Riyadh — safarnews
A new wave of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) tools, such as GPT-4and DALL-E, is transforming businesses at an unprecedented pace. Employees in Saudi Arabia are optimistic about how AI—and generative AI, in particular—will affect their work, as revealed by new research from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) with a survey that aims to understand how the evolution of AI has impacted the workplace.
The research, titled AI at Work: What People Are Saying, is based on a survey of more than 12,800 employees from the executive suite to the front lines across industries in 18 countries around the world, including 1,126 from the Middle East and 712 from Saudi Arabia. This regional focus is particularly relevant given the ambitious national AI visions of Gulf countries, which emphasize the importance of AI in driving economic diversification, enhancing government services, and fostering a skilled workforce. Saudi Arabia aims to leverage AI to diversify its economy and enhance government services as part of its Vision 2030 plan. It is investing heavily in AI technologies, expecting to gain US$135.2 billion in its economy by 2030.
“Saudi Arabia is emerging as a global frontrunner in embracing AI technologies, with employees recognizing the potential for AI to transform their jobs and drive economic growth,” says Elias Baltassis, Partner & Director at BCG X. “The survey results however also indicate that a significant percentage of respondents believe their jobs could be impacted negatively by AI, which underscores the need for effective risk management strategies and appropriate regulations. By striking the right balance between leveraging AI’s benefits and mitigating its risks, the kingdom can ensure that the technology is harnessed responsibly and sustainably, ultimately contributing to the long-term growth and development of the region.”
Sentiments about AI in the workplace vary depending on the geographical location. Saudi Arabia presents a predominantly optimistic outlook on AI’s impact on work. In the survey, 58% of respondents ranked optimism as one of their top two sentiments, while concern accounted for only 27%. A significant majority of respondents (86%) in Saudi Arabia believe that their job is likely to be transformed by AI. Furthermore, 66% of respondents think that their job is likely to be impacted negatively by AI. Despite these concerns, an overwhelming 82% of respondents are confident that the rewards of GenAI outweigh the risks.
However, this optimism is accompanied by a strong desire for risk management. A substantial 77% of all respondents believe that AI-specific regulations are necessary, underscoring the importance of striking a balance between embracing the potential benefits of AI and ensuring that its risks are properly managed through appropriate regulations.
The Bottom Line for Leaders
Employees are ready to accept AI in the workplace, but only if they are comfortable that their employer is committed to doing the right thing. The report outlines three key recommendations for leaders as they navigate their organization through the AI revolution:
• Ensure that there is space for responsible AI experimentation. Comfort levels with technology play a key role, and the more regularly employees use AI and GenAI, the more they recognize its benefits—as well as its limitations and risks.
• Invest in regular upskilling. Given the pace at which technology is evolving, organizations cannot treat upskilling as a one-off effort. They need to invest in training to help employees prepare for changes in their work and help them succeed in their evolving roles.
• Prioritize building a responsible AI program: Employees want guidance and reassurance that their organizations are approaching AI and GenAI ethically, and leaders want to be able to help frame emerging AI regulations.
“To achieve responsible AI, companies in Saudi Arabia must prioritize transparency and accountability in their AI systems. This means ensuring that their algorithms are free from bias and discrimination, and that they are used in ways that align with ethical principles,” said Elias Baltassis at BCG X. “It also means providing clear explanations of how AI is being used, and giving employees the tools they need to understand and engage with these systems. In addition, companies must be proactive in addressing any concerns or issues that arise from the use of AI, and be willing to make changes as needed. By prioritizing responsible AI, companies in Saudi Arabia can not only reap the benefits of this powerful technology, but also build trust with their employees and stakeholders, and contribute to a more just and equitable society.”
BCG is launching a Center for Responsible Generative AI to support Middle Eastern clients and partners in leveraging next-generation AI solutions for positive impact and competitive advantage. This initiative aims to enhance operations, efficiency, and growth opportunities while focusing on upskilling talent, fostering innovation and accelerating the region’s overall economic and societal development.