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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

High demand for data scientisits requires preparing UAE youth with new skills

Globally, demand for data scientists will soar 28 per cent by 2020

Top-notch universities including MIT, Columbia, Stanford, and many others are offering courses in data science, business analytics, computational analytics. Getty Images / AFP
Top-notch universities including MIT, Columbia, Stanford, and many others are offering courses in data science, business analytics, computational analytics. Getty Images / AFP

As the UAE transforms itself for the future, it views a data-sharing economy as a means for offering people-centric services that improve people’s lives, making the country a happier place.

“Smart cities are the future and data is the bedrock upon which a smart city is built. The UAE is at the forefront of global data management efforts and is driving the growth of the knowledge economy in the region and beyond," said Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General of the Smart Dubai Office and CEO of the Dubai Data Establishment, earlier this year.

Industry reports indicate Middle East smart city innovations supporting the global Big Data market will grow to a record high of $7 trillion by 2021. IDC forecasts that worldwide data will swell to 160ZB by 2025, 10 times the amount of data today.

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This revolution is happening in the private sector as well throughout payments, banking, information technology, government, media, telecom, hospitality, retail, travel, healthcare and entertainment companies. Customer segmentation, radical personalised recommendations, price optimisation on the fly through big data analytics is the success “mantra” at Amazon. General Electric and United Technology are using sensor data for enabling proactive maintenance of machines through predictive algorithms to minimise equipment and asset failure. The Uber data and analytics platform collects and mines millions of customer transaction data for fleet placement and pricing.

Data science is advancing to greater heights every day, faster than many of us ever imagined. Companies are not only trying to develop this competency organically but also are acquiring niche and specialised companies to sharpen their overall capabilities in the analytics and machine learning space. This upsurge is rightly so because data science makes consumers’ lives better, brings a better return on investment for businesses and helps Government and non-Governmental organisations to monitor their citizen’s need and formulate appropriate policy measures for building a better society.

Investment in new technologies to capture data, better software, and hardware to store and process is growing, and hiring data engineers and scientists to harness insights from data is in high demand. For a recent job opening at Visa, the role of a data scientist is described as “critical in building market-relevant client solutions and intellectual property.”

Preparing the UAE's youth for the future global economy is a critical factor for achieving UAE Vision 2021’s strategic objectives of creating a smart innovation-driven economy, and there is already a real talent crunch in data science. IBM predicts demand for Data scientists will soar 28 per cent by 2020, with 2.7 million data-savvy professionals in the United States alone[5].

Hal Varian, the chief economist at Google, has said, “The sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians.” So what does it take to be a data scientist? Data science is fundamentally an interdisciplinary science. Combing intellectual curiosity with mathematical and statistical skills to solve problems by applying machine learning, managing large data sets, and generating interesting visualisations are the crucial need of the discipline.

With the rising interest in data science from business and government leaders, it is also essential for a data scientist to be an excellent storyteller to build a good narrative around how to use data to solve business challenges.

Top-notch universities including MIT, Columbia, Stanford, and many others are offering courses in data science, business analytics, computational analytics, machine learning and big data which are in widespread demand today.

Data science is surging, faster than many of us anticipated. Understanding behaviour of the consumer and responding to their need, as defined by the consumer, in the quickest time and decisive manner is the only means to survive in future. Globally, we have started seeing many new graduates with data science skills who are eager to build a successful career in this field. We hope to see more UAE youth entering this field in the years to come.

Shyama Mahanty is a Senior Director and Data Science expert at Visa Middle East

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