Tech firms opening academies in Riyadh a ‘landmark move,’ say experts

Tech firms opening academies in Riyadh a ‘landmark move,’ say experts
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Updated 25 January 2022

Tech firms opening academies in Riyadh a ‘landmark move,’ say experts

Tech firms opening academies in Riyadh a ‘landmark move,’ say experts
  • Microsoft, Apple, and more will help create digital capability centers and innovation hubs for tech startups in the Kingdom
  • Localization of Information and Communication Technology sector aims to provide 20,000 jobs by end of 2022

RIYADH: Global technology firms signing agreements to establish academies and training programs in Riyadh is a “landmark move” that will transform Saudi Arabia into a leading technology hub, experts said.

“This new initiative aims to set the base for the Kingdom to become one of the top five countries in the world, which is indeed commendable,” Muhammad Khurram Khan, a cybersecurity professor at the King Saud University, told Arab News.

“It is pertinent to mention that all such programs will transform Saudi Arabia into the global leading tech hub that underpins the ambitious goals of Vision 2030.”

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday announced a series of technology initiatives aimed at improving the digital skills of 100,000 Saudi youngsters by 2030. The intivives were introduced at the technology event “Launch” which was co-hosted by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones; the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology; and the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority.

Leading global technology companies formed local partnerships to develop digital skills of Saudi youth and push for innovation in tech startups in the Kingdom. The first academy to be launched will be Apple Academy.

“The ‘Launch’ aims to transform Saudi Arabia into a knowledge-based economy,” Khan said.

“The initiative is supported by a large number of programs that include establishing training academies, launching bootcamps, organizing hackathons, and providing entrepreneurial support to local talent to spur startup culture in the country.”

The skill development programs and training offered by top global tech giants will enhance the programming skills for local talent, Khan said, as it will also nurture an entrepreneurial mindset and foster innovation. 

“These initiatives would also contribute to strengthening the Kingdom’s cybersecurity, AI, drones, and game development ecosystem on par with other developed countries,” he said.

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Sawaha unveiled the first Saudi-made smart chip to be used in military, civil and commercial applications at the “Launch” event.

In addition, MCIT established the National Technology Development Program with a goal of making the Kingdom the world’s leading technology country. The Saudi Chinese eWTP Arabia Capital fund, which seeks to support technology startups in the Kingdom, was also unveiled at the “Launch” event.

In other developments at the event, the Tuwaiq 1,000 initiative was launched to set up 40 training camps across Saudi Arabia, targeting 10,000 technical talents.

“The signing of the agreements by the global technology firms will help raise the national digital capabilities and digital innovation centers in programming,” Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, advisor and law professor at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, said.

“It will promote trust between technical companies and startups on one hand, and financing institutions on the other.”

According to ​​Al-Obaidy, training Saudi youths in cyber security, programming, artificial intelligence, and video games at the academies will support talented Saudis — especially women — as it will also open new opportunities to investors.

“Graduates of these academies will have proper skills and training needed by the job market,” Al-Obaidy said. “That will increase the hiring of Saudis and have a positive impact on the Saudi economy, its diversification, knowledge transfer and increased participation of women in the job market.”

Meanwhile, spokesman for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, Saad Al-Hammad, said the decision to “localize the Information and Communication Technology sector and customer service profession,” will have a huge impact on the country.

As part of a series of Saudization decisions by the ministry for various sectors, it aims to provide 20,000 jobs by the end of next year. Al-Hammad said the decision has provided 8,000 jobs in the private sector so far.

The decision was taken in cooperation with other government agencies such as the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Communications and Information Technology Commission and the National Cybersecurity Authority.

“The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development aims to limit the outsourcing of such services outside the Kingdom,” Al-Obaidy said. “It aims to support the Saudi economy, increase the value of job opportunities, and protect data and information as well as improve customer experience.”