Minister: KSA close to becoming a fully digital economy

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Sawaha during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. (SPA)
Updated 02 March 2019

Minister: KSA close to becoming a fully digital economy

  • Kingdom seeking to become the largest digital market in MENA by the end of the next decade
  • Traditional technological sector is now worth $12 billion every year to the Saudi economy, with a further $10 billion from emerging IT markets

BARCELONA, Spain: Saudi Arabia’s communications minister, Abdullah Al-Sawaha, has said the Kingdom is making great progress in becoming a leading digital economy. 

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, he added that the country was seeking to become the largest digital market in the Middle East and North Africa by the end of the next decade, noting that, among other things, the contribution of the Kingdom’s smart cities projects to the GDP was expected to reach over $2 billion annually by 2030.

The traditional technological sector is now worth $12 billion every year to the Saudi economy, while emerging information technology (IT) markets already add a further $10 billion, making the country one of the most developed digital markets in the world. Those markets are only expected to grow as new developments create the potential for further investment. 

Al-Sawaha expressed optimism for the future, stating that Saudi Arabia was uniquely positioned to take advantage of its own history and strengths to make more progress in the IT sector. He highlighted the successes the Kingdom has had in crowd control advances, from its experience in managing pilgrims during the Hajj, from electronic registration programs and facial recognition technology to smart parking systems to ease the visits of millions of people every year.

He added that other sectors, like health, were benefiting from similar advances, allowing hospitals to improve patient waiting times, efficiency of diagnoses, and even the quality of treatment as a result of technology. By 2030, the digital health sector alone was expected to contribute half-a-billion dollars to annual GDP, while other areas forecast to grow, including augmented reality techniques and automation, could add an additional $4 billion.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Al-Sawaha concluded, could be proud of its achievements in providing a strong digital infrastructure. That, he said, had eased the transition the country was making toward becoming a fully fledged digital economy and, he reasoned, allowed everyone from ordinary citizens to multinational businesses to accelerate progress in almost all sectors.


Saudi tourism megaproject aims to turn the Red Sea green

Updated 20 October 2019

Saudi tourism megaproject aims to turn the Red Sea green

  • Development will protect endangered hawksbill turtle, while coral research could help save the Great Barrier Reef

RIYADH: Key ecological targets are driving Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea tourism megaproject, its leader has told Arab News.

The development will not only protect the habitat of the endangered hawksbill turtle, but could also save coral reefs that are dying elsewhere in the world, said Red Sea Development Company Chief Executive John Pagano.

The project is taking shape in a 28,000 square kilometer region of lagoons, archipelagos, canyons and volcanic geology between the small towns of Al-Wajh and Umluj on the Kingdom’s west coast.

One island, Al-Waqqadi, looked like the perfect tourism destination, but was discovered to be a breeding ground for the hawksbill. “In the end, we said we’re not going to develop it. It shows you can balance development and conservation,” Pagano said.

Scientists are also working to explain why the area’s coral reef system — fourth-largest in the world —  is thriving when others around the world are endangered.

“To the extent we solve that mystery, the ambition would be to export that to the rest of the world,” Pagano said. “Can we help save the Great Barrier Reef or the Caribbean coral that has been severely damaged?”

 

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