AI-led digital transformation set to accelerate creation of new jobs

Shifting workforce demands are bringing new employment opportunities, Publicis Sapient CEO Nigel Vaz says

Nigel Vaz, chief executive of Publicis Sapient, said the UAE is one of the leaders in digital transformation globally. Pawan Singh / The National
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The rapid pace of digital transformation is poised to accelerate the creation of new tech jobs, potentially surpassing the growth seen in the past eight decades, the chief executive of global tech consultancy Publicis Sapient has said.

The skills required to handle the latest technologies – notably artificial intelligence, its generative AI iteration and the cloud – are causing a shift in labour requirements that needs to be addressed by creating new roles and filling them, Nigel Vaz told The National in an interview.

“We're moving from a world where we have a vast amount of learning, unlearning and relearning to drive, because essentially that conundrum of how you unlearn and relearn is going to be extraordinarily important to that skill transition,” he said on the sidelines of the Fortune Global Summit in Abu Dhabi.

A 2022 study led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist David Autor suggested that roughly 60 per cent of employment in 2018 is in jobs that did not exist in 1940.

That, according to Goldman Sachs economists, implies that more than 85 per cent of employment growth over the past 80 years is “explained by the technology-driven creation of new positions”.

Matching the 85 per cent growth in new jobs witnessed over the past eight decades “is going to happen a lot sooner given how much transformation we’re seeing today”, Mr Vaz said.

“There will also be a significant investment in the migration of skills and capability from the kind of work you do today to then.”

Consequently, this will also spur global economic growth, said Mr Vaz, who did not give a range for his expectations of economic expansion.

However, “the big thing about projections is irrespective of [how much] you think they are”, the role of new jobs in boosting the global economy is “very clear”.

“There's a lot of fundamental transformation … from a digital perspective that is underpinning [digital transformation's] contribution to the global economy,” he said.

AI would be “perfect” for any type of task, Mr Vaz said. In sustainability, one of the biggest challenges is solving big complex problems like modelling out scenarios in, for example, farming, to help those in the industry predict how things might play out.

The UAE – which Mr Vaz considers one of the global leaders in digital transformation – is now home to Jais Climate, the world’s first bilingual large language model dedicated to climate intelligence, which was unveiled last week.

With AI, “you are now basically able to analyse climate patterns, crops and planting techniques . it's going to have an extraordinarily meaningful role”, he said.

Enterprises and governments have lauded digital transformation's critical role in the economy and society as the world prepares for a future largely powered by technology.

For instance, generative AI – the sensational technology kick-started by OpenAI's ChatGPT – can help GCC countries reap about $23.5 billion in economic benefits by 2030 as investments in generative AI continue to grow, PwC unit Strategy & Middle East said in a recent report.

Goldman Sachs has also said in a previous study that the growing adoption of AI can help boost global economic growth and raise labour productivity.

AI can also help “create better wages and interesting jobs”, Microsoft chairman and chief executive Satya Nadella told The National earlier this month.

“There are huge opportunities for us to deploy AI in solving some of these extraordinarily complex challenges,” Mr Vaz said.

Amid AI's growth, however, Mr Vaz said its risks should be noted and appropriately addressed – sooner rather than later to prevent any misuse or other negative effects in the future.

“Any AI model is only as good as the data that it was trained on. So if you train something on the internet, you're bound to have things that are great, and things that are entirely incorrect and wrong,” he said.

Mr Vaz also argues that “we are nowhere close to the general intelligence world where you now have AI driving reasoning and decision-making outside of human intervention”.

“And if these models have essentially been grounded on that, there's a lot of work that has to be done in terms of reinforcement to play down things that you don't want, like bias and [copyright] infringement.”

Updated: November 29, 2023, 3:00 AM