Saudi Arabia in prime position to become global leader in AI regulation, expert says

Saudi Arabia in prime position to become global leader in AI regulation, expert says
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The Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, which oversees and manages the development and use of AI in the Kingdom, has undergone amazing growth and is leading that mandate. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia in prime position to become global leader in AI regulation, expert says
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The Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, which oversees and manages the development and use of AI in the Kingdom, has undergone amazing growth and is leading that mandate. (SPA)
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Updated 04 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia in prime position to become global leader in AI regulation, expert says

Saudi Arabia in prime position to become global leader in AI regulation, expert says
  • Author and technology futurist Ian Khan says the Kingdom is doing a lot with AI in terms of setting the standards
  • ‘Jobs will transform into AI, which doesn’t mean people will lose their jobs but that the industries in Saudi Arabia will benefit from the creation and deployment of AI,’ he says

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is well placed to become a global leader in the regulation of artificial intelligence by initiating the discussions that will help craft a consensus on how such rules should operate, an expert on the emerging technology said.

Ian Khan, a technology futurist and author who writes on the subject of AI, told Arab News that the Kingdom is “doing a lot with AI” in terms of setting the standards, and is “in a position to take leadership and ownership of setting the framework for AI regulations at a global level.”

He added: “This is where AI regulations can start and this is where the discussion and dialogue for AI regulations can begin, because this is where AI is being implemented in everyday life.”

The Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, which oversees and manages the development and use of AI in the Kingdom, has undergone “amazing growth” and is “leading that mandate” in the country, he said.

In 2020, Khan predicted that AI technology will increasingly become a dominant force in the job market in Saudi Arabia, and said authorities in the Kingdom envision the nation becoming a global leader in AI.

“Jobs will transform into AI, which doesn’t mean people will lose their jobs, but that the industries in Saudi Arabia will benefit from the creation and deployment of AI,” he said.

“You look at (smart city projects in Saudi Arabia) like NEOM, which is so complex, or The Line, they are all driven by artificial intelligence, from managing transportation systems to managing homes.

“We need to have those (AI) regulations in place and at this moment in time, one of the countries from the Middle East will be the one that will start AI regulations.”

It might be Saudi Arabia that fills this role, or the UAE, or both of them working together, because the rules governing AI are beyond the scope of just a single government to decide, Khan added.

“But I think a collaborative force needs to emerge from the Middle East and I think (Saudi Arabia) is in a good position to do it,” he said. 

Khan, who is the CEO of Toronto-based technology-advisory firm Futuracy, said the US is lagging other countries in terms of implementation of AI, although the research and knowledge are available and being utilized by some of the biggest companies, but he predicted that “regulations-wise, it’s going to be a nightmare.”

He added: “There’s no regulation on AI, there’s no privacy control, there’s no intellectual property rights on AI, and there are many other issues.”

Still, Khan expects major growth in the use of AI, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where he said curiosity about how the technology will affect aspects of daily life has spiked in the past year.

For example, authorities in the Kingdom have announced plans to develop electric vehicles and the infrastructure for autonomous transportation, in other words, driverless vehicles that utilize AI technology, alongside wider plans to manufacture more than 300,000 cars a year in the country by 2030

Hyundai Motor Group and Lucid Motors have both signed agreements to build manufacturing plants in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Ceer Motors, the first Saudi electric vehicle brand, was founded in 2022 and plans to begin sales in Middle Eastern markets by 2025.

Saudi Arabia is also “building the largest network of EV charging stations in the Middle East,” Khan said, and has established the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Co. to promote the provision of fast-charging points in all regions of the Kingdom.

And in October 2023, Saudi developer Red Sea Global implemented the largest off-grid electric vehicle charging network in the Kingdom, a move seen as a significant stride toward sustainability.

“You are looking at AI technologies permeating the lives of everyday people, so we have to have regulations, guard rails, protections and safety mechanisms in place,” Khan said.

“Everybody’s loving the growth, and the attention that the (Saudi) leadership is giving to initiatives. There are organizations and sectors, such as energy and manufacturing, that are the stable ones that have been in the Kingdom for decades, and they are growing, but then they are now also investing in sustainability.

“They are looking at carbon footprints … and you’ve got initiatives that are not just about the youth but about growing talent, and that is happening through funding of different agencies.

“But it’s the convergence right now that you’re seeing, and the growth, in the tech sector. For example, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology or Aramco Ventures are really putting in a lot of investment in new, innovative technologies,” Khan continued.

