GEO-DATA IS KING

Saudi Arabia 2020 | DIGITAL ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TAQNIA ETS is pushing forward with high-tech solutions to help diversify the economy and transform it into a knowledge-based society.

Abdulaziz Aljowair
BIOGRAPHY
Abdulaziz Aljowair has dedicated the majority of his academic and professional career to the development, application, and optimization of geospatial technologies. For over 18 years, he has developed and managed strategic geo-projects for both public and private entities, enhancing data extraction, analysis, and interpretation methodologies and enriching the decision-making process through the optimized application of GIS and remote sensing technologies and research. Aside from his role at TAQNIA ETS, he has worked with KACST and the Ministry of Interior, in addition to advising on matters related to geospatial technologies and projects to various other organizations, national committees, and boards.

Where does TAQNIA ETS fit within the TAQNIA group of companies, and what is your primary expertise?

The Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company (TAQNIA) was established in 2011 with a clear mission to transfer advanced technologies to Saudi Arabia, commercialize the outputs and resources of national R&D centers, contribute to the diversification of the national economy, and build the capabilities of local talent in emerging technologies. Over the years, and through analyzing the local market and demand in the context of its mission, TAQNIA has incorporated several subsidiaries, each to operate in a unique domain, and TAQNIA ETS is one such subsidiary. Working predominantly in the field of geospatial information, TAQNIA ETS is one of a few Saudi companies that provides an extensive portfolio of geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing services that cover but are not limited to data extraction, data analysis and interpretation, capacity building, shared services, and other geospatial-related services. Geospatial technologies can provide an abundance of data and are an unparalleled tool in supporting strategic planning and decision-making processes in fields ranging from urban planning, environmental activities, infrastructure projects, agricultural development and natural resources management, to road safety and emergency response forces. The number of companies working in Saudi is insufficient to meet the local demand for geospatial services. Also, because we work in partnerships with R&D institutions both locally and internationally, we have unprecedented access to cutting-edge technical capabilities and resources. Also, while we are expected to generate profit, we are not necessarily driven by it, as we are a government-owned company. Our role is to not only deliver projects at the highest standards, but to also advise our clients, the majority of them government organizations, on the optimal services and solutions. All of the above means we can provide vast geospatial services that are not only effective, but also cost-saving.

Vision 2030 strives for the Kingdom to become a knowledge-based economy and build up local capacities through technology transfer. How do you envision TAQNIA ETS to play a leading role?

When TAQNIA ETS began to provide geospatial services, there was still a significant percentage of organizations in Saudi, both public and private, that did not have a dedicated GIS department, even though they could benefit greatly from it. However, in recent years we have witnessed in influx in attention to the value that geospatial technologies can provide. Virtually every other industry is posed to benefit from geospatial technologies, and as the science is continuously evolving at accelerated rates so does the potential for enhanced data extraction and analysis. As a result, the probability of informed decision-making and effective strategic planning becomes evidently clear to stakeholders; they possess much better insight in what is happening on the ground. The true value of geospatial technologies is the accuracy, efficiency and effectiveness of the information it delivers, and such information is an invaluable commodity in a knowledge-based economy.

As you are building up local capacity and centralizing GIS expertise, what are your next ambitions; do you envision regional expansion?

In the last few years, we have worked with the majority of government bodies in Saudi Arabia and several private corporations, on projects of national and local strategic significance. Currently, we manage a portfolio of projects worth over SAR1.2 billion for over 40 clients operating in urban and rural areas nationwide. However, for the near future we look forward to expanding our operations to the MENA region as we have already begun negotiations with several clients in the Gulf who have taken keen interest in our collective capabilities and accumulated expertise within the field of GIS and remote sensing. We are also committed to continue fulfilling TAQNIA's mission of localizing innovative technologies in Saudi by increasing our efforts in developing innovative tools, applications and methodologies in the field of GIS and remote sensing.