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.


Closing bell: TASI closes in green to reach 11,696 points 

Closing bell: TASI closes in green to reach 11,696 points 
Updated 6 sec ago
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Closing bell: TASI closes in green to reach 11,696 points 

Closing bell: TASI closes in green to reach 11,696 points 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose on Wednesday, gaining 36.57 points, or 0.31 percent, to close at 11,696.51. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR5.3 billion ($1.651 billion) as 128 of the listed stocks advanced, while 89 retreated.    

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index increased by 11.40 points, or 0.79 percent, to close at 1,460.84. 

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu climbed by 68.14 points, or 0.26 percent, to close at 26,302.93. This comes as 24 of the listed stocks advanced while as many as 37 retreated.  

The top-performing stock of the day was the Saudi National Bank, with its share price surging by 5.76 percent to SR34.90. 

Other standout performers included The Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Co., and Anaam International Holding Group, whose share prices soared by 4.98 percent and 4.59 percent, reaching SR27.40 and SR1.14, respectively.  

Saudi Chemical Co. and National Medical Care Co. also showed notable performance. 

The worst performer was the National Co. for Glass Industries, whose share price dropped by 4.31 percent to SR41.05. 

Other underperformers included Al-Babtain Power and Telecommunication Co., as well as Saudi Pharmaceutical Industries and Medical Appliances Corp., whose share prices dropped by 3.77 percent and 3.59 percent, to stand at SR37.05 and SR32.20, respectively.  

Additional laggards in the market were Thob Al Aseel Co. and CHUBB Arabia Cooperative Insurance Co. 

In the parallel market, Nomu, Knowledge Net Co. was the top gainer, with its share price surging by 15.97 percent to SR30.5. 

Other top gainers in the parallel market were Shatirah House Restaurant Co. and Nofoth Food Products Co., with their share prices surging by 8.70 percent and 7.23 percent to reach SR12 and SR19.28, respectively. 

Miral Dental Clinics Co. was the major loser on Nomu, as its share price slipped 10 percent to SR90.  

Osool and Bakheet Investment Co. and Al-Modawat Specialized Medical Co. were other major losers on Nomu. Their share prices dropped by 9.50 percent and 7.23 percent, reaching SR40 and SR154, respectively. 


Saudi firms launch $365m fund to boost real estate development in Eastern Province

Saudi firms launch $365m fund to boost real estate development in Eastern Province
Updated 20 min 56 sec ago
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Saudi firms launch $365m fund to boost real estate development in Eastern Province

Saudi firms launch $365m fund to boost real estate development in Eastern Province

RIYADH: Real estate development in the Eastern Province is set to receive a boost as two Saudi firms agree to launch a fund worth SR1.37 billion ($365 million) to drive investment in the sector.

Mohammed Al-Nahdi Real Estate and Alinma Investment, the investment arm of Alinma Bank, have announced the launch of the Alinma-Al-Nahdi Real Estate Fund, a property reserve to develop prime land strategically situated in the Eastern Province spanning an area of over 1.6 million sq. m.

In a statement, Abdullah bin Salmeen Al-Nahdi, CEO of Mohammed Al Nahdi Real Estate, emphasized that the fund’s launch reflects his company’s dedication to shaping the Kingdom’s property landscape.

He also underscored his firm’s dedication to enriching its investment portfolio by introducing unique projects to address the housing needs outlined in Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision.

The CEO explained that his property firm will develop the land to become the premier destination for housing and real estate investment in the EP. 

This development will encompass integrated residential communities, public buildings, commercial zones, and entertainment areas. It aims to provide a comfortable and safe residential environment for citizens while enhancing the region’s quality of life.

Al-Nahdi pointed out that the sales permit has been issued, and the project will be sold in stages during the implementation works. This will allow investors and buyers to benefit from diverse and flexible ownership options that suit their needs and aspirations.

The CEO highlighted that the sales permit has been issued, and the project will be progressively released during the implementation phase. 

Mazin Fawaz Baghdadi, CEO and managing director at Alinma Investment, said that the fund’s investment objective is to achieve medium-term capital growth through direct investments in the Kingdom’s real estate sector.

Additionally, Baghdadi emphasized the significant role of real estate development funds as tools that stimulate investment and increase the supply of established land through developmental and urban projects in the Eastern Province.

He stressed that this initiative aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 by boosting the supply of housing units.