You are looking at AI technologies permeating the lives of everyday people, so we have to have regulations, guard rails, protections and safety mechanisms in place.

Ian Khan, Technology Futurist and Author

“Saudi Arabia is looking to position itself not just as a G20 player, but probably one of the biggest players in the world when it comes to the economy being a financial hub. They’re also looking at climate change, looking to be leaders in oil and gas, but also alternative energy, and in the cultural fields, and the political field as negotiators between conflicting parties.”

Khan praised the Future Investment Initiative — a nonprofit organization launched in 2017 by the Saudi Public Investment Fund and dubbed the “Davos of the Desert” — for the “world-class and pure quality of content, ideas and thought leadership” that takes place at its annual forum, during which major global announcements are made each year.

In terms of developments in the Kingdom in the short term, Khan predicted that Saudi Arabia will have a regulatory framework for AI in place within one or two years, if not sooner.

Looking further ahead, he said: “By 2030, we are looking at some parts of these large infrastructure projects to actually be on stream and to be live and working, so you’re looking at AI being functional in those areas.

“By 2030, I am envisioning that the job market in Saudi will be driven by AI. In terms of AI, talent is needed. Data scientists are needed. People who can use AI in a better way are needed. People, leaders, engineers, doctors who are able to work with AI for their jobs are needed. So AI skills are going to be in demand.”

FASTFACT

Emerging Technologies

In 2020, Khan predicted that AI technology will increasingly become a dominant force in the job market in Saudi Arabia, and said authorities in the Kingdom envision the nation becoming a global leader in AI.

The pace of development of the technology will accelerate in general, he said, with applications in the fields of healthcare and curing diseases, child development, education, tourism, climate change, the food industry, transportation and manufacturing.

“Technology has been evolving at an exponential pace over the past 30 to 40 years, and now we are entering an era of the next machine age, or the fifth industrial revolution, where a lot of our world is going to be automated using artificial intelligence,” said Khan.

“By 2040, I believe that we will have mastered AI regulation, have frameworks and policies that protect people, have formalized and deployed global rules and laws that not just govern people in a country or a region, but globally.”

The majority of the world is increasingly going to be automated and there will be a tool for everything, he added, which will result in what he called “the integration of things,” whereby one or two systems will essentially control everything we use, so that use of numerous different applications is no longer required.

“By 2040 we will also see a lot more intuitive and experiential services that will be part of an AI-driven future, so that the quality of life of people will be much better than it is today,” he predicted.

 

FASTFACTS

In 2020, Khan predicted that AI technology will increasingly become a dominant force in the job market in Saudi Arabia, and said authorities in the Kingdom envision the nation becoming a global leader in AI.


ADNOC to boost production target by 2030

ADNOC to boost production target by 2030
Updated 27 May 2024
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ADNOC to boost production target by 2030

ADNOC to boost production target by 2030

RIYADH: The Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. plans to boost its local manufacturing target for critical industrial products to 90 billion dirhams ($24.5 billion) by 2030 in a bid to strengthen the UAE’s industrial sector and expand local manufacturing capabilities.

ADNOC made the announcement at the “Make it in the Emirates” forum, adding that the new target is part of its expanded In-Country Value program, which aims to drive an additional 178 billion dirhams back into the UAE economy by 2028. 

“This expanded initiative will support the UAE’s economic diversification, attract local and international investors, and provide high-skilled private sector jobs for UAE nationals. Additionally, it will stimulate entrepreneurial growth and drive sustainability in ADNOC’s supply chain,” said Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, minister of industry and advanced technology, and ADNOC managing director and group CEO. 

This expanded initiative will support the UAE’s economic diversification, attract local and international investors.

Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, UAE minister of industry and advanced technology

The company said its previous 2027 target of 70 billion dirhams worth of products was “delivered ahead of schedule” following the award of two contracts for metal pipes and valves worth 16.8 billion dirhams to local manufacturers.

The contracts include 8.8 billion dirhams for metal pipes to PM Piping Petroleum Equipment, Ajmal Steel, and the Emirati-owned Al Gharbia Pipe Co.; and 8 billion dirhams for mechanical valves to Samamat, Camtech Manufacturing, Tisco Valves Manufacturing, PTPA, MT Valves and Industries.

