BENEVOLENT ARM OF THE STATE

Saudi Arabia 2020 | DIGITAL ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Teleconferencing technology for healthcare and virtual classrooms are but two ways that digitalization will transform the rural Saudi landscape.

Esam Alwagait

How have you advanced on your projects in the fields of health, education, e-commerce, and smart cities?

For us, 2018 was a year of building up Saudi Arabia's capacities and creating the platform that we will continue in 2019. In e-commerce, we were pleased to see the concept of digital payments launched in 2018. Lead by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), there are now four players: STC Pay, HalalaH, Apple Pay, and Bayan Pay. When it comes to digital health, the Ministry of Health launched telemedicine in a number of locations, which was well received during demonstrations. Telemedicine works well for patients in rural areas who need to connect with specialists in large cities. A proof-of-concept was launched in several cities, enabling people to attend a local hospital with teleconferencing technology. This technology allows for vital information to be transmitted in real time, allowing physicians to assess patient health and provide care without requiring patients to travel long distances. This saves time and money and allows patients to receive the necessary care in a convenient way. The next step is building unified medical records, which the National Health Information Center is working on now. In the field of education, the Ministry of Education had a strong build-up of virtual schools. In 2019, it launched a program to broadcast real-time educational materials from classrooms in main cities to virtual classes in rural regions, providing high-quality learning opportunities across the country. We expect to quadruple our 2018 numbers in virtual schools. For smart cities, one of our ongoing projects is the Smart District, a district in Riyadh fully equipped with the latest IoT advancements. Lastly, we inked a new agreement with the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program in January 2019.

How are you positioning yourself to collaborate within the field, for example, with Yesser?

We collaborate with Yesser mainly in the field of e-government, but our mandate is wider. We worked with Yesser and the National Information Center in 2018 to connect 40 government agencies and ended up connecting 69 government entities with a Single Sign-On (SSO) through the National e-Government Portal. Our aim to reach 100 connected entities by the end of 2019 is a major step to ease the login process for individuals to access government services across every sector. Yesser has large and ambitious projects, and we play the role of facilitator and coordinator. We hope to see many of these projects launched in 2019. We are pushing to utilize the Government Service Bus for government entities to make their data available for other government entities, which will link the entire government. We made progress in 2018 by unifying portals, and in 2019 that remains a major target. We want to unify areas such as visas, licensing, education, and employment. We have established the governance for this and hope to launch it in 2019. The new entities we developed are meant to ensure that governance can be effectively implemented.