ROME: Government organizations in charge of innovation will need help to keep up with the pace of economic digital transformation, a Saudi minister said on Thursday.
Speaking at the G20 Digital Economy Ministers’ Meeting 2021 in Trieste, Italy, Abdullah Al-Sawaha said “bridging the digital gap globally is the way to achieve the prosperity of societies.”
The meeting was chaired by the Italian ministers for innovation and economic development, Vittorio Colao and Giancarlo Giorgetti.
Al-Sawaha said Saudi Arabia had topped the list of leading countries in the field of digital innovation, and highlighted how the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform program had also contributed to making it a leader at an international level in sustainable development.
This had been achieved through qualitative global efforts, such as the Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as large investment in new, environmentally friendly industries and markets, he said.
Al-Sawaha cited NEOM as the largest global platform for innovators and creators, and he called it a vivid example of harmonizing regulation and innovation, to achieve well-being for societies, and preserving the environment through the use of technology.
NEOM is a planned cross-border city in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia, which will incorporate smart city technologies and also function as a tourist destination, with an estimated project cost of $500 billion.
Talking about digital policies and regulations in Saudi Arabia, Al-Sawaha cited the Kingdom’s recent adoption of rapid digital payment methods and expressed “pride” in the levels of digital entrepreneurship in the Kingdom, which represented the “ideal model on the ability of young men and girls to contribute to supporting the economy and building an innovative future, considering innovative solutions in digital health, online education, digital payments and digital government.”
In his speech, he expressed confidence that the forthcoming G20 Summit, under Italy’s presidency, would make a significant contribution to “human empowerment, preserving the planet and shaping new horizons, ensuring prosperity and sustainable development.”
He also highlighted the efforts made in digital transformation under the Kingdom’s G20 presidency last year, and said the Italian presidency would maintain the same direction.
“Following up with the path created by Saudi Arabia on those sensitive issues is, for Italy, a natural choice, as results of innovation in every field could not be more evident in that country, especially in the field of artificial intelligence,” the Italian undersecretary for economic development, Anna Ascani, told Arab News.
“The Italian presidency placed the issue of the digital transformation of productive activities towards sustainable economic growth at the heart of the debate, with a particular focus on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, social inclusion, governance, and the development and application of innovative technologies.
“We are doing this by building on the achievements and commitments of past presidencies, beginning with Saudi Arabia’s,” she added.
The G20 member states signed a declaration in Trieste, which identified 12 actions needed to accelerate the global digital transition while remaining committed to sustainable growth.