Saudi Arabia signs off on Artificial Intelligence policy

By on 13/08/2020 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: AI will boost GDP by US$133 billion. (Credit: Creative Commons license).

King Salman Bin Abdulaziz has approved Saudi Arabia’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy, which is expected to contribute an estimated 500 billion riyals (US$133 billion) to gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.

The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) was set up by a Royal Decree in August 2019. The organisation oversees the National Data Management Office, the National Information Center and the National Center for Artificial Intelligence.

“Data is the single most important driver of our growth and reform and we have a clear roadmap for transforming Saudi Arabia into a leading AI and data-driven economy,” said Dr Abdullah bin Sharaf Al Ghamdi, president of SDAIA, according to regional news website

The country is establishing a national data bank to consolidate more than 80 government datasets, the equivalent to 30 per cent of the government’s digital assets. It is also planning to build one of the largest clouds in the region by merging 83 data centres owned by more than 40 government bodies.

2030 vision

Digitalisation and development of AI is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy, launched in 2016. The vision commits to building sustainable cities and communities, improving health and well-being of citizens, improving the quality of education, providing decent work and fostering innovation-driven economic growth.

AI and digitalisation are at the heart of this vision, according to Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of technology, industry and digital capabilities, Dr Ahmed Al Theneyan. Greater automation will achieve efficiencies in government, he wrote in a blog for WIPO magazine.

The government is undertaking major educational reform to make sure students acquire the digital skills for future jobs in AI and other technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain, he said. The government was working with the ministry of education to match school and university curricula with future needs in areas such as AI, data science and data security.

The kingdom is also building a US$500 billion city called Neom. Covering 26,000 square kilometres, the city will “go well beyond a smart city as we know it today,” by allowing for a new way of life built around technologies including AI, big data and IoT, Dr Al Theneyan wrote.

About Catherine Early

Catherine is a journalist and editor specialising in government policy and regulation. She writes predominantly about environmental issues and has held permanent roles at the Environmentalist (now known as Transform), the ENDS Report, Planning magazine and Windpower Monthly, and has also written for the Guardian, the Ecologist and China Dialogue. She was a finalist in the Guardian’s International Development Journalism competition 2009, and was part of the team that won PPA Business Magazine of the Year 2011 for Windpower Monthly. She also won an outstanding content award at Haymarket Media Group’s employee awards for data-led stories in Planning magazine. She holds a 2:1 honours degree in English language and literature from Birmingham University.

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