On 24 August, the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) hosted the Digital Technology Forum in Riyadh. The panel included digitalisation experts from the public sector, as well as tech leaders and investors from across the market. As well as providing an overview of the tech industry in Saudi, the conference advertised the country’s roadmap to competitive digitalisation.
In the context of Saudi Vision 2030, the country has set ambitious goals to shift from an oil-based economy to a tech-driven nation. Ranked as the sixth fastest growing economy in the world, Saudi Arabia’s ICT sector (with an estimated value of $36 billion as of 2020) has been booming. Extensive connectivity, as well outstanding projects such as the smart AI-based city NEOM, illustrate Saudi Arabia’s aspiration to become a global hub for digitalisation.
In order to achieve digital leadership, HE Mohammed Al-Tamimi, governor of the CITC, emphasised the key role of public-private partnerships in supporting the digitalisation of the Saudi economy and creating an investment-friendly environment. In order to develop a competitive ICT sector, Saudi Arabia launched the Advisory Groups Initiative on 24 August to help investors anchor their business on the Saudi market. The group aims to encourage enhanced communication and cooperation between government and the private sector. Following up on the conference, the Kingdom has announced a $1.2 billion slate of tech initiatives, launching exclusive partnerships with tech giants such as Amazon, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, Informa, and Microsoft.
In addition, Saudi Arabia undertook a number of public consultations on the matter, including the nationwide market study “Digital X-Ray”, to grasp public and private dynamics of the market. The government has also developed economic assets for investments, such as special economic zones in Jazan, tech incubators, funds and digital programmes (with Ericsson, Huawei and Amazon) to meet growing digital demand nationally. Saudi Arabia has also invested in human capital and encouraged the development of a collaborative legal framework for increased transparency and a more secure connectivity policy.
Building upon regional momentum to promote Gulf-led tech policy, Saudi is advancing its own leadership role in the tech industry. The Kingdom has put forward a competitive policy driven by public-private partnerships to become a digital hub regionally and internationally.