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January 28, 2019

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Technology & AI Trends in the UAE

January 28, 2019

The UAE has long distinguished itself as a leader in creativity and innovation and is not showing any signs of slowing down. After all, this is a country that transformed itself from a pearl-diving, desert nation into a leading metropolis, home to the tallest tower on the globe, in less than half a century following its inception. Innovation is an integral part of its existence. In line with its insatiable appetite for continuous development as a nation, it has embraced technology as a means to improve the lives of its residents and citizens, exemplified by its Vision 2021 strategy and smart initiatives. Unsurprisingly, The UAE currently ranks 38th on the 2018 global innovation index[1]


Favourable regulations and the careful creation of an appealing business environment has attracted entrepreneurs and cultivated a dynamic start-up culture. Fruits of these efforts include companies by the likes of Fetchr, the Luxury Closet, Souq.com, Careem and Bayut. In a bid to stay competitive, optimise processes, reduce costs and increase profitability, existing companies are jumping on the bandwagon en masse as industries across the board are adopting technology. So what are the latest technological developments in the UAE landscape? For one, with a 33.5% annual growth rate, the UAE leads the region in terms of enterprise adoption of artificial intelligence (AI). What’s more, PwC expects AI to contribute a whopping $96 billion (13.6%) to our GDP by 2030[2]. In that same year, a quarter of Dubai’s cars will be self-driving vehicles. In the meantime, the Dubai Road and Transport Authority (RTA) will introduce autonomous taxis this year[3]. In other transport-related news, a prototype of the Virgin Hyperloop will be running in 2020, which will decrease the travel time between Abu Dhabi and Dubai from 90 to 15 minutes[4]. Amazon and Hewlett Packard vowed to make cyber security in the UAE their top priority and ramping up efforts to protect UAE customers online[5], which echoes Dubai’s cyber security strategy that was launched last year. The UAE has further invested in blockchain technology to manage oil storage data in the Port of Fujairah, the second-largest oil bunkering center in the world[6]. These examples do not signify an exhaustive list, but reflect how innovation and the adoption of technology affects sectors across the board as the changing landscape is creating potential for private and public sectors. As a result, lucrative opportunities are generated for both UAE nationals and expatriates.




Executive Solutions has been providing staffing solutions to the tech industry for the past few years and gained first-hand experience of the growing demand for professionals with tech competencies and the nature of the roles companies seek to attract talent for. Based on this experience, we identified three of the UAE’s hottest tech jobs: data scientist, cyber security engineer and AI/ machine learning engineer.


Data Scientist



According to a Glassdoor report, data scientist was the determined to be the best job in the USA for the third executive year[7], while IBM forecasts that the demand for data scientists will surge with 28% by 2020 on a global level. This trend also resonates with the UAE market and the wider region. Innovations of smart cities in the Middle East support the global big data industry and are set to grow to $7 trillion by 2021. In line of this forecast, IDC expects that global data will multiply by a factor of 10, to 160ZB by 2025[8]. The growing ability of organisations to collect data has coincided with the surging demand for professionals possessing data science competencies. Data scientists are occupied with planning for failure, optimizing processes and costs and gaining insights into the business’ and end-users needs, aimed at improving profitability, customer segmentation, big data analytics, reducing complexity and identifying solutions. The growing demand for data scientists is manifesting in the private sector and in banks, hospitality, government, healthcare, travel, entertainment, retail, media, payments, information technology and telecom companies[9]. In line with the UAE’s Smart Government and Smart City initiatives and the objectives of its national innovation strategy[10], we foresee a steady demand for data scientists in the years to come.


Cyber Security Engineer


The UAE attaches great importance to cyber safety and digital security[11] , and is committed to continuous efforts to create a safe online space for companies and individuals alike. The cyber security industry is experiencing an unprecedented boom as its current value of 42 AED billion is projected to double by 2022. According to the Cisco 2018 Security Capabilities Benchmark Study, cyber attacks in 48% of MEA companies racked up damages up to $500,000, whereas over half of the companies that experienced a cyber attack were left with an outage of five hours. Of the 1.7 billion global ransomware attacks, 2.4 million occurred in the UAE in Q1 2018. One significant contributor is the use of password-only protection, the standard mode of authentication in 80% of the large enterprises in the Gulf. In 2017, cyber attacks successfully targeted about half of the UAE adult population, which resulted in an average loss of 670 AED per individual, but accumulated to 4 AED billion in damages over the year[12]. In light of these numbers, it comes as no surprise that cyber security engineers are in hot demand to protect businesses, individuals and the economy as a whole. One anticipated trend is the focus on Internet of Things (IoT) security, as connected devices are increasingly integrated into the fabric of modern life, which present opportunities that cyber criminals will be eager to target[13].


