Artificial intelligence and machine learning concept

Microsoft, PwC Middle East new AI center of excellence to upskill workforce in Saudi Arabia

As artificial intelligence (AI) adoption continues to gather momentum, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have teamed up to establish an excellence center dedicated to improving adoption rates for the technology.

The CIO reported that the new excellence center will focus most of its attention on equipping the local workforce with AI skills to keep up with the growing demand for machine learning experts. Following the launch of the AI center of excellence in Riyadh, Microsoft and PwC Middle East will train cohorts of local engineers in batches every two months.

Competition for places in the bi-monthly cohorts is stiff, with the bulk of participants expected to be drawn from leading universities in the country.

Rather than focusing only on AI training, the AI center will explore other emerging technologies, including cloud capabilities, to support Saudi’s global push toward digitization.

“Skilling the workforce to take advantage of cloud and AI technologies is crucial to unlocking the full potential of these transformative technologies, and we are proud to play a role in this important endeavour,” noted Microsoft Arabia President Turki Badhris.

The center will involve collaborative learning, featuring inputs from the public and private sectors, to produce well-rounded professionals to fill the ranks of AI companies.

The new AI experts from the excellence center will provide manpower for Saudi Arabia’s growing AI ecosystem. Already, a handful of local firms have begun operations in the Gulf nation, with global players seeking to set up shop in the Middle East.

“By investing in local talent, PwC is set to pioneer a new era of technological excellence that will not only serve the Kingdom but also the wider region,” said PwC Middle East CTO Ali Hosseini. “In partnership with Microsoft, we are proud to launch a platform that nurtures and develops next-generation AI talent, carefully selected from the Kingdom’s premier universities.”

Building on a solid foundation

Microsoft and PwC’s foray into Saudi Arabia’s AI ecosystem is expected to build on existing foundations put in place by the country. The Gulf nation is currently eyeing a $40 billion AI investment fund via its Public Investment Fund to power in-house chip manufacturing and support the growing local AI firms.

A high-profile purchase of Nvidia’s (NASDAQ: NV) latest range of chips is a strong indicator of Saudi Arabia’s intent to play the long AI game in the Middle East. With a massive AI education initiative underway, Saudi firms are bracing themselves with advanced AI integration strategies, but fears of government repression continue to trail the plans.

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