Saudi Arabia’s AI Ecosystem: Skills Shaping the Future

5 minutes
Image: AI Skills in Demand in Saudi Arabia

The nation of Saudi Arabia has been actively adopting technological advancements like artificial intelligence, with a turnaround of AI skills in demand. These efforts have in fact been part of the larger plan called “Vision 2030”.

Heaving a shortage of people who are actually skilled in this tech, however, is making the whole process move much slower.

In order to build a skilled workforce in the field of AI, communities need to focus on building skills that are in-demand at the moment. The most sought-after are machine learning and data science.

The lack of talent in the field is creating a roadblock in progress. After recognizing this fact, Saudi Arabia took an initiative along with its universities to build a community that is skilled.

By making significant investments in the field of AI, and the rise of AI skills in Saudi Arabia, they have opened doors for both learners as well as professionally skilled individuals in artificial intelligence. 

Growth of AI and Emerging Technologies

Saudi Arabia has seen rapid growth in the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies in recent years. 

Key drivers include:

  • Government supportSaudi Vision 2030 has made developing an AI industry a top priority, with over $20 billion invested in new technologies. There are initiatives to build AI centers, with the rise of AI skills in Saudi, attract top tech talent and encourage AI entrepreneurship.
  • Digital transformation – Both public and private sectors are undergoing digital transformation. Examples include smart city projects, automated ports, AI in healthcare and education. Saudi Aramco is using AI to enhance oil exploration.
  • Investment in startups – Saudi Arabia aims to establish a substantial fund, amounting to approximately $40 billion, dedicated to fostering investments in the rapidly evolving field of artificial intelligence. This encourages local startup ecosystems.

However, broader adoption of AI skills in Saudi and realization of its full potential is constrained by a growing skills gap. Saudi is facing a shortage of professionals adept in AI-related disciplines like machine learning, data science, and natural language processing. 

Most in-demand AI skills in Saudi Arabia

Machine learning engineers and data scientists are among the most sought-after AI talent in Saudi Arabia. With data being generated at unprecedented rates, companies need professionals who can build machine learning models to extract insights and drive automation.

Machine Learning

Machine learning has become a critical capability for organizations across sectors. Machine learning engineers develop self-learning algorithms that can analyze data, identify patterns and make predictions without explicit programming.

With the ability to handle complex tasks like image recognition, language translation and personalized recommendations, machine learning is enabling breakthrough applications.

As companies invest in AI, just like Apple did with its M1 Language Model, to improve efficiency and decision making, demand for capable machine learning talent continues to outstrip supply.

Data Science  

Data scientists possess a blend of programming, analytics and business acumen to make data-driven decisions.

Using statistical and modeling techniques, they identify trends and relationships in data to solve problems. Data science skills like predictive modeling, data mining, visualization and programming languages (Python, R, SQL) are much sought after in Saudi Arabia.

Data scientists work across domains like finance, healthcare and transportation to optimize operations.  

Natural Language Processing

Natural language processing (NLP) is a subfield of AI focused on interactions between computers and human language.

NLP specialists have skills to “teach” machines to understand text and speech. Key responsibilities include building chatbots, analyzing sentiment, understanding intent and entities, and improving dialogue systems.

With rising adoption of conversational interfaces and virtual assistants, NLP experts are in high demand, especially for Arabic language models.

Computer Vision

Computer vision involves enabling computers to identify, process and analyze visual elements like images and videos. It powers use cases like facial recognition, autonomous vehicles, surveillance and medical diagnosis.

Computer vision engineers work on complex problems like image classification, object detection and image segmentation using neural networks like CNNs. Their skills are vital as computer vision gets deployed across more settings.

Initiatives to Develop AI Talent with AI Skills in Demand

The Saudi government and private sector have recognized the urgent need to develop AI skills and talent to support the country’s digital transformation goals. 

Several key initiatives are underway:

Government Programs

  • The Saudi Digital Academy was launched in 2019. Since its inception, the academy has successfully upskilled over 20,000 nationals, and further plans on empowering an additional 40,000 individuals with digital prowess by the year 2030.
  • The National Center for AI was established in 2019. It runs training programs for government entities on adopting AI in public services. A focus is building national capacity in AI research.

Private Sector Training

  • Technology leaders like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM offer AI training programs in Saudi Arabia tailored to business needs.
  • PwC employs a group of AI “super users” who act as role models of the tech world for the workforce. As part of the AI upskilling initiative called “My AI”, PwC announced an investment of $1 Billion.

With strong government commitment and public-private partnerships focusing on both student education and employee upskilling in AI, Saudi Arabia aims to nurture a world-class hub of talent to propel its digital economy.

Closing Thoughts

To realize the full potential of AI and to implement it efficiently, undoubtedly, there need to be people involved who are truly aware and skilled in the field.

In order to bridge this gap in talent, efforts are being taken from both private and public sectors of the country. 

The government of Saudi has launched many upskilling programs in an attempt to solve this issue. Partnering with global universities has accelerated this process.

Tech companies and private academic institutions have come together to provide training and learning opportunities for the young demographic.

In the years to come, as technology advances, Saudi Arabia will continue to nurture its talent to remain relevant and stay ahead of the competition in the world.

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