The size of the digital workforce in the GCC is well below that of international benchmarks, with efforts to enable national transformation plans potentially being frustrated unless skills are developed, according to a new report.
Currently, digital jobs account for just 1.7 per cent of the total GCC workforce, compared to 5.4 per cent in the European Union.
Research from the Ideation Center at Strategy&, part of the PwC network, together with networking website LinkedIn, found GCC nationals are mostly employed in sectors at risk of disruption by new digital technologies.
To remedy this, GCC countries should undertake the large-scale creation of digital jobs, both within and outside the ICT sector.
"Only one of the ten skills that GCC digital professionals cited matched the fastest-growing skills globally on the LinkedIn platform," said Ali Matar, Head of LinkedIn Talent Solutions for EMEA Emerging Markets, Middle East & Africa.
"Although there is a regional trend towards more technical skills, these remain scarce for emerging technologies such as big data and analytics."
A lack of digital education was a key reason for the low number of available skilled candidates, the study said.
The GCC education system "does not keep up with technological changes or provide the adequate level of information, communication, and technology (ICT) education" it stated.
According to the study, 93 per cent of the region's digital professionals on LinkedIn completed their university education abroad.
While the report suggested taking a greater STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) approach in school, this is an area the UAE has already acted on.
Under the new Emirati School Model announced last month, STEM subjects are to account for at least 50 per cent of all subjects.
The potential is there to add 1.3 million jobs in the GCC by 2025, including 700,000 in Saudi Arabia, according to the report.
However, the digital skills prized by employers such as statistical analysis, data mining, algorithm design, and website architecture are "almost absent" among the digital workforce in the GCC.
“GCC governments need to continuously reskill their workforce to embrace the latest technologies," said Samer Bohsali, Partner with Strategy& and the leader of the firm’s Digital Business and Technology practice.
"The digital sector tends to change rapidly because of continuously emerging new technologies that redefine the way business is done, which is less often the case in traditional jobs. Creating a digital workforce of continuous learners is key to drive the success of national transformation plans."