More training, sharing needed to address Saudi Arabia’s big data dilemma: Report

JEDDAH: Most senior Saudi public sector executives have failed to take the necessary steps to share data effectively with their partners or train staff on how best to use it despite acknowledging its importance as a major catalyst for innovation, a study has revealed.

In a recent report, German business software company SAP looked at the top technology trends for 2021 and conducted a survey of 3,000 global executives.

The study found that more than four-fifths (89 percent) of Saudi senior public sector executives agreed that data sharing helped them to improve on how they connected with citizens.

“The Saudi and Middle East governments have advanced digital transformation amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to better serve citizens,” said Mohammed Al-Khotani, managing director of SAP Saudi Arabia.

“With 89 percent of public-sector executives agreeing on the importance of data sharing, the top three goals for Saudi and Middle East public sector organizations in 2021 will be to share data to improve citizen experiences, gain real-time data insights, and enhance their employees’ digital skills to drive innovation.”

The survey also found that 83 percent of respondents said data sharing improved their innovation in current goods or services, while 82 percent said data sharing helped them to exceed performance objectives.

Despite the positive approach to data and its possibilities, the report found that among respondents from the public sector, 81 percent shared employee data internally, but only 22 percent did with partners.

While many Saudi and Middle East organizations have embraced collaboration and flexible work policies to enhance employee experiences, more needs to be done on the training side in order to get the best out of the data available to employees.
Among public sector respondents, only about one-third (33 percent) said they had invested in new technologies to analyze data, and 33 percent had retrained employees to work with data. This skills shortage was cited by 61 percent of respondents as being a barrier to meeting strategic change initiatives.

The Kingdom is making progress in seeing the benefits of data sharing. This month, experts told Arab News the open banking policy approved by the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) would benefit the country’s financial technology companies due to its advanced and varied services.

SAMA said in a statement that the policy would enable bank customers to securely manage their bank accounts and share their data with third parties. Customers would also have access to bespoke financial products and services from the same platform and enjoy smoother daily banking activities.

Fadhel Al-Buainain, a former Saudi banker and a member of the Saudi Financial Association, said: “Competition between financial institutions will become fiercer once the policy has been implemented. Institutions will compete over offering innovative financial products to attract more customers. Besides, customers can combine all bank accounts onto a single platform.”
Abdulla Almoayed, CEO and founder of Tarabut Gateway, the Middle East’s first and largest regulated open banking platform, said the move would also “improve customer experiences and services” and the Kingdom’s financial sector could look forward to “a bright future of collaboration” as a result of the transparent sharing of data.
Real-time data insights would help many companies increase operational performance and build strong policies, the SAP report concluded.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, health care has been the standout sector, with providers using data analytics to target virus hotspots, optimize hospital and staff capacity, and vaccine rollouts.

Originally published here.

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