ADNOC’s expanded ICV program also aims to provide a micro, small and medium enterprises accelerator program to enable Emirati businesses and local mSMEs to conduct business across ADNOC’s supply chain.


Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  

Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  
Updated 27 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  

Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  

RIYADH: Private sector participation in the Sports Boulevard project is set to increase as the foundation behind Riyadh’s largest linear park plans to double its investment fund to SR2 billion ($533 million). 

In a press release, the Sports Boulevard Foundation announced its partnership with Ajdan Real Estate Development Co. and Albilad Capital to add an additional SR1 billion to the private real estate investment fund “Sports Boulevard Real Estate Fund 1.” 

This increased funding will be utilized to bolster private sector participation within the Arts District, one of the destinations within the Sports Boulevard project. 

The Sports Boulevard Development Co. will continue to hold the majority of units in the fund, while Ajdan Real Estate Development Co. will serve as a developer and primary investor, and Albilad Capital will act as the fund manager. 

This partnership underscores the collaborative effort behind the expansion, signifying a strategic alliance aimed at creating a vibrant urban space that enhances Riyadh’s cultural and economic landscape.  

The project aims to develop a mixed-use lifestyle destination consisting of residential, retail, office, and entertainment components.  

Covering a land area of over 39,000 sq. m. at the heart of the Arts District, the total combined built-up site spans approximately 240,000 sq. m., boasting over 100,000 sq. m. of net leasable area.   

The design of this destination draws inspiration from the Sports Boulevard Design Code, influenced by the Salmani Architectural Style. This ensures a dynamic and immersive lifestyle experience for both residents and visitors. 

Situated at the intersection of Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Road and Prince Turki bin Abdulaziz Al Awwal Road, it offers expansive public spaces, recreational areas, and cycling-friendly tracks. 

Covering an area of 184,000 sq. m., the project extends beyond private development parcels, providing ample space for recreational activities and pedestrian-friendly pathways, efficiently linked to the promenade and cycling bridge. 

Sports Boulevard, a mega project launched by King Salman bin Abdulaziz in 2019, and supported by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, spans over 135 km on Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Road.  

It features safe green pathways for pedestrians, cyclists, athletes, and horse riders, connecting Wadi Hanifah in the west to Wadi Al Sulai in the east. 

Additionally, the project includes over 4.4 million sq. m. of greenery, open spaces, and up to 50 multidisciplinary sports facilities. It also hosts several unique destinations and investment zones, totaling an area exceeding 3 million sq. m. 


Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831

Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831
Updated 27 May 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831

Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Monday, losing 19.42 points, or 0.16 percent, to close at 11,831.22.  

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR5.8 billion ($1.5 billion) as 110 stocks advanced, while 108 retreated.   

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu also slipped 189.65 points, or 0.71 percent, to close at 26,448.54. This comes as 30 stocks advanced while as many as 34 retreated.  

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index also dropped 2.67 points, or 0.18 percent, to close at 1,470.41.    

The best-performing stock of the day was Saudi Paper Manufacturing Co. The company’s share price surged 4.89 percent to SR75.10.  

Other top performers included CHUBB Arabia Cooperative Insurance Co. as well as Middle East Specialized Cables Co., whose share prices soared by 3.96 percent and 3.46 percent, to stand at SR34.10 and SR32.85 respectively.  

On Nomu, Osool and Bakheet Investment Co. was the top gainer, with its share price rising by 9.22 percent to SR48.   

Other best performers on Nomu were View United Real Estate Development Co. as well as Al-Modawat Specialized Medical Co., whose share prices soared by 6.53 percent and 6.20 percent to stand at SR79.90 and SR150.80, respectively.  

Additional top gainers included Almujtama Alraida Medical Co. and Bena Steel Industries Co.  

On the announcement front, Saudi Basic Industries Corp., known as SABIC, received all necessary approvals from relevant authorities to complete the acquisition of its subsidiary Saudi Iron and Steel Co., also known as HADEED, by the Public Investment Fund. 

In a statement on Tadawul, SABIC announced that it has satisfied all transaction-related conditions to complete the SR12.5 billion acquisition announced earlier in September 2023. 

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia aluminum producer Al Taiseer Group Talco Industrial Co. is listing a 30 percent stake on the Tadawul stock exchange following an initial public offering, setting the final offer price at SR43 per share. 

The company is selling 12 million shares and has completed the book-building process for institutional investors, which saw a coverage of 68.5 times the total offer shares, according to Alinma Investment Co., the lead manager and financial adviser to the issuance. 

