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.