The newly released report by enterprise data cloud company Cloudera reveals that more than a quarter of UAE business decision-makers are now putting environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) above developing new products/services (24%) or growing shareholder value (15%).
Most knowledge workers also believe that up to 49% of the data their company uses on a daily basis should be focused on doing good for the communities it serves. This is a sentiment shared by 66 percent of business decision-makers, indicating that profit and ESG are no longer mutually exclusive pursuits.
The study also looks at how people’s attitudes toward Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Data Analytics are changing. The survey, dubbed ‘Limitless: The Positive Power of AI Study,’ also targeted C-Suite executives and a total of 10,880 knowledge workers, 528 of whom are based in the UAE.
“The study reveals a new wave of economics, focused on doing equally great things for profit, planet, and people – driven by automation and AI — is emerging. For business leaders, this means it’s time to refocus how they think about technology investment — identifying not only the data that will support growth but also the technology that will help employees and communities gain meaningful access to it. At Cloudera, we work with our customers to transform their economic output with Data Analytics and AI,” said Mick Hollison, President, Cloudera.
Failing to act for social good is risky for business growth, talent
Thirty-three percent of UAE business decision-makers and knowledge workers surveyed believe their organizations should publicly support sustainable business practices. Furthermore, the vast majority of knowledge workers (56%) believe that Data Analytics should be used to deliver more sustainable business practices that benefit both their organization and the communities it serves.
According to the data, 61% of decision-makers are very active in the implementation of these technologies. However, 31% claim to be active but lack the necessary knowledge to implement these technologies. Companies that fill these gaps now have a significant competitive advantage in the battle for customers and talent.
“In my opinion, businesses, regardless of the industry they operate in, should today act in a socially responsible manner. As the research points out, doing this can start with data. Companies can, and should, use big data and AI to make more sustainable business decisions,” said Karim Azar, Regional Director, Middle East & Turkey, Cloudera.
Invest in reskilling to curb fear of job loss to AI
The research findings also dispel the long-held belief that workers were afraid of AI taking over their jobs. An explosion in the volume of data now available to businesses has made AI/ML a common threat to many job roles and a powerful ally. Over half of UAE-based knowledge workers say their daily tasks have been augmented or automated by AI (73%), ML (63%), and Data Analytics (78%) in the last 12 months. The biggest benefits of this have been saving time (40%) and allowing them/their team to focus more on strategic work (32%). What’s more, 88% of knowledge workers are now comfortable taking on a new role due to AI/ML/Data Analytics.
Businesses must do more and invest in employee reskilling to capitalize on this. As more tasks are automated, 96 percent of UAE business decision-makers said their organization will commit to continuous investment in reskilling employees. But the investment in people must not end there. Companies must also involve employees in the upskilling and reskilling processes to ensure a level playing field for employees.