Article: Special Report to Explore Change

Saudi's Tech Revolution

Mar. 26, 2019

TBY is embarking on a companion Special Report PDF publication to complement the The Business Year: Saudi Arabia 2020 print publication.

A Saudi woman shows the Careem app on her mobile phone in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 2, 2017. Picture taken January 2, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

This unique IT and Technology focused online report will document Saudi Arabia's rapid integration of various technological solutions as part of its effort to modernize and diversify its economy.

Entitled “Technology as a Catalyst for Change," the report will be composed of interviews with government officials, regulators, and executives as well as analysis and data.

Throughout TBY's five years covering the Saudi market, our editors have noticed a consistent trend of digitalization and adoption of technology in the public and private sectors.

Although these trends are clearly present all over the world, in Saudi Arabia their characteristics are unique. The changes are led by the government and are therefore significantly more rapid and comprehensive than in other nations. The Kingdom's “Transformation" as outlined in Vision 2030, has had technology as a centerpiece from its inception.

The plan set specific KPIs for each government ministry, holding officials responsible for improving public services and regulatory procedures.

Many government processes still relied on faxes and physical paper when the plan was enacted, and the only way for goals to be met was rapid digitalization. This is now happening on a grand scale within the government.

The private sector has taken note of heavy government spending on technology and pf the fact that Saudi Arabia has one of the world's highest smartphone and internet usage rates.

Banks have scrambled to update their images and push technology to consumers, while the banking regulator has approved blockchain solutions for international payments.

International IT vendors, developers, and even investors have begun aggressively prospecting the Saudi market.

Then there are infrastructure projects, some of which are very real and some only planned.

There is now a high-speed train connecting Jeddah and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, among the most visited sites in the world.A world-class metro system is due to open in Riyadh in 2021.

The world's first 5G network is also due to be unveiled. These are all concrete implementations of technology that should have a distinct impact on the lives of Saudis.

For a nation with a relatively small population, significant capital, and an unhealthy reliance on oil revenues, betting on technology makes a lot of sense. The Kingdom has used its wealth to bring foreign tech firms to its soil. Its defense contracts stipulate localization, and its sovereign wealth fund has invested in various firms with the intention of both insulating public finances from oil price swings and also incentivizing local partnerships.

All of these elements together make the Kingdom stand out in the region and the wider world as a nation aggressively pursuing a new template for growth.

TBY's Special Report will cover all of these trends in great detail through interviews with the very people responsible for the ongoing changes, while the report's online format will enable it to be distributed widely and made available to relevant stakeholders all over the world.

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