RIYADH: Data is an increasingly important strategic national asset, according to Majed A. Al-Hussain, the vice president of Saudi Arabia’s National Data Management Office (NDMO).
In recognition of this, the office has developed a road map that includes a number of pioneering initiatives designed to drive a national data strategy, he told Arab News. He also highlighted a number of important issues that such a strategy must address, from data protection to improving the performance of government bodies through digital transformation.
One of the challenges facing Saudi authorities, he said, is whether to store personal data within the Kingdom or in other countries. A number of factors must be considered when making a decision about this, including privacy rights, protection of personal data, the nature and sensitivity of the data, the time required to process information, and storage capacity. There are also legal requirements, he added, and it is necessary to carefully assess the guarantees provided by data-hosting platforms in other countries.
The development of Saudi Arabia is at an important stage, as authorities rapidly implement measures designed to ensure the digital transformation of the nation’s economy and all government functions proceed smoothly.
Al-Hussain said the NDMO was set up to enhance the data-based economy, which will benefit the public and private sectors and improve the quality of services provided to citizens and residents.
“The office is also responsible for regulating data management and personal data protection at the national level and publishing associated policies, standards and mechanisms, setting the compliance framework, and monitoring compliance accordingly,” he said.
In this way it provides support for decision-making processes and helps governmental organizations to perform better, he added.
To improve standards of data management, the NDMO will analyze and assess the readiness of the public sector and develop a framework for the assessment of national data-management practices and the design of training programs for the government, Al-Hussain said.
“The office will also work with government agencies to appoint chief data officers and establish data offices that will support national data-regulation policies and standards adoption, align with national data programs, and drive agency-specific data initiatives,” he added.
The NDMO works with a number of key partners, including the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology; the National Cybersecurity Authority; the Communications and Information Technology Commission; Yesser, which is the Kingdom’s e-government program; and the National Center for Archives and Records.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence (SADAI) will launch a national strategy for data and AI during the Global AI Summit, a virtual event sponsored by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that will be hosted by Riyadh on Oct. 21 and 22.
“Saudi Arabia is seeing a huge growth of data through all sectors, which paves the way for a strategy that can be used as a significant national asset to achieve economic, social and competitive gains,” said Abdullah Sharaf Al-Ghamdi, the president of SADAI.
The summit will feature keynote speakers, panel discussions and a number of interactive events. The program covers four key areas: day one will focus on “Shaping the New Normal” and “AI and Governments,” while the second day is dedicated to “Governing AI” and “The Future of AI.”
The summit aims to encourage meaningful discussion and development of innovative ideas that can have a global impact, in terms of recovering from the pandemic and identifying trends that shape the field of artificial intelligence.
It also hopes to provide inspiring insights into future requirements for regulators, investors and businesses, and offer an opportunity for participants to learn from pioneering innovators who are using artificial intelligence to build a better tomorrow.
A total of 7,375 delegates from 141 countries have registered for the summit, during which they will hear 51 experts share their views, exchange insights and discuss new ways to use AI to benefit humanity.