KSA workers to benefit from Accenture's $200 million digital skills fund

03 August 2018 Consultancy-me.com 5 min. read

As the debate continues over what the digital revolution will mean for the shape of the future global workforce, the tech-minded consulting powerhouse Accenture has put aside $200 million over the next three years to aid digital skills development.

Reports from the consulting realm are coming thick and fast: the digital revolution will change our world as we know it. While that process is already well underway, there remains doubt as to how exactly the technologies of Industry 4.0 – such as data analytics, automation, robotics, the internet of things and 3D-printing – will impact the future workforce.

For example, a recent McKinsey & Company report contended that nearly half of all jobs in the Middle East could already be automated with existing technologies – amounting to some 20 million full-time positions and over $366 billion in wages. Yet, on the other hand, the firm argues that technology has been a traditional driver of job creation rather than a threat, pointing to the more than 15 million jobs created in the US since the advent of computing technology in 1970.

McKinsey’s big strategy and management rivals A.T. Kearney and The Boston Consulting Group, too, have promoted the opportunities for workers and nations alike, with both firms recently hosting roundtables in the Middle East on the future of digital and AI technologies – the former with a view to shaping an inclusive and sustainable platform in Saudi Arabia, while BCG senior advisor and esteemed technology expert Philip Evans posited that workers will remain in demand, but for a different set of human characteristics.

“There are some things that machines are inherently incapable of doing and the most obvious one is emotion,” Evans previously stated. “They don’t feel emotion, and we know that they’re faking, but we don’t care… my own view is that it’s certainly great to be a data scientist, but it will be human emotional intelligence that will become more important in the future as the purely cognitive skills become less important.”

KSA workers to benefit from Accenture's $200 million digital skills education fund

Meanwhile, on the subject of human labour and the societal impacts of automation, the International Monetary Fund recently released the unambiguously titled report, ‘Should We Fear the Robot Revolution – the Correct Answer is Yes’, which outlined their devastating conclusion for wage growth and equality. Regardless of the outcome, the imperative for now at least is to quickly reskill the population to meet the coming digital talent deficit – projected by Korn Ferry to reach 85 million skilled workers globally by just 2030.

According to the human capital firm's report, for Saudi Arabia alone this would translate to an annual $33.6 billion premium added to local pay-rolls in just over a decade if the looming crisis is left unaddressed, and $206.77 billion in lost economic productivity – derived from a projected shortfall of over 650,000 skilled workers in the Kingdom. Addressing the issue, the firm says, will require input from all relevant stakeholders.

“This is a challenge facing both corporate and government leaders planning for economic success in the new economy,” said Harish Bhatia, Korn Ferry’s MENA regional director for business advisory. “In the public sector, the longer-term solution starts in the education sector and how we are preparing our students with new skills more adaptable to the future of work.”

Digital Education

While the public sector certainly has a role to play in terms of setting the education agenda, the consulting world too is recognising the need to contribute. Recently, the digitally-minded professional services giant Accenture announced a $200 million global fund committed to improving digital literacy over the next three years, to be executed through a range of initiatives and partnerships which work across the government, business and civil society sectors.

Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s chairman and CEO, and a member of the World Economic Forum’s IT Governors steering committee, said, “As a technology leader, we have an obligation to apply new scalable technology solutions to help solve complex societal challenges. Our investments will continue to empower Accenture to produce socially minded partnerships and programmes that will have a profound impact on the lives of millions of people throughout the world, now and for the future.”

Among the beneficiaries of the Accenture digital education initiative will be the citizens of several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia – where the firm has previously projected a potential $215 billion boon to the Saudi Arabian economy by 2035 through the implementation of AI technologies in local production. The UAE is also earmarked as a recipient, where the firm has already been active in a range of mentoring, education and innovation support initiatives.

Accenture’s regional managing director for the Middle East and Turkey, Omar Boulos, said of the latest investment; “This significant commitment is fueled by our belief in the importance of playing an active role in the development of young people. While we know that there is no shortage of budding talent in the region, without the proper support, our youth will not get the chance to reach their true potential. With this in mind, Accenture supports local organisations to considerably increase employment opportunities and develop the skills needed for success.”