JEDDAH: Speakers at the second day of the Saudi Smart Cities Summit and Expo lauded Saudi Arabia for its efforts to transform its cities along modern lines by rapidly implementing smart systems.
The presentation “Smart Cities — Case studies from the UK and the GCC” was given by Akin Adamson, Saudi British Joint Business Council member.
It talked about the experiences of different UK and GCC cities with respect to how they have implemented smart cities, the approaches they have taken, stages of development and some examples of what they have achieved.
“In this region, there’s a lot of investment going into government smart systems or smart platforms,” Adamson told Arab News.
“The same is true in the UK. The government is heavily investing in smart systems and smart platforms, both at a national level and a city wide level. There are UK applications but there are also approaches being taken by the different cities whether it’s London, Glasgow, Bristol, or Newcastle, and I think that’s reflected in this region as well.
“You have some federal initiatives but you also have cities doing the right things, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and I think Saudi Arabia is relatively joined up because of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs (MOMRA) leading the smart city push.”
He added that “MOMRA is coordinating across the major cities in Saudi, so I think if anything, the Kingdom has learned from other areas to try and have some level of commonality rather than different cities doing the right things.”
He said that looking at the whole GCC, the Kingdom is in a strong position.
“Dubai is a regional leader because they started earlier. Some other countries across the GCC are also doing things: Kuwait is just starting on that journey now, but in the 18 months to 2 years that I’ve been coming to Saudi Arabua, I’ve seen a rapid acceleration of initiatives.
“I would say the Kingdom has gone from being a follower to a regional leader.”
He said Saudi Vision 2030 is incredibly ambitious, and that the Kingdom’s investments have dramatically changed Saudi Arabia and will create more significant changes by 2030.
“I think the Saudi Arabia that we will see in ten years will be unrecognizable from what we see today.
“It will be a different place in many positive ways. I’ve seen the change in the past couple of years; a pace of change that quite frankly would scare lots of other countries, but Saudi Arabia seems to be managing it.”
Adamson added: “It’s an ambitious program but we’re already seeing early results, and ten years is a long time in this sphere. What people have in their hands today means things don’t take generations anymore, they take a small number of years. Investments Saudi Arabia is making now will dramatically change what we will see in ten years time.”