Saudi Arabia on the road to cloud-powered digital transformation
An ambitious vision is taking shape in Saudi Arabia that envisages a future where its people, especially the younger generation, can live and thrive in a seamlessly connected digital landscape.
It is a world where transactions seamlessly flow, supported by layers of impenetrable security, and an ecosystem of service providers stands ready to fulfill every need, from leisure and entertainment to education.
This relentless pursuit of digitalization lies at the core of Saudi Vision 2030 — a monumental $3.3 trillion blueprint aimed at propelling the nation beyond its historical reliance on oil and revolutionizing society along the way. However, such ambition needs powerful and adaptable technology to deliver its goals.
Today, Saudi Arabia stands at a crossroads, armed with an opportunity it cannot overlook — enter cloud computing. By adopting cloud-based operating models, the Kingdom can set new standards for cost competitiveness and innovation, facilitating the realization of its Vision 2030 goals with fiscal prudence and adherence to schedules.
KSA’s cloud-powered transformation
Historically, Saudi Arabia embarked on its cloud journey a bit later than its regional counterparts. But what it lacked in timing, it made up for with strategic vision and implementation. The last five years have seen a concerted effort to position the country as a cloud powerhouse. Key milestones in this journey include launching the Saudi Cloud Strategy in 2019, establishing the Cloud Computing Special Economic Zone in April 2023, and introducing progressive policies such as the Cloud First Policy and Cloud Cybersecurity Controls. These initiatives signal the Kingdom’s commitment to cloud computing and lay the groundwork for widespread adoption.
In parallel, the government has been pouring resources into building the necessary infrastructure. A testament to this is the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s 2021 initiative, where an $18 billion investment was announced to establish a vast network of data centers across the Kingdom. This bold move has garnered global attention, drawing investments from tech giants, with Google Cloud Region inaugurating its Saudi-based operations in November 2023. The strategic positioning of the Kingdom is more than just establishing infrastructure; it is about setting global benchmarks for cloud operating models. The concept of the Cloud Continuum emerges as a game-changer in this context. It is an ecosystem that blends various technologies like AI, Big Data, analytics, and the Internet of Things, all unified under the umbrella of cloud computing. This isn’t just about technological integration; it is about building a digital core that powers a green, sustainable, and innovative future.
Leveraging cloud operating models
For organizations in Saudi Arabia, adapting to this new digital landscape involves a strategic approach, as outlined in Accenture’s research paper titled “The Race to the Cloud.” This involves a five-pronged strategy:
The full power of cloud: Organizations must leverage cloud technology as a catalyst for complete enterprise transformation, aligning it with emerging business strategies.
Strategic cloud enablement: It is essential to embrace the cloud as a fundamental enabler, selecting the right mix of capabilities and services.
People and process transformation: Success in the cloud is intertwined with transforming organizational culture and workflows.
Focus on data and AI: Investments in the cloud should be complemented with a focus on data and AI, using insights to drive innovation.
Cloud economics mastery: Shifting the narrative from cloud cost to cloud value, with an emphasis on transparency and oversight.
Industries across the Kingdom are already adopting these strategies, reaping significant benefits. These cloud operating models are comparable to muscles that require constant development and nurturing. With robust government and corporate sector support, Saudi Arabia is well-equipped to flex its cloud muscle, creating a digitally empowered society that is efficient, innovative, and sustainable.
• Omar Boulos is Accenture’s market unit lead in the Middle East.