Deloitte opens AI institute in Saudi Arabia

Academy in Riyadh will develop tailored solutions to meet requirements of Middle East markets

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has become a draw for global companies to promote research in emerging technology. Reuters
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Global consultancy Deloitte has opened an academy in Saudi Arabia that aims to promote the adoption of artificial intelligence and support the kingdom's digital transformation drive.

The Deloitte Middle East AI Institute in Riyadh will develop tailored solutions to meet the requirements of the Saudi and Middle East markets, with a particular focus on generative AI and machine learning, the London-based company said at the Experience Analytics conference in the Saudi capital on Thursday.

It is a "significant milestone" in its strategy to "drive the progress of businesses and public-sector organisations in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East through emerging technology applications", Yousef Barkawie, Middle East AI and data leader at Deloitte, said.

"The needs of the market are unique and the AI Institute ... will play a crucial role in advancing AI capabilities and fostering a culture of innovation in the region, and elevate the stature of the Middle East as an innovation hub," he said.

Businesses have long used AI in their operations but it has gained momentum with the advent of generative AI. The technology – made popular by OpenAI's ChatGPT – can produce various kinds of data, including audio, code, images, text, simulations, 3D objects and videos.

The rise of ChatGPT has started a race with Google's Bard, drawn interest from Twitter chief executive Elon Musk and prompted Apple to work on improving its digital assistant Siri.

Investors poured more than $4.2 billion into generative AI start-ups in 2021 and 2022 through 215 deals after interest surged in 2019, recent data from CB Insights showed.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is in the midst of implementing a digital transformation strategy, part of its Vision 2030 programme that aims to diversify its economy from oil.

This has made the Arab world's largest economy a destination for global companies to advance research in emerging technology.

Amazon and Facebook parent Meta opened academies for talent development and the metaverse, respectively, during the Leap technology conference in Riyadh in February. Both are firsts for the region.

In September, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Economy and Planning and the Saudi Data & AI Authority signed a preliminary agreement to explore the use of AI and data for bolstering policymaking and economic growth.

Deloitte's new institute aims to enhance productivity, accelerate the pace of business innovation, support talent and create opportunities for Saudi youth who are interested in pursuing careers in AI, the statement said.

The academy is also planning collaborations with the kingdom's major universities to help students gain knowledge, skills and practical experience in AI.

Costi Perricos, global AI and data leader at Deloitte, said: "We recognise the immense potential of artificial intelligence in transforming businesses and industries. Bringing the Deloitte AI Institute to the Middle East is testament to our commitment to the region, harnessing the power of AI to drive insights, value, productivity and efficiency."

Updated: May 18, 2023, 3:02 PM