SURE THING

Saudi Arabia 2019-2020 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Basem bin Abdullah Alsallom, CEO of SURE International Technology, on digital transformation, key trends in investor activity, and artificial intelligence.

How is SURE International Technology positioning itself within the digital transformation of the Kingdom?

Since 2004, SURE has been acting as a system integrator, having developed more than 2,400 e-services for various government agencies, from ministries to universities and hospitals, as part of the country's digital transformation. More recently, we have entered the financial sector and are facilitating the growth and contribution of SMEs in line with government directives through new products and business units. With Vision 2030 and the NTP 2.0, the government is investing a lot of capital in building a solid infrastructure. One of the main focuses in this sense has been cloud computing, and we seek to take advantage of this trend to act as a migrator for both governments and companies. At the same time, we are placing considerable efforts on developing new partnerships with local and international players to introduce security products to the market. There is an urgent need to protect access to data and reduce damage effects because external actors are constantly threatening Saudi cyber-infrastructure. As far as 2019 is concerned, we expect to expand internationally, grow our business and serve a new customer base, and continue building a lot of partnerships with vendors, suppliers, and clients.

Within these three business units, how do you expect demand to evolve in the short to medium term, and what trends will be driving this evolution?

In the fintech arena there's definitely a push from a regulatory perspective, with lot of focus coming from SAMA, CMA, Saudi Fintech Initiative, and from companies interested in entering that market. The authorities are pushing the banks to move toward a cashless society and embrace electronic payments, e-wallets and digital wallets, and all these initiatives will intensify the market. At the same time, there are a lot of efforts that seek to reduce the entrance barrier for startups and SMEs to take Saudi Arabia's standards on par with other global markets. At SURE, there is a strong willingness to enter this market, since even the enterprise companies need to upgrade their systems to cope with the new technology trends. The current push from the government lowers the risk perception these companies have before they invest in making these upgrades, so there is definitely an opportunity for vendors like us.

How would you assess the receptiveness of new technological platforms?

It's quite high because this market is maturing. There are a lot of opportunities, we just need someone to come and grasp them. A lot of industries are undergoing transformation with a lot of investments, and technology is going to play a major role in this phenomenon. Tourism, entertainment, hospitality, industry 4.0, and the NIDLP, to position Saudi Arabia as a logistic hub for three continents, are all part of the progressive changes the country is witnessing, and digital transformation is the key.

What are the key trends that Saudi Arabia and investors should look at for 2019?

The major trends should be joint ventures and partnerships, because in the Middle East or Saudi you have local partners with good businesses, but want to move to the next level. To do so, one needs a different knowledge and experience and new products to introduce to the market. Another trend that has the gained prominence is business intelligence: big data is coming strongly to Saudi, and the market is big enough to allow healthy competition that will raise the overall quality of the industry.

What impact will big data and artificial Intelligence have on Saudi society, and how can it strike a balance between implementing automation and decreasing unemployment?

Big data will impact everyone, from the decision-makers in government who are drawing up budgets to consumers making their household budgets. Government entities will have newly developed solutions to analyze data, forecast, measure performance, and adjust their spending patterns. On the other hand, AI will create more jobs by eliminating jobs that do not require humans. In this sense, we need people to develop smart design and focus on operations and management. AI will not replace jobs, but it will add value for us and create more jobs. It is a cycle that will bring overall benefits to society. The young population and talent available here are the perfect fit for creating the jobs of the future.