AI/Machine Learning Engineer


AI and machine learning enables companies to drive digital innovation, optimizing efficiency, functionality, processes, productivity and costs, implement automatisation, increase analysis capabilities, process big data to uncover patterns and predict customer demand and trends. It is increasingly gaining its foothold in the UAE economy and is projected to raise the UAE’s GDP by $96 billion by 2030 and contribute to $320 billion to the Middle Eastern economy in the same time span, according to PwC[14]. Companies in the MEA are heavily relying on technology for security. Of those, 83% relies on automation, 78% on machine learning and 77% on AI[15]. The industries that are expected to experience the most significant growth in AI and machine learning by 2035 are finance ($37 billion), healthcare ($22 billion) and transport and storage ($19 billion). Accompanying the adoption of AI and machine learning solutions is the need for investment. Investment is required to implement the infrastructure and computing power to support it[16] and professionals that are skilled to develop, implement, maintain and operate it. The fact that the UAE has appointed the world’s first Minister of Artificial Intelligence[17] is a strong indicator of the field’s promising future.




Executive Solutions has over a decade of experience in providing employment services to a multitude of industries including information technology and communications, corporate and professional services, oil & gas, banking and financial services, healthcare, retail & hospitality and aerospace & defense. Technology affects and has changed the staffing needs in all the above sectors. We took a closer look at some of these industries to highlight what trends fuel a changing environment.


Oil & Gas


Technology is changing the energy industry on a global scale. The contribution of AI to the UAE energy sector will reach $2.85 billion by 2020, but is expected to be far greater in the years to follow as AI disrupts all algorithmic processes and yields data to improve decision-making, returns, safety and efficiency. According to the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence Omar Sultan Al Olama, AI enables competitive advantages in terms of surveying, simulation, maintenance, drilling, assets, exploration and logistics. In combination with sensor technology, machine learning, blockchain and the Internet of Things, transparency will reach a state where all barrels are accounted for at any given time and efficiencies will be at unprecedented levels. The future of the energy sector in the UAE will bring more robotics and automation, autonomous ships and trucks, UGV conducting site inspections and fully automated fields[18]. The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) is currently using technology to unlock reserves of gas that were previously deemed uneconomical. Its CEO expects that technology will enable the UAE to not only become gas self-sufficient, but to become a net-exporter of gas[19]. Another exciting technological development is digital twins: a 360-degree digital copies of physical assets that allow the monitoring of data to detect problems, reduce down-time, improve business and develop new opportunities. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that the UAE is recognised as a global leader of innovation in the oil and gas industry. Although the renewable energy market is growing, renewables cannot yet meet all the energy needs. The growth in demand for oil and gas is driven by the petrochemical industry, which is rapidly expanding, and the transport sector[20]. The UAE Minister of State, Dr Sultan bin Ahmad Sultan Al Jaber, has a positive long-term outlook, even though the global economic growth may experience a slowdown in the short-term. As breakthrough technologies will continue to affect human lives and effect human progress, the demand for energy will be constant and rising. Oil and Gas 4.0 signifies a fourth industrial age, and energy companies are to correctly anticipate the projected demand, as by 2030, the market has expanded by three million new consumers[21]. As the technological revolution in the oil and gas industry has already taken off, there is an ongoing need for qualified personnel to power Oil and Gas 4.0.




The UAE healthcare industry is expected to generate in excess of 103 billion AED by 2021. Technologies such as robotics and AI are set to be an essential part of its growth trajectory as the healthcare industry is rapidly changing, to integrate technology-enabled benefits for companies and people. In recognition of the time, cost and resource saving potential of automatisation, robot-dispensed prescriptions were introduced in the UAE in 2017. With an ability to dispense 12 prescriptions within 60 seconds and store 35,000 medications, the advantage is obvious. The country’s first pharmacy app was introduced this year, allowing users to upload prescriptions and having medication delivered. Healthcare entities using telemedicine, robot-assisted surgery, automated patient diagnosis and clinic consultations using AI are further examples of how technology impacts the sector. Mobile apps, online services and AI software can make healthcare retail more convenient for pharmaceutical consumers.[22] Technology is changing the face of healthcare and requires skilled manpower to fuel this transformation.




