Middle East must empower youth to accelerate data economy - PwC report

Also urges governments to support and empower young people through engagement.
PwC, Tech, Society, Youth, Equality, Empowerment, Future, Culture, Middle East, Government, Mona Abouhana


Mona Abou Hana, partner at PwC Middle East and one of the report’s authors, said every government in the region ‘can and should’ be promoting the promise of data-driven economies.

The new age of data abundance must be shared equally or vast swathes of the Middle East region will face ‘data inequalities’, warns a new report from PwC.

“By engaging with youth as present and future drivers of data economies, governments can ensure that the rewards of the data revolution reach everyone in society,” the management consulting firm said in its ‘Building the Data Economies of the Future’ paper, which was produced in conjunction with Dubai’s World Government Summit.

According to Mona Abou Hana, partner at PwC Middle East and one of the report’s authors, every government in the region ‘can and should’ be promoting the promise of data-driven economies.

“The ultimate goal is a more level digital playing field, where no one is denied the opportunity to benefit from a data-rich world and involving young people must lie at the heart of the response,” said Mona Abou Hana.

The report pointed out that ‘disrupting the education system’ is a must for cultivating a data economy.

“Governments have recognised the need to move towards innovative educational models. Yet such reforms generally do not go far enough in disrupting traditional education systems in preparation for a data economy and in providing all young people with the digital skills and opportunities to build and benefit from the data economies of the future,” it said.

Maria Axente, the report’s co-author and programme driver at PwC Artificial Intelligence, Technology & Investments and AI for Good Lead, said the purpose of any government educational initiative or public/private partnership should be to put young people in the driver’s seat, as shapers of their own digitised future.

“To this end, collaboration rather than competition between government, business, academia and wider public will bring mutual benefits.  A new mindset for education is essential to prepare young people for uncertainty ahead,” Axente said.

The PwC report also urged governments to 'support and empower' its young people to lead data economies by engaging them through participatory tools.

“Governments urgently need to invest more in training employees of all ages in the innovative skills required to understand the implications of emerging technologies. The challenge is to make public officials and the politicians they serve think and act more like innovative tech entrepreneurs,” it said.

Other policy recommendations included setting youth and data economy national indicators, capitalising on government data to create opportunities, and cultivating an AI jobs market.

PwC’s Abou Hana said: “In building tomorrow’s youth-centric data economies there is no silver bullet or single example of general best practice.

“We must view young people as partners and advisers of government, working together towards the same goal of inclusive, sustainable and socially-just data economies, where all youth have the opportunity to create and share the benefits.”

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