Business and social advancement need digital transformation and innovation
Saudi Arabia is this week hosting a global technology conference, LEAP, with the captivating theme of “One Eye on the Stars.” This noticeably portrays the Kingdom’s plans to accelerate the country’s digital transformation and deploy the latest technologies and platforms as part of these plans.
So, what is digital transformation exactly? Digital transformation, simply put, is business transformation enabled by digitalization. So, the essence of digital transformation is the changing of business processes enabled by digitalization technologies. For example, digital transformation and IT innovation can enable further protection from rising cybersecurity concerns, and data flow requirements.
But digitalization can also contribute to bigger social objectives and transformation. According to the World Economic Forum: “Digital innovations can drive progress towards realizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and shore up the three pillars on which they are built: improving people’s quality of life, fostering equitable growth and protecting the environment.”
The LEAP conference is expected to become a global platform for innovation, connecting inventors with businesses, government leaders, and entrepreneurs, to better articulate the technologies of the future.
“Technology and innovation have enormous potential to transform economies and societies. We live in a time where you either leap or be left behind,” said Saudi Communications and Information Technology Minister Abdullah Al-Swaha.
One of the major threats to companies and government agencies alike is the threat of cyberattacks. This is increasing as organizations digitize their networks and increase their interconnectivity. Therefore, the way companies handle the rapid transformation caused by digitalization and how they strengthen their resilience against potential cyberattacks will become a major market differentiator.
One of areas that the LEAP conference has promised to tackle is future energy technologies, which can enhance Saudi Arabia and the region’s leadership in oil and gas. The conference will also discuss ways to apply digitalization and technology in the development of renewables and reduction of carbon emissions.
The oil and gas sector has a relatively long history with digital technologies. Oil and gas companies have long used digital technologies in exploration and production. Upstream companies have been using digitalization to enhance safety and operations and to utilize assets and inventories more effectively. Further digitalization in the upstream oil and gas industry will continue to be expanded.
Oil and gas companies in the Gulf Cooperation Council region have shown leadership in the use of digital technologies and innovation. Saudi Aramco, in particular, is known to be a leader in the use and deployment of leading digital technologies at various levels of its operations.
For example, the Aramco Uthmaniyah Gas Plant has been recognized as “a leader in technology applications” as it uses advanced analytics and artificial intelligence solutions to increase productivity and enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of its operation.
According to an International Energy Agency report, the use of digital technologies could decrease oil and gas production costs between 10 and 20 percent through the advanced processing of seismic data, the use of sensors, and enhanced reservoir modelling, while recoverable oil and gas resources could be boosted by around 5 percent globally.
Technology and innovation can also help in terms of economic growth, as many digital technologies and innovative solutions are being created to help combat issues such as sickness, poverty, and hunger. It is estimated that the world economy could more than double in size by 2050 due to technology-driven improvements.
Holding the LEAP conference in Riyadh is a recognition of the importance of how digitalization and innovations can transform businesses and society.
The global technology conference should be used to leverage Saudi Arabia’s leadership in the deployment of digital technologies to transform the business community and society.
Saudi Arabia have invested heavily in digitalization and in developing local talent. LEAP can be used as a platform to encourage foreign direct investment in the country by leading innovative industries. This will contribute to the Vision 2030 goals in sowing the seeds for new high tech industries, while also providing job opportunities for Saudi youth in innovative professions.
And this can only be a win-win for everyone.
• Fuad Al-Zayer is an independent energy consultant. He is former head of Data Services Division at OPEC and a former head of the JODI Global Initiative at the IEF.