Agile workforce needed for future job market, Abu Dhabi forum told

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Omar Sultan Al-Olama, UAE's minister of state for artificial intelligence. (AN photo/Huda Bashatah)
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Jamil Asfour, executive director of technology partnerships at the Abu Dhabi Investment Office. (AN photo/Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 12 December 2019

Agile workforce needed for future job market, Abu Dhabi forum told

  • ‘Some people will be optimized by AI, and others will be replaced by it,’ says UAE minister
  • Dubai-based think tank calculates that ‘85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 do not exist today’

DUBAI: Governments need to ensure that they have an agile workforce to take on the jobs of tomorrow, the UAE’s minister of state for artificial intelligence (AI) said on the second day of the SALT conference in Abu Dhabi.
Omar Sultan Al-Olama did not mince words while talking about the future of the job market, during a discussion on “The implications of advanced AI.” He said: “Some people will be optimized by AI, and others will be replaced by it.”
Fields such as law, medicine and diagnostics will be significantly impacted by the technology in the next five years, he added.
Citing a report by the Institute for the Future, a Dubai-based think tank, he said 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 do not exist today.
As debate rages worldwide on whether AI is stealing or creating jobs, Al-Olama said technology will help improve and create jobs rather than displace employees.
As a case in point, he cited the launch of ATMs in the US in 1985, when the number of bank tellers was 485,000.
By the time the number of ATMs had risen to 352,000 in 2002, many people expected to see a drop in the number of tellers. Instead, it rose to 527,000.
However, that may no longer be the case today. “Bus and truck drivers are under the biggest threat of AI deployment,” Al-Olama said, adding that 16 million people could lose their jobs “if autonomous trucks became mainstream tomorrow.”
Taking part in the same panel discussion, Jamil Asfour, executive director of technology partnerships at the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, said while it is inevitable that each sector will be affected by AI, the speed of adoption will differ.
“If I could bet big on which sectors will be impacted by AI first, I’d say health care, transportation and the financial sector,” he added.
These sectors require automation, transparency and efficiency to manage their large volumes of data processing, Asfour said.
Al-Olama said there is an urgent need to invest in transformation of education systems, from the traditional teaching format of memorizing to a more agile system that meets the criteria of future jobs.
He described the limited class of AI-skilled talent today as “digital nomads” who are well-paid and in high demand.
“We need to understand that the type of talent working in this field is different to the talent found in other sectors. Digital nomads are highly skilled, educated individuals who can work virtually,” he said.
Countries that want to attract such talent must be able to offer them a good standard of life, easy mobility, the right infrastructure, the freedom to work and access to policymakers, said Al-Olama.
“If we look at the fundamental requirements for attracting this type of talent, I’d say the UAE is among the top countries,” he added.
As evidence, he said the UAE has been listed as the country with the “highest net inflow of AI talent” in a report published by the World Bank and LinkedIn.
 


Iranian VP and 1979 embassy hostage spokeswoman infected with coronavirus

Updated 27 February 2020

Iranian VP and 1979 embassy hostage spokeswoman infected with coronavirus

  • Massoumeh Ebtekar, who oversees women’s affairs, is being treated for the coronavirus
  • Mojtaba Zolnour, head of parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee, also contracted the illness

TEHRAN: The coronavirus epidemic in Iran has cost 26 lives, the health ministry announced Thursday, with a vice president becoming the latest top official to be infected as the spread appeared to accelerate.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a news conference that the tally of infections had risen to 245 with 106 more cases confirmed — the highest number for a single day since Iran announced its first infections on Feb. 19.
The Islamic republic has the highest death toll from the virus outside China, where COVID-19 first emerged.
Among the latest coronavirus sufferers is one of Iran’s seven vice presidents, Massoumeh Ebtekar, who oversees women’s affairs.
Ebtekar, a former spokeswoman for students who took 52 Americans hostage at the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, is being treated at home and members of her team have been tested, state news agency IRNA reported.
Mojtaba Zolnour, head of parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee, also contracted the virus, appearing in a video posted by Fars news agency saying he was in self-quarantine.
The cleric is a deputy for the Shiite holy city of Qom in central Iran where the country’s first cases were detected.
According to media reports, among the deceased in Qom on Thursday was theologian Hadi Khroroshahi, who in 1981 was named Iran’s first ambassador to the Vatican.
The announcement by Zolnour comes two days after another top official, deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi, head of the government’s coronavirus task force, said he too had contracted the virus.
On Wednesday, Iranian authorities announced domestic travel restrictions for people with confirmed or suspected infections.
They also placed curbs on access to major Shiite pilgrimage sites, including the Imam Reza shrine in second city Mashhad and the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom.
Visitors to the shrines will be allowed to visit on condition they are provided “with hand-washing liquids, proper (health) information, masks,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said.
They must “not gather together in groups but just pray and leave,” he said.
In a rare move, authorities announced the cancelation of the main Friday weekly prayers in Tehran, Qom and Mashhad as well as in the capitals of 22 of Iran’s 31 provinces and other infected areas.
School closures have been extended in affected areas and universities are to remain closed for another week starting from Saturday.
“All of these decisions are temporary and if the situation changes, we might intensify or ease them,” Namaki said.
In a message of thanks to doctors and nurses, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he hoped their efforts would help “eradicate this sinister virus soon.”
International health experts have expressed concern about Iran’s handling of the outbreak. But Tehran insists the situation has been “improving.”