As per the announcement, the land is situated along King Abdulaziz Road and GCC Road in Dhahran, adjacent to the Ajyal residential district, one of Saudi Aramco’s major model housing developments. 

This strategic location facilitates convenient access to key landmarks in Dammam, Alkhobar, and Dhahran.

Headquartered in Alkhobar and founded in 1993, Mohammed Al-Nahdi Real Estate is a property company with a rich portfolio of notable projects.

According to its website, Alinma Investment is a Saudi closed joint stock firm that was established by Alinma Bank with a capital of SR1 billion and a paid-up capital of SR500 million.

The business is a leading provider of a comprehensive range of Shariah-compliant investment products and services, utilizing the latest advancements in communication and advanced technological systems.


PIF’s Neo Space Group, SES partner to revolutionize inflight connectivity

PIF’s Neo Space Group, SES partner to revolutionize inflight connectivity
Updated 28 min 30 sec ago
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PIF’s Neo Space Group, SES partner to revolutionize inflight connectivity

PIF’s Neo Space Group, SES partner to revolutionize inflight connectivity

RIYADH: Airlines will now experience uninterrupted connectivity services via the aviation industry’s first open-architecture, multi-orbit global network powered by regional partners including Neo Space Group — a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Luxembourg-based satellite telecommunications company SES has announced a collaboration with several regional operators to launch its inflight network, promising seamless global connectivity for airlines.

According to a press release, this Ka-band platform will merge the geostationary earth orbit and medium earth orbit satellite networks of SES including Neo Space Group, AeroSat Link, a subsidiary of China Satcom, and Hughes Communications India.

The SES Open Orbits initiative aims to integrate regional satellite coverage into a global inflight connectivity service, allowing airline passengers uninterrupted connectivity. 

This technology is designed to link global and regional satellites to offer consistent inflight internet, enhancing the experience with high-quality video, data, and communication services comparable to ground-based offerings.

The Global Head of Aviation for SES, Elias Zaccack, emphasized the transformative potential of SES Open Orbits, stating: “By spearheading the creation of SES Open Orbits using an open architecture that supports multiple orbits and multiple waveforms, SES is enabling more satellite operators and inflight service providers to participate in the global market for inflight connectivity.”

Philippe Carette, head of the aerospace segment at PIF, expressed enthusiasm for NSG’s involvement, saying: “NSG is excited to be among the first global partners to join the SES Open Orbits inflight connectivity network.”

NSG was established in May to invest in local and international assets and capabilities, as well as promising venture capital opportunities, to catalyze the advancement and localization of sector-specific expertise. 

The company will contribute to the development and deployment of the latest cutting-edge technologies in the space industry through its four dedicated business segments: satellite communications, earth observation and remote sensing, satellite navigation and Internet of Things, as well as a satellite and space-focused venture capital fund.

China Satcom Vice President Yufei Shen noted the significance of SES’ partnership for the Asia-Pacific region, stating: “Connecting flights over, in, and out of China, and throughout the Asia-Pacific region is extremely important to most major airlines around the world. China Satcom is extremely pleased to partner with SES to help bring a whole new level of inflight connectivity by leveraging our Ka-band network.”

Shivaji Chatterjee, CEO, president, and managing director of HCI, added: “We will also bring our deep experience in providing end-to-end connectivity services in multiple verticals to our partnership with SES to help ensure the best possible passenger experience to airlines using this exciting, first-of-its-kind inflight connectivity network.”

As a managed service provider of Airbus’ HBCplus program, SES Open Orbits will also be accessible to participating airlines. Additionally, SES is working with Safran Passenger Innovations to offer SES Open Orbits on Boeing aircraft through the Boeing TSA process.

This collaboration represents a major step forward for the inflight process, aiming to enhance passenger experiences by delivering reliable, high-quality connectivity worldwide.


Saudi economy shines amid low inflation rates and Vision 2030 success: official report

Saudi economy shines amid low inflation rates and Vision 2030 success: official report
Updated 57 min 17 sec ago
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Saudi economy shines amid low inflation rates and Vision 2030 success: official report

Saudi economy shines amid low inflation rates and Vision 2030 success: official report

RIYADH: The Saudi economy has demonstrated resilience, marked by sustained growth in non-oil sectors and a globally low annual inflation rate of 1.6 percent, as per an official report. 

This was highlighted during the latest meeting of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, where discussions covered crucial reports and topics. 

Among these was the Ministry of Economy and Planning’s quarterly analysis of international and local economic performance in the first quarter of 2024. The analysis delved into global economic growth trends and their potential implications for the Kingdom. 