The book-building process for retail investors will run for two days starting on May 28. During this time, they can subscribe to a maximum of 10 percent of the shares. The final share allocation is set for June 2. 


Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official

Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official
Updated 27 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official

Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s budding energy efficiency sector has witnessed notable growth, with the number of licensed service providers reaching 55 by the end of 2023, says a top official. 

As the Kingdom strives to reduce its carbon footprint, with recently amplified goals to achieve net-zero by 2060, the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center is working to aide the nation in realizing these ambitions, Nasser Al-Ghamdi, the CEO of the center noted. 

In his inaugural address at the Saudi ESCO forum, the top executive stressed the entity’s role in raising awareness about energy efficiency. He highlighted that 26 universities nationwide have adopted energy efficiency topics and courses in their curricula.

“Since the inception of the center, we have launched various initiatives that will help in reducing energy consumption,” Al- Ghamdi said.

Among these undertakings, the body has succeeded in launching and implementing more than 200 training programs in the field of energy efficiency, the CEO added. 

The executive emphasized that the center has strived to create the necessary ecosystem for suppliers and their beneficiaries in this “promising market” to ensure the quality of energy-efficiency service providers.

He added that this will be achieved through the application of a licensing system for those interested in investing in this field after meeting the technical requirements necessary to provide the service. 

Highlighting the role that the fledgling sector is playing in achieving net-zero goals, the CEO said: “The sector, which is considered relatively new, is helping companies and enterprises and buildings in finding solutions to efficiently use energy, including financing and managing solutions and projects. These companies also contribute energy consumption analysis and knowing opportunities for companies to improve their consumption.”

Due to the absence of energy efficiency activities in the commercial sector, one of the highest energy consumers in the Kingdom, accounting for 15.7 percent of total consumption of facilities in the nation, the body launched a pilot project to improve this field. 

The initiative aims to improve conditions in the commercial sector by raising business owners’ awareness of opportunities, as implementing energy auditing projects is expected to improve overall efficiency.


Yanbu Royal Commission teams up with Skytower Investments for industrial projects development

Yanbu Royal Commission teams up with Skytower Investments for industrial projects development
Updated 27 May 2024
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Yanbu Royal Commission teams up with Skytower Investments for industrial projects development

Yanbu Royal Commission teams up with Skytower Investments for industrial projects development

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Yanbu governorate is poised to see the development of several industrial projects following an agreement between its Royal Commission and Skytower Investments Ltd. 

The memorandum of understanding, signed by the commission’s CEO, Abdul Hadi Al-Juhani, aims to develop industries in the petrochemicals sector, specialized chemicals, renewable energy, and other manufacturing divisions. 

This MoU signing is part of the Royal Commission’s ongoing efforts to attract more local and international investments to Yanbu Industrial City in promising sectors, aligning with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030 programs. 

Headquartered in Riyadh, STI is an investment firm specializing in renewable technology, green manufacturing, supply chain, and green power production. 

“This is a result of significant development over the past nine months by both teams paving the way for more international manufacturing and localization projects landing in Yanbu,” Skytower said in a tweet on X. 

It added: “This agreement will pave the way for more international manufacturing and localization projects landing in Yanbu, an industrial heartland with complete industry infrastructure and extensive manufacturing experiences.” 

In April, STI signed a four-party joint agreement with Chinese automaker Chery Automobile Co., the Ministry of Investment, and the National Industrial Development Center.  

This collaboration, driven by Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, signifies a crucial step toward future economic opportunities and the well-being of the Saudi people. 

In August 2023, the Kingdom’s untapped southern region took a significant step toward welcoming international travelers.  

Cruise Saudi and the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu signed an MoU to unlock the region’s tourism potential. This strategic partnership was aimed at positioning the southern region as a captivating tourist destination, fostering growth in the travel sector and contributing to the region’s economic advancement. 

Formalized during the MASAREB ceremony held in Jazan, the agreement encompassed a spectrum of efforts, from knowledge transfer to mutual alignment on ventures aimed at establishing the destination and yielding a positive local impact. 

STI is a global partnership between NGOs, green businesses with advanced eco-friendly technology, sustainable manufacturing, and Saudi’s national sustainable economic development authorities.

Their aim is to develop practical plans for industry decarbonization, economic revitalization, technological advancement, and carbon-neutral technology.