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Cisco AI Readiness Index reveals 73% of organisations in the UAE have a robust AI strategy in place

Reem Asaad, Vice President, Cisco Middle East and Africa.

A mere 14% of organisations globally are fully prepared to deploy and leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered technologies, according to Cisco’s AI Readiness Index that was recently released.

The Index, which surveyed over 8,000 global companies, was developed in response to the accelerating the adoption of AI, a generational shift that is impacting almost every area of business and daily life. The report highlights companies’ preparedness to utilise and deploy AI, showcasing critical gaps across key business pillars and infrastructures that pose serious risks for the near future.

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the AI Readiness Index showed that strategy readiness is the most mature pillar, with 73% of organisations in the country classified as ‘fully prepared’. While improving the efficiency of systems, processes, and operations, was ranked among the top outcomes that companies are looking to drive through adoption of AI. In the UAE, half (50%) of respondents placed this in their top three reasons. This was followed by growing revenue and market share at 48% and improving ability to innovate at 47%.

Commenting on the results of the study, Reem Asaad, Vice President, Cisco Middle East and Africa, said: “The accelerating adoption of AI is impacting almost every aspect of our lives, and will have a pivotal role in shaping future economies. In the past year, we have been witnessing advancement in AI deployments particularly in Generative AI, driven by broad enthusiasm for AI and the endless possibilities it offers for businesses and consumers alike”.

She added: “The UAE is a global powerhouse in developing innovative technologies to foster economic growth, exemplified by its National Strategy for AI. To embrace the power of AI, businesses in the country must continue to invest in solutions that secure and observe their AI models and toolchains to ensure performance, secure sensitive data and systems, and deliver trustworthy and responsible AI outcomes”.

Additional report findings for the UAE include:

Strategy Readiness: Step one is strategy, and organisations are well on their way. Effective deployment of any initiative across an organisation, including AI, requires a well-defined strategy. This principle is widely acknowledged globally, with 95% of organisations already having a robust AI strategy in place or in the process of developing one. Globally, Strategy emerged as the most mature pillar of the AI Readiness Index, with the same holding true in the UAE, with nearly three-quarters (73%) of organisations classified as either ‘Pacesetters’ (fully prepared) or ‘Chasers’ (moderately prepared), with only 2% falling into the category of ‘Laggards’.

Infrastructure for the Future: Networks are not equipped to meet AI workloads. The study finds that in the UAE, Infrastructure readiness is relatively low, with just 7% of local organisations categorised as ‘Pacesetters’ (fully prepared), and close to three-quarters (71%) as ‘Followers’ (limited preparedness) or ‘Laggards’. In the current competitive environment, the ability to leverage AI quickly provides a distinct advantage. Scalability and flexibility of an organisation’s existing IT infrastructure are crucial to seizing this advantage. Scalable architecture can grow to handle increasing demands, while flexible architecture can adapt easily to changes without major disruptions.

Importance of Data and Governing Real Risk: Organisations cannot neglect the importance of having data ‘AI-ready.’ Despite data serving as the critical backbone and lifeblood necessary for AI operations, in the UAE, Data has the largest number of organisations classified as ‘Laggards’ (unprepared) (27%) and 45% falling into the ‘Followers’ group. AI promises transformative benefits, but navigating its adoption is fraught with risks that demand organisations have a strong framework of policies and protocols in place to guide the ethical and responsible management of data and AI systems. As of 2023, the UAE has launched Regulation 10, which is the first enacted regulation in the MEASA region on the processing of personal data via autonomous and semi-autonomous systems such as artificial intelligence (AI) or generative, machine learning technology.

Talent for the Tech: Investing in training for employees on the rise. When asked to highlight what specific skills were lacking among the employees in their organisation, 25% of the UAE respondents ranked comprehension and proficiency of AI tools and technologies as the primary skill gap. The good news is that organisations are taking steps to address the skills gap. Among the organisations surveyed in the UAE, 80% say they are investing in training for employees in this area, highlighting in addition to hiring new talent, companies are upskilling their existing workforce to leverage the full potential of AI technologies they deploy.

Culture is Crucial: Little preparation, but high motivation to make a priority. In the UAE, the growing adoption of AI is poised to bring about large and fundamental culture changes requiring stakeholder support and receptivity for success. Within the Culture pillar, just 6% of respondents qualify as ‘Pacesetters’ (fully prepared) against the determined criteria, with ‘Followers’ (limited preparedness) comprising the largest grouping at 49%. The good news is that motivation is high. Nearly eight out of 10 (76%) say their organisation is embracing AI with a moderate to high level of urgency. Only 4% said they were resistant to change. Coupled with 98% of respondents saying that the urgency to deploy AI-powered technologies has increased in their company within the past six months, we can expect this upward trend to continue.

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