Meanwhile, the council, also known as CEDA, reviewed the Strategic Management Office’s 2023 report on the achievements of targets set by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, highlighting the significant progress made. By 2023, 87 percent of Vision 2030 initiatives were either completed or on track, surpassing the performance of 2022. 

Additionally, the Ministry of Health presented progress updates on two pivotal initiatives: the establishment of the Health Holding Co. and the Center for National Health Insurance. These initiatives are integral to the ministry’s healthcare transformation plan, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The presentation outlined the health ministry’s strategic ambitions, including goals, essential implementation stages, and the embrace of a contemporary healthcare paradigm.  

This innovative approach has widened access to healthcare services, improved their caliber and efficacy, and strengthened preventive measures against medical hazards. 

Moreover, the presentation highlighted the successful completion of the inaugural phase of the strategy, with 20 health clusters established across Saudi Arabia by the end of 2023. 

The SMO’s report also highlighted notable accomplishments, program evaluations, and an overall performance summary, along with ongoing efforts and future aspirations for 2024.  

The analysis emphasized the ongoing transformation efforts driven by the vision, which have demonstrably achieved and even surpassed the 2023 goals concerning the vision’s three aspects: a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation. 

CEDA issued pertinent decisions and recommendations concerning all the topics addressed during the meeting.  

Under the Council of Ministers, CEDA aims to establish the governance, mechanisms, and measures necessary to achieve Saudi Vision 2030, addressing issues spanning all domestic matters, from health to labor to education and Islamic affairs.


PIF’s Alat, Lenovo forge $2bn partnership to establish manufacturing hub in Saudi Arabia 

PIF’s Alat, Lenovo forge $2bn partnership to establish manufacturing hub in Saudi Arabia 
Updated 29 May 2024
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PIF’s Alat, Lenovo forge $2bn partnership to establish manufacturing hub in Saudi Arabia 

PIF’s Alat, Lenovo forge $2bn partnership to establish manufacturing hub in Saudi Arabia 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of a sustainable manufacturing hub gains momentum as Alat partners with Lenovo Group to establish a facility and invest $2 billion through zero-coupon convertible bonds. 

As part of the agreement, the Chinese firm will set up a regional headquarters in Riyadh for the Middle East and Africa region, along with a new manufacturing hub in the Kingdom, to supplement its existing 30-plus production sites worldwide. The facility will prioritize smart, sustainable manufacturing and will initially cater to customers in the MEA region. 

The Public Investment Fund-owned firm’s investment in Lenovo will be in the form of a bond subscription agreement, with the electronics giant issuing $2 billion in convertible bonds. 

Amit Midha, CEO of Alat, said: “We are incredibly proud to become a strategic investor in Lenovo and partner with them on their continued journey as a leading global technology company.”   

He added: “With the establishment of a regional headquarters in Riyadh and a world class manufacturing hub, powered by clean energy, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we expect the Lenovo team to further their potential across the MEA region.” 

This move aligns with the Saudi firm’s commitment to Vision 2030, supporting environmentally-conscious production powered by clean energy, creating new jobs in the industrial and electronics sectors, and capitalizing on regional economic growth opportunities. 

Through this investment, Alat anticipates creating 15,000 direct and 45,000 indirect jobs in Saudi Arabia, generating a cumulative gross domestic investment impact of $10 billion by 2030. 

Lenovo’s convertible bonds will be due three years after issuance and will convert to equity upon maturity at an initial conversion price of 10.42 Hong Kong dollars ($1.33) per share. 

“Through this powerful strategic collaboration, Lenovo will have significant resources and financial flexibility to further accelerate our transformation and grow our business by capitalizing on the incredible growth momentum in the MEA region,” said Yuanqing Yang, chairman and CEO of Lenovo. 

He added: “Looking ahead, Lenovo plans to build a tech and manufacturing hub in Saudi Arabia and will help define the future of the region as a center of innovation which Alat will benefit from. This is a huge vote of confidence in our company, our market leadership, and our future growth potential.”  

Moreover, the partnership between Alat and Lenovo aims to harness the transformative potential of digital technologies while establishing the region as a global innovation hub.  

This collaboration is expected to significantly impact the region’s journey toward a diversified, resilient, and technologically advanced future. 

Launched in February by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Alat aims to position Saudi Arabia as a global center for sustainable technology manufacturing, focusing on advanced technologies and electronics.