Following the recent announcement of plans to triple the size of the DIFC with a 13 million square foot expansion, expectations are high for Dubai’s financial future. This is set to be a future that will further strengthen Dubai’s position as a financial powerhouse, and importantly, will offer investors an international platform for FinTech services[23]. Innovations such as big data, cloud computing, blockchain technology, AI and machine learning are revolutionising the financial sector and banking industry[24]. Since 2010, global investments in FinTech startups have accumulated to $100 billion. In the Middle East, FinTech companies are expected to contribute $20 billion in financial services. In the last five years, FinTechs tripled their earnings to 3% of the Middle East’s financial services revenue, and is forecasted to grow to 8% by 2020. In the meantime, ongoing interest is showcased through accelerator programmes like the DIFC’s FinTech Hive, Abu Dhabi’s ADGM’s Plug and Play and multiple other grants, hackatons and incubators[25]. In 2018, Dubai gained for positions and climbed to the 15th place in the Global Financial Centres Index, surpassing the likes of Los Angeles, Vancouver and Melbourne[26]. Its rapid rise through the ranks, exceeding long-established financial centres on its way to the top, is a testament of the commitment to innovation and growth, driven by investors, financial institutions and regulators. The trend of innovation and expansion is expected to be maintained, aimed at making Dubai competitive with the likes of Silicon Valley and Shenzhen[27]. 


The trends and developments that technologies drive signify growth and changes that will be reflected in the demand for human capital. Whether you are a tech company looking for staffing solutions, a company that is seeking to attract talent with technological competencies, or a student or professional with background in technology, computer science or a related field, we would love to hear from you. Executive Solutions has an extensive network in the tech industry and access to a sizeable talent pool. As such, it is ideally positioned to help companies meet staffing demands and offer support. Executive Solutions provides solutions tailored to organisations’ needs, including executive search, overseas recruitment campaigns, recruitment process outsourcing, contingent project solutions, managed recruitment campaigns, contingency recruitment, master vendor solutions, nationalization and more.


We listen, we act, we deliver.



Executive Solutions



0971 4448 9700




[1] https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii-2018-report

[2] https://www.commsmea.com/technology/18666-uae-leads-middle-east-in-ai-adoption-new-report

[3] https://www.computerweekly.com/news/252454288/Top-10-Middle-East-stories-of-2018

[4] https://www.thenational.ae/uae/transport/dubai-to-abu-dhabi-commute-in-15-minutes-time-to-believe-the-hype-1.707188

[5] https://www.thenational.ae/uae/cyber-security-is-number-one-priority-for-companies-in-the-uae-1.780836

[6] https://www.tahawultech.com/news/uae-at-the-forefront-of-technology-investments/

[7] https://www.techrepublic.com/article/the-10-best-tech-jobs-in-america-for-2018/

[8] https://www.thenational.ae/business/technology/high-demand-for-data-scientisits-requires-preparing-uae-youth-with-new-skills-1.737921

[9] https://www.thenational.ae/business/technology/high-demand-for-data-scientisits-requires-preparing-uae-youth-with-new-skills-1.737921


[11] https://www.government.ae/en/information-and-services/justice-safety-and-the-law/cyber-safety-and-digital-security

[12] https://www.thenational.ae/business/technology/long-way-to-go-for-middle-east-enterprises-in-cyber-security-1.763948

[13] https://www.techrepublic.com/article/the-10-most-in-demand-tech-jobs-of-2019/

[14] http://www.tradearabia.com/news/IT_342647.html

[15] https://www.thenational.ae/business/technology/long-way-to-go-for-middle-east-enterprises-in-cyber-security-1.763948

[16] http://www.tradearabia.com/news/IT_342647.html

[17] https://www.arabianbusiness.com/politics-economics/381648-uae-appoints-first-minister-for-artificial-intelligence

[18] https://www.khaleejtimes.com/ais-contributions-in-oil-and-gas-to-hit-285-/billion-by-2020

[19] https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/local/adnoc-begins-tapping-uneconomical-gas-to-become-net-exporter

[20] https://gulfnews.com/business/energy/uae-is-at-the-forefront-of-innovation-in-the-oil-and-gas-industry-president-atlantic-council-1.61374546

[21] https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/local/adnoc-begins-tapping-uneconomical-gas-to-become-net-exporter

[22] https://gulfbusiness.com/technology-changing-uaes-healthcare-market-concerned/

[23] https://www.thenational.ae/business/banking/difc-2-0-to-triple-dubai-business-hub-s-area-and-attract-fintech-investors-1.810902

[24] https://gulfnews.com/business/banking/middle-easts-banking-industry-headed-for-tech-revolution-1.60296018

[25] https://www.khaleejtimes.com/technology/how-fintech-will-change-the-region

[26] http://globalfinancialcentres.net/explore/

[27] https://www.khaleejtimes.com/technology/how-fintech-will-change-the-region


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