Saudi Arabia poised to become global AI hub by 2030

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Saudi Arabia, the largest economy in the Arab world has unveiled its National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence as it aims to position the kingdom among the top 15 nations in the area of AI (Artificial Intelligence) by 2030.

This strategy was revealed at the opening of the Global AI Summit in Riyadh by Abdullah Bin Sharaf Alghamdi, President of the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA).

Mr. Alghamdi said, “This is a strategy with a bold vision to make Saudi Arabia the place where data and AI innovations will become reality. The national strategy sets the direction and foundation upon which data and AI will fulfil our national transformation priorities and establish Saudi Arabia as a global hub for data and AI.”

In the next 10 years, the kingdom aims to draw $20 billion worth of international and local investment in the data and AI sectors, he further added.

The initiative will train up to 20,000 data and AI specialists with an aim to have 300 successful start-ups in the sector by 2030. The nation will also develop numerous global alliances to drive data and AI advances, Mr. Alghamdi said.

The plan will concentrate on measures to speed up the use of AI in five primary sectors: healthcare, mobility, education, government and energy.

To further diversify its economy and reduce its dependency on hydrocarbons, Saudi Arabia is ramping up its investment in technology.

According to a report by consultancy PwC, by 2030, AI is projected to contribute up to 12.4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country, equalling $135 million (Dh496.2 billion).

With the theme of AI for the Good of Humanity, the inaugural two-day summit is being held online. It was initially scheduled to take place in March, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was postponed.

“Our world is going through unprecedented times, history has taught us that such critical junctures are crossroads,” said Mr. Alghamdi said.

“Which step and which direction we will take rely on us, so let’s challenge ourselves, let’s think and work together to shape the future of AI for the good of humanity.”

In a statement, SDAIA said that the implementation of the strategy will follow a multi-phase approach that would focus on addressing Saudi Arabia’s immediate requirements by 2025, especially the development of data and AI programmes.

By developing specializations in specific areas of AI, it will then turn its emphasis on establishing the foundations of a competitive international AI ecosystem to become one of the leading AI and data-driven economies by 2030.

The summit will focus on the latest developments in AI and will discuss topics such as the effect of technology on socio-economic growth and the challenges facing the global community in implementing it.