The Business Year

Ayman AlRashed, CEO of the Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI)

SAUDI ARABIA - Economy

Ayman AlRashed

CEO, Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI)

Bio

Ayman AlRashed is CEO of the Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI).

“We have the responsibility of accelerating the adoption of AI in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and involving all the different sectors and industries that are driving the growth of the national economy.”

TBY talks to Ayman AlRashed, CEO of the Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI), about Artificial Intelligence, technological adoption, and smart cities.

How is SCAI helping to shape the future of KSA through the application of AI?

We play a pivotal role when it comes to shaping the future of the Kingdom AI and emerging tech adoption. Our country —under the transformational leadership of the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman —is agile and keen to not miss any new opportunities. The Public Investment Fund (PIF) decided to invest in this emerging AI field and has created projects that will be the torchbearers within the sector. That is part of our role. We have the responsibility of accelerating the adoption of AI in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and involving all the different sectors and industries that are driving the growth of the national economy. The other aspect of the mandate is how we jumpstart the ecosystem itself. AI involves creators and users. The creators are those who create the algorithms of AI, and the users are those people or organizations that will use that AI in their operations. When we accelerate the adoption of AI, that will affect the user part, though we also need to make sure we also jumpstart the ecosystem, namely the creators of AI. The adoption of AI involves multiple levels—AI is the engine, and the fuel for the engine is data. We need massive amounts of data to fuel AI. We start by working with key organizations, such as SDAIA, to ensure the regulations will not hinder innovation when it comes to AI. Also, in partnership with SDAIA’s innovation arm, the National Center of AI, we jointly solve Kingdom’s specific problem statements.

SCAI’s mandate is the acceleration of technological adoption across various sectors in the Kingdom. How will partnerships and collaborations help it achieve this mandate?

We must extend the adoption of AI in KSA by organically growing the capabilities and upskilling people and, at the same time, acquiring companies and establishing strategic and fruitful partnerships. Generally speaking, we are focused on establishing equity-based partnerships. In KSA, AI is a nascent field for smaller players. The majority of the players in AI today are small companies. There are large companies dominating the market, but many of the capabilities lie with the small companies. Many of the companies in AI in KSA have between two and 15 employees. Some of those companies have excellent capabilities, but do not have full solutions. We could approach those companies and help them turn those capabilities into a solution that would create real value. We are constantly scouting the sector, trying to probe the capabilities in the market and seeing who has what and how can we help them. At the same time, we are still a commercial company that needs to make a profit. Any time we identify a local company that has a capability that we can utilize, we also want to ensure we do not compete with them. We try to complement their offerings and make sure that they can grow.

How is SCAI supporting Saudi Arabia’s new strategy for smart cities, which aims to transform municipal sector services through digital smart technologies and AI?

Smart city is a large umbrella. Many people define smart cities differently, but the reality is there is no real concrete definition of a smart city. We look at multiple industries such as financial services, healthcare, or energy and how we can enhance those in terms of efficiency. For example, we can apply AI to smart grids of the energy, monitoring, and controlling the way the energy is produced and consumed. The economics of every single industry can be completely changed. AI gives us the power to boost decision-making actions and thinking. For example, using AI, we could give accurate recommendations on the loan ‘s interest rate we should charge an individual. It would probably make economics more efficient in some industries, or it could completely disrupt some of them. In terms of where AI can change the economics of a sector completely, in healthcare we can use AI to predict if a certain individual will be inflicted by diabetes in advance and use AI to recommend certain lifestyles, medications, and eating habits to prevent the illness. The change AI will have on the economy goes far beyond healthcare bills. A certain person in a specific environment, community, or city will be more productive, benefitting the entire system and the whole economy. When we talk about smart cities, we must fragment the scenario into segments, sectors, and specific industries and categorize them. It depends on the industry and the use cases within the industry itself. Many of the use cases in AI impact the economy directly and transform it or make it more efficient.

What is SCAI’s medium-term objective moving forward?

We want to accelerate the adoption of AI: it is our main goal and mandate. We want to boost and cultivate the adoption of AI in the local ecosystem. In a few years’ time, I would love to have a few of the globally well-known names in AI base their HQ in KSA. I consider it a success if I see the software not just being used in KSA, but in the region or globally. The medium-term objective is for the ecosystem to start flourishing, with multiple start-ups and unicorns blooming in KSA.

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