle east customers by opening two data centers in UAE this year, and enable them to avail enterprise-grade reliability, reduced latency, security and the broadest compliance. These facilities will cater to start-ups and small businesses and reduce their investment challenges by offering a range of cloud solutions and fundamental infrastructure platforms for technologies such as AI, IoT and blockchain.
“63% of organisations lost either productivity or data to a cyber incident in 2018“
Upscaling and empowering talent
Also, as the Fourth Industrial Revolution steams ahead, the notion that jobs will disappear and that a vast unemployed army will be left behind by robots and automation is a natural first reaction. But independent analysts have told us that 4IR will be, as its predecessors were, is a net creator of jobs. The World Bank last year reported that an estimated 4.3 jobs are generated across non-tech sectors for every technology job created. According to an IDC study, the Microsoft ecosystem alone is set to create more than 520,000 jobs in the Middle East over the next five years. A WEF report found that 85% of companies are looking to adopt new technologies in years to come, and no less than 54% of all employees will require significant reskilling.
Bridging the skills gap has been a serious pursuit over the years. Initiatives like the Microsoft’s Cloud Society has over 140,000 registrations from the region, and is focused on educating people about the cloud ecosystem with the aim of upskilling and reskilling them to fill the jobs that have yet to be created. We are also holding face to face trainings and Data center community meetups to engage with IT professionals and upskill them in order to establish best practices and strategies for transformation.
“an estimated 4.3 jobs are generated across non-tech sectors for every technology job created”
All of this is possible not only because of the skills gaps in AI worldwide that create upskilling and reskilling opportunities. Non-tech jobs also emerge, because of the extant economies of the very platforms that AI makes available to everyone. Cutting-edge capabilities allow start-ups and smaller businesses to dream big and innovate reasonably, growing and employing more people in the process.
A brighter future for AI
In 2018 we saw a surge in AI use in every major sector in the form of chatbots, intelligent ads, predictive analytics to name a few. This trend will grow in 2019 and years to come. Manufacturing will increasingly turn to industrial robotics, advanced analytics and machine learning; the transportation industry will bring us autonomous cars, traffic management, and accident-prevention solutions; B2C businesses such as FSI and retail will adopt AI tools to help with risk management and fraud detection, as well as leaning heavily on chatbots and customer insights; and healthcare will get to grips with the extraordinary amount of data it stores to improve treatment outcomes.
For the budding business, consolidation of clean data and the ability to use it for rich insights has never been easier. The democratisation of AI ensures that up-and-comers get the same opportunities to achieve more as everyone else.
This contribution to the BECO Capital blog is part of a partnership with Microsoft to empower regional innovators and early-stage technology companies.