Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel at Google, at Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel at Google, at Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

Data scientists are central to the new economy



I grew up in Silicon Valley where my family settled generations ago and my grandfather worked on a farm and as a machinist. Today, at Google, I spend my workdays writing, speaking and meeting people. My grandfather would not recognise what I do as a job. For him, it would have been a holiday. We should ask ourselves: what will our grandchildren do that we will not recognise as jobs?

Two hundred years ago, 97 per cent of people worked in the fields. Then many moved to factories and then to offices. And change continues today with growing use of industrial automation and artificial intelligence. Just as industrialisation changed agriculture and industry, artificial intelligence and machine learning are starting to change office jobs and automating routine tasks.

Google’s approach to machine learning is driven by a belief that the benefits of technology should accrue to everyone.

The internet has been “the great equaliser”. It distributed access to technology and created a frictionless marketplace that empowered both consumers and new companies. With costs continuing to decline, more people around the world now have access to mobile phones than to decent sanitation. Today, a kid in Al Ain using a search engine has the same access to information as the chancellor of Germany or the president of France.

On a larger scale, cloud-based services have made advanced IT offerings easier to scale and purchase on demand – making information processing an affordable utility like water or electricity. Now Google is integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into most of our products: whether you are using Search or YouTube or Translate or Maps you are benefiting from a wealth of machine learning.

This widespread access to internet connectivity plus essentially unlimited computing power have, with the acceleration of machine learning and artificial intelligence, led to profound business transformations shaping the future of work.

Already, we have jobs such as data scientists in fields that didn’t exist 20 years ago. It would be foolish to think that what we do today represents the end of the process. But it takes an act of imagination to envision the future.

With the advent of ATMs in the 1980s, people thought that there would be no more bank tellers. In fact, there are more bank tellers now than there were in 1980. They just do more sophisticated things like helping clients with financial planning and new kinds of services. It’s a great example of how technology displaces tasks, not jobs.

A recent survey found that the “best job in the US” in 2017 was that of mobile apps developer – a job that did not exist a few years ago.

Software engineers will help design the future of medicine, infrastructure, finance, transportation, stock markets and maybe even music and art.

Philosophy, history and the humanities will always be important as we chart this new path. But so will computer science and programming. A recent study by Google shows that computer science and programming skills are critical to the UAE's digital economy plans. At the heart of every organisation, there will be need to be data scientists who understand how to program the business for success.

Beyond educational change, cultures need to evolve as well. It seems counter-intuitive, but you want young people to take a chance on a cool new thing, not just hope for a safe job with the government or a large company. You need to promote a culture of risk and reward, and a legal system that accepts that sometimes people will try and fail. No other place in the world has witnessed more failures than Silicon Valley. These failures constitute the fertiliser that led a subsequent generation of Silicon Valley start-ups to create perhaps more value than any other place in history.

The governments in this region can adopt other policies that will directly contribute to the rise of the knowledge economy and benefit both businesses and citizens. Promoting a start-up ecosystem, letting successful companies share economic rewards with their employees, avoiding red tape, burdensome licensing rules and limits on trade, and giving ready access to government data can all help entrepreneurs grow new markets.

I feel fortunate to be living in a time when technology has the potential to fundamentally improve the way people work, learn and live – no matter who they are, where they are or what they do. History has shown us that technological progress leads to greater prosperity, more jobs, safer workplaces and higher standards of living. It’s up to all of us – tech companies, governments, business and citizens – to work together to create the conditions that allow innovation to flourish.

The UAE has been a leader in many aspects in the region. Social and economic developments that would have seemed hard to imagine 50 years ago are today a reality through vision and a relentless desire to achieve results.

But more than ever before, governments must prepare for the future. Technological change means that leaders must constantly re-evaluate how to foster the right policy environment.

We look to the UAE to rise to the challenge to become as much of a regional and global leader in the hyper-connected digital age as it has been in the bricks-and-mortar economy.

Kent Walker is a senior vice president at Google

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian
Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).
Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming
Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics
Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Company Profile:

Name: The Protein Bakeshop

Date of start: 2013

Founders: Rashi Chowdhary and Saad Umerani

Based: Dubai

Size, number of employees: 12

Funding/investors: $400,000 (2018)

How to wear a kandura

Dos

  • Wear the right fabric for the right season and occasion 
  • Always ask for the dress code if you don’t know
  • Wear a white kandura, white ghutra / shemagh (headwear) and black shoes for work 
  • Wear 100 per cent cotton under the kandura as most fabrics are polyester

Don’ts 

  • Wear hamdania for work, always wear a ghutra and agal 
  • Buy a kandura only based on how it feels; ask questions about the fabric and understand what you are buying
MATCH INFO

League Cup, last 16

Manchester City v Southampton, Tuesday, 11.45pm (UAE)

Match info

Athletic Bilbao 0

Real Madrid 1 (Ramos 73' pen)