The University of Bahrain’s decision to introduce a cloud computing degree — a first in the Middle-East — is indicative of the growing demand for technical skills in the region as government-funded public initiatives and private investment spur the adoption of emerging technology.
Bahrain’s largest public university said last week that it had tied up with Amazon Web Services to offer a one-year cloud computing course and a four-year bachelor’s degree next year. With the program, the institution expects to equip students with skills and hands-on experiences to prepare for careers including cloud architecture, cybersecurity, software development and devops — development and operations, the automated collaboration between IT staff and software developers.
Cloud deployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is still at a nascent stage, but the development of infrastructure is picking up speed due to government policy and growing adoption rates among small and medium enterprises. IDC estimates that the MENA region will be worth US$5 billion to cloud vendors by 2022, from just $2.2 billion currently.
Firms like Amazon, Oracle and Microsoft have jumped on this opportunity and have set up cloud data centers in industrial hubs all over the region.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), which opened a cluster of data centers in Bahrain earlier this year, foresees similar tie-ups with educational institutions in other parts of the Middle-East, the company said in last week’s announcement.
Changing cloud landscape widens skills gap
Bahrain’s announcement comes as Gulf countries cope with a fast-changing technological landscape, which has exposed a widening skills gap.
The World Economic Forum estimates that in contrast to 2015, 21 percent of core skills required across all occupations will be different in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries alone by 2020. By 2025, this shift in required skills could result in as much as 945,000 additional full-time equivalent jobs across the MENA region.
This raises new problems for countries in the region, where spending on cloud infrastructure is among the lowest globally. But recent regional initiatives such as Bahrain’s “cloud-first policy”, the rise of innovative startups, and the willingness of fast-growing SMEs to adopt emerging technology is starting to change the cloud computing landscape in the Middle East.
Cloud computing is having a “powerful effect” on the tech capabilities in the Middle-East and is making innovative projects possible, said Riyad Hamza, the president of University of Bahrain, in a press release.
“This also means the creation of demand for new skillsets to respond to the job market needs, and as such, it is vital that higher education responds both quickly and at scale through innovative solutions,” he added.
IDC recognizes hybrid cloud management, workload-centric management and devops as skills that allow cloud professionals to expand their influence and professional opportunities at the workplace. Mastering these technology trends is becoming even more crucial now as MENA cloud adoption accelerates. The UAE alone was anticipated to add about 32,000 new jobs between 2017 and 2022 from the market, according to IDC.
With cloud becoming the basis of tech operations for many businesses in the region, such educational tie-ups may become commonplace. From a company’s point of view, it makes more sense to hire individuals who have a strong base in cloud computing.
IT professionals with certifications related to cloud development and operations have “dramatically” more influence over their organizations’ adoption and expansion of cloud services than otherwise similar professionals have over the adoption of other types of technical solutions, IDC stated in a report.