THE CLOUD

Saudi Arabia 2020 | DIGITAL ECONOMY | B2B

Though AI, machine learning, business intelligence, and big data are all crucial to the long-term digitalization of the Kingdom, few innovations are as important in the immediate term as getting firms onto the cloud.

Thamer Alharbi
THAMER ALHARBI
President
Microsoft Arabia
Issa Al-Khamees
ISSA AL-KHAMEES
CEO
HPE Saudi Arabia

What role do you and the larger Saudi market play in the global innovation arena?

THAMER ALHARBI Elm is a leading organization in terms of public service and bringing forth the country's digitalization agenda. This partnership is aimed at encouraging technical capabilities in the field of machine learning, AI, business intelligence, and big data. Elm has partnered with many governmental industries to help them achieve the milestones needed to reach Vision 2030. Elm has also been influential in the digitalization of the public sectors. It was time for Microsoft, with all its efforts with the public and private sector, to align itself with Elm to maximize the impact we can bring to various sectors. There is a great deal Microsoft has been doing and will continue to do in this respect. Microsoft provides this digitalization in terms of products, services, capabilities, and partnerships, while Elm has all the local presence expertise. This combination will have a significant impact.

ISSA AL-KHAMEES Since HPE was established in Saudi Arabia in 1985, we have been focusing on the digital transformation of the Kingdom. We are proud of our position and contribution, and we support the country in many ways by empowering the different areas that affect the quality of life for our citizens, residents, and visitors. This includes supporting financial services, healthcare services, telecoms, and government e-services. Hybrid IT is a business differentiator that enables companies to focus on what matters. In fact, our infrastructure solutions department called Hybrid IT is where our employees, along with our partners, work continuously to create new solutions that solve problems or enhance services.

How are companies incorporating cloud computing and AI into their everyday operations?

TA Saudi Arabia's initial foray into AI was in 2008 when USD13 million was invested in virtual and augmented reality technology. A further USD535 million was spent in 2018, mainly across two major transactions related to the IoT. Investment in this area has been the mainstay of Saudi activity over the past decade. Today, Saudi companies, particularly at the C-suite level and especially amongst executive managers, are aware of the emergence of AI technologies, their applications for business, and the economic ramifications of not keeping up to date. A report commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by EY reveals that 16% of Saudi businesses today are currently using AI across their business processes and a further 26% are actively planning AI activity. That said, many other companies, and some entire sectors, are still a long way from implementing this technology, an issue that largely comes down to justifying how AI will provide a meaningful ROI, complicated legacy IT systems, a lack of relevantly skilled personnel, and insufficient or poor-quality data. Still, the report clearly indicates that progress is being made, and we expect Saudi companies generally to continue to improve in AI maturity over the next few years.

IAK Cloud Computing is a solid trend as it brings many benefits to the country. HPE today is engaged in many cloud projects in the country with the public and private sectors as well as with service providers. With our partners, we help link the country to our own cloud aggregator platform, Cloud 28+, a worldwide platform that helps cloud services providers, technology partners, and consumers look for the right answers. We do not only look at the cloud as a technology, we actually created a financial model to support cloud users, a pay-as-you-go program known as HPE GreenLake. It has more than eight services. Our clients only pay as much they use.