Saudi Arabia’s tech renaissance: Insight
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Saudi Arabia’s tech renaissance: Insight

Saudi Arabia’s tech renaissance: Insight

Through regulatory frameworks and policy initiatives, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a burgeoning hub for digital advancement, writes Tech Mahindra’s COO

Gulf Business
Riyadh Saudi Arabia

In the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia is embarking on a transformative journey towards a future less reliant on fossil fuels. This strategic shift is not merely a change in economic policy but a bold leap into a future where technology, innovation, and sustainability are the bedrock of national development.

Recent announcements, such as those made at LEAP 2024, underscore this vision with record-breaking investments. Over $13.4bn has been pledged to develop the country’s tech ecosystem, solidifying Saudi Arabia’s trajectory towards becoming the largest digital market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This dynamic landscape presents vast opportunities for businesses worldwide to establish and thrive.

Pioneering with AI and advanced technology

Central to Saudi Arabia’s transformation is the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cutting-edge technology, which are poised to redefine the socio-economic landscape.

The fusion of AI with sustainable technologies is accelerating the kingdom’s march towards becoming the leading green tech hub in the region. Industry reports estimate that AI’s contribution to Saudi Arabia’s economy could exceed $135bn by 2030, representing 12 per cent of its GDP. This makes the kingdom the largest beneficiary of AI technology in the Middle East.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia has positioned the kingdom as a prospective AI hub with plans to create a $40bn investment fund outside the US, leveraging its energy resources and financial capacity. This establishes Saudi Arabia as a market leader in AI, attracting global talent and investment from technology giants worldwide.

Technology’s role in Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification

At the forefront of this digital revolution are organisations leading the charge towards economic advancement and innovation. Companies like Tech Mahindra are pivotal in Saudi Arabia’s transformation, leveraging their local presence and global expertise to drive technological and digital services.

Giga-projects for the future

Saudi Arabia is also spearheading the development of cognitive cities such as The Line, Oxagon, and Trojena under its multi-billion-dollar mega-projects. These cities integrate AI, renewable energy, and biotechnology, setting a new standard for futuristic, sustainable living.

Beyond urban development, AI and high-tech innovations are revolutionising sectors such as automotive, finance, healthcare, and education.

In healthcare, AI-driven diagnostics, telemedicine, and personalised treatment plans promise improved patient outcomes and streamlined services. In education, digital learning platforms, AI tutors, and virtual reality experiences are making education more engaging and accessible.

Additionally, the digital transformation of traditional industries, including manufacturing and retail, is gaining momentum, driven by AI and robotics. Investments in digital education are preparing a generation that is not only tech-savvy but also innovative, ready to lead the digital future.

The power of Public-Private Partnerships

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are crucial in driving economic growth. For Saudi Arabia, these partnerships are essential for accelerating major projects and attracting investment. Through strategic alliances, the Kingdom can diversify its economy and set new global standards for innovation and technology-driven growth.

A prime example of such collaboration is the partnership between Saudi Arabia’s National AI Capability Development Programme and leading global tech companies. This initiative aims to integrate AI technologies across various sectors, enhancing efficiency and innovation.

Saudi Arabia aims to attract $20bn in foreign investment in data and AI by 2030 and increase its data centre capacity to over 1,000 MW. By leveraging the strengths of public resources and private sector dynamism, the Kingdom is fostering a vibrant ecosystem where technological advancements can flourish.

Regulatory framework and policy initiatives

The Saudi government’s proactive approach to fostering innovation and technology-driven growth is commendable. Through regulatory frameworks and policy initiatives, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a burgeoning hub for digital advancement.

Key among these initiatives is the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA), established to oversee the development and implementation of the country’s AI strategy. SDAIA serves as the national authority on all matters related to the organisation, development, and regulation of data and AI, promoting the responsible use of AI in alignment with the country’s values and cultural norms.

The kingdom’s future in technology will be driven by AI and advanced data analytics, empowering it to address complex challenges and drive economic growth. Implementing data protection laws marks a significant step towards aligning with global standards, ensuring data privacy and security.

To further support the growth of startups and attract international investments, Saudi Arabia has introduced various incentives, including financial grants and tax exemptions. The creation of technology zones, such as the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), provides state-of-the-art infrastructure and services to facilitate research, development, and innovation.

These zones offer a unique ecosystem where startups and established companies alike can harness cutting-edge technology to create solutions for global challenges. The Saudi government has also introduced policies to promote the development and adoption of AI and high-tech solutions, such as the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP) and the regulations by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) governing fintech solutions.

Navigating the road ahead

As Saudi Arabia strides boldly into the future, its embrace of AI and advanced technology underscores an unwavering commitment to technological transformation. This ambitious journey is reshaping the Kingdom’s domestic landscape and positioning it as a pivotal player on the global tech stage. The essence of this transformation lies in collaborative ties that extend beyond borders.

Image credit: Tech Mahindra

For international organisations, researchers, and policymakers, the imperative is clear: to engage deeply with Saudi Arabia’s growing tech ecosystem. Such collaboration holds the key to unlocking unprecedented opportunities, fostering innovation, and driving the AI and high-tech agenda forward.

Saudi Arabia’s vision for a tech-driven future is about more than economic growth; it is about creating a global community where innovation leads to sustainable development, improved quality of life, and shared prosperity.

At this technological crossroads, Saudi Arabia’s invitation is a call to contribute, collaborate, and co-create a future where technology transcends boundaries, promising a horizon brimming with potential for all.

The author, Atul Soneja, is chief operating officer, Tech Mahindra.

Read: Qatar-Saudi relations flourish with surge in business activity

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