Digital technologies underpinning the kingdom’s economic landscape
In a short span, Leap has clearly emerged as one of the most defining technology events in the region and the world, and with less than three weeks to the technology showcase’s second edition, it is a good time to look back and reflect on the kingdom’s achievements and prepare for the journey ahead.
Already the largest economy in the Middle East and among the 20 largest economies in the world, the kingdom’s objective is to become a more prosperous economy, whereby Saudi Arabia is ranked among the top 15 economies worldwide by 2030.
Saudi Vision 2030
With Saudi Vision 2030 as the guiding north star, Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly blazing the trail when it comes to the adoption of latest cloud led emerging technologies to accelerate its digital economy and diversify beyond its rich oil and natural resources.
Analyst firm IDC suggests that ICT spending in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will reach $33.5bn for 2022 and investments in public cloud will cross the $1.26bn mark in 2022 and will grow at CAGR of 26.8 per cent by 2026. This shows the rapid growth in cloud adoption in Saudi Arabia as organisations identify a more cost-efficient, secure, agile, and flexible business model with the cloud.
All of us across the globe have been through a lot together these past three years. While a public health crisis, travel bans, and supply chain hardships took their toll on us, we learned together that it’s critical to build digital connections among businesses and their customers, employees, suppliers and partners. Oracle CEO Safra Catz in her keynote at the latest Oracle Cloud World rightly said: “Being bold, not timid during a recovery is the way to win.”
Organisations burdened by the past three years of economic upheaval have found little respite from volatility. Yet the most resilient of them have invested in the technologies needed to emerge stronger than before. It’s this resilience that has enabled Saudi Arabia to emerge stronger from the pandemic and bravely forge a new path to growth, development, and sustained innovation that puts citizens at its centre.
A great example of this is Neom, a 100 per cent renewable energy city being built near the Red Sea for an eventual population of nine million people. It will boast high-speed rail connections, urban design innovations, and will protect the nature reserve in the area. Neom’s technology developers set up private cloud computing to help manage the city’s IT and automation features. It’s keeping data in the country, increasing security and performance, all while cutting the cost of managing its databases by 80 per cent.
Similarly, look at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah International Medical Research Center. The country’s top biomedical and clinical research institution initiated research in infectious diseases and tapped cloud services to analyse SARS-CoV-2’s protein structures and identify potential drug compounds to combat the virus.
The implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) led innovations is also going to be vital for the success of Saudi Arabia’s digital economy. PwC estimates that by 2030, AI will contribute $135.2bn to the kingdom, i.e., 12.4 per cent of GDP. An incredible example of the use of AI in Saudi Arabia is not from big organisations, but from the farmlands of the kingdom.
Historically, agriculture has been front and center of social and economic life in Saudi Arabia, especially over the last three decades, which saw phenomenal developments toward improving farming activity.
Saudi Arabia’s Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) is on a mission to enhance the country’s food security while maintaining natural resources and developing rural areas by providing loans to farmers across the kingdom. To do so, ADF has deployed cloud applications to gather and analyse agricultural data quickly from across the country in real time and focus precious efforts and resources where they are needed the most.
AI can also solve some of the commonly faced challenges by farmers, such as analysing market demand, forecasting prices and determining the optimal time for sowing and harvesting.
Saudi Arabia has made rapid strides towards economic diversification and strengthening of the local talent pool to develop a thriving digital economy.
It is clearly Saudi Arabia’s time!
Nick Redshaw is the senior vice president – Technology Cloud – Middle East and Africa at Oracle