RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is currently on a path of rapid transformation with so many Saudi women engaging in various critical jobs.
“What I saw in Saudi is this big transformation going on. And I’m highly impressed by so many Saudi women in different functions; in journalism, in tech functions. I heard that 58 percent of Saudi engineers are women. I was highly impressed because this is still an issue in Europe and you have more women in tech than we have,” according to Margarete Schramboeck, Austria’s former federal minister for digital and economic affairs and current board member of Aramco Digital.
In an interview with Arab News, Schramboeck said Saudi Arabia has advanced in the digital infrastructure realm over the past few years with the rollout of 5G and the implementation of advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence.
Strengthening digital infrastructure is crucial to reduce poverty in all nooks of the world, especially in African countries.
“Today, it is about digital infrastructure. This is the key factor for success for companies and countries. If we take a global approach to it, we can see that this is the basis for opening up new businesses, learning, and teaching. If you look at Africa, it means, for a family, they can earn a living. So, a digital infrastructure is a key factor of reducing poverty all around the world,” said Schramboeck.
During the talk, Schramboeck noted that digital education is very much essential as Saudi Arabia leapfrogs in the technological sector.
“A key factor is digital education. That is one of the key factors. And here, each investment is paying off 10 times, or 20 times. And here, what we all need is that we take our youth from consuming to creating. So, the digital world is not just for consuming news, but it is for being creative in this world. And if we manage this, then we are going to be even more successful,” added Schramboeck.
It was in January 2023 that Saudi Arabian Oil Co. launched Aramco Digital to accelerate the company’s digital transformation journey.
After the launch of the company, Saudi Aramco’s president and CEO Amin Nasser said that Aramco Digital is planning to invest $1.9 billion over the next three years, making it the biggest investment from the energy giant in digital to date.
According to Schramboeck, further strengthening the digital infrastructure is required in Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom is currently on the path of economic diversification.
She added: “The digital sector is key, and it is in each of the other sectors. So, it is not only a sector of itself, but it is enabling all the sectors, it is enabling energy with a smart grid, it is enabling education, it is enabling other sectors like automotive. A car today is a piece of software and a batter, and soon it is also going to be built in Saudi.”
Schramboeck went on and said that technologies like AI and the Internet of Things will form the basis for our future, and the advancements of these technologies will have direct impacts in all other sectors.
She added that bolstering the digital infrastructure will help Saudi Aramco help increase efficiency, along with reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
“CO2 reduction is a key target and Aramco is doing here a lot. The company has done a lot of investment. It is working together with startups in the startup scenes to bring in new ideas,” said Schramboeck.
She continued: “With the power of the company and the budget that has been allocated to Aramco Digital, we can help industries to transform. And in this way, we can reduce CO2 emissions, improve process, and develop jobs from blue-collar work to white-collar work.”
Schramboeck added that the widespread embracement of digital technologies in the energy sector will help women enter the scene, as there is no need for hard physical training and instead, operations can be carried out from a remote-control center.
“You can chat with your friends, and you can have a community. So, not sitting on the crane alone in the heat which is a classical blue-collar job, very tough and physical. It is transforming into a new type of job, which a lot of Saudis can do, women can do,” noted Schramboeck.
She went on and said that public-private partnerships are crucial to elevating economic development and innovation.
“This (public-private partnership) is key. During my time in Austria, we had created for platform for digital learning. It was a platform for both government and companies. And this, I can also see here under Vision 2030, it is a common target, and it is companies and public sector aligning,” noted Schramboeck.
She concluded: “The role of public sector is always to be ahead a little bit, to be an innovator. And there is a great potential in this form of cooperation, which has been proven successfully in both in Saudi and in Europe.”