TECHx Chief Program Director Shadi Dawi goes one-on-one with Majid AlShehry, official spokesperson for Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority to explore the strategic partnership between the Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates & Kingdom’s digital technology strategy for the government and private sector.
TECHx: The participation of Saudi Arabia in GITEX 2020 coincides with the year of the presidency of the G20 by Saudi Arabia. How do you evaluate this coincidence considering the strategic partnership between the Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates?
As a new entity that was established in August 2019, we had a busy year in 2020. Our initial focus was to drive and own the national data and AI agenda. We wanted to position the Kingdom as a global leader in the elite league of data-driven economies by unlocking the value of data as a national asset. Suddenly, our priorities were reshuffled, and we needed to act fast to deal with COVID-19 and all of its consequences.
As a result of the pandemic, this year’s G20 Leaders’ Summit meetings were hosted virtually through the Boroog platform, which is managed by our operational arm, the National Information Center. The platform is secure and reliable to host an event of this magnitude, and it was a great honor to contribute to the success of this historic summit.
In terms of strategic partnerships, I believe the fact that we have chosen to commence our international exposure to the world here in the UAE, speaks volumes about the significance of the close ties between our two great nations.
TECHx: What is the importance and contribution of technology and digital transformation to the achievement of Vision 2030?
Realizing the goals of Vision 2030 will require a nationwide effort to capitalize on the transformative power of data and AI for social and economic growth and elevate Saudi Arabia to become a global leader in the field by 2030. We aim to ride this wave of disruption, not be disrupted by it.
Data and AI strategies directly impact around 70 percent of Vision 2030’s objectives. Also, these technologies must be utilized to their fullest extent to achieve the Kingdom’s ambition of creating a leading digital economy.
TECHx: What is the Kingdom’s digital technology strategy for the government and private sector and its catalytic role in attracting foreign investments?
SDAIA will lead the Kingdom’s National Strategy for Data & AI (NSDAI), which was officially launched in October at the Global AI Summit in Riyadh. We will be guiding and supporting its implementation across key government agencies and will also take the responsibility of new initiatives such as the creation and enforcement of AI policies.
The NSDAI will attract and incentivize both local and foreign investors to encourage investment in Saudi Arabia. The strategy aims to attract SAR 75B ($20B) in Foreign Direct Investments as well as local investments by 2030.
We are also seeking to transform the workforce through education and upskilling to empower Saudi nationals to harness the power of data and AI in both the public and private sectors. Programs are already underway with education establishments to attract, develop, and retain AI talent in the Kingdom, with a target of creating 20,000 AI and Data specialists and experts by 2030.
Our long-term ambitions will be achieved through a multi-phased approach that focuses on addressing key national priorities by 2025, building a solid foundation for competitive advantage by 2030, and emerging as one of the leading economies utilizing and exporting data and AI in the years that follow.
TECHx: How do you rate your participation this year in GITEX 2020, especially since it is the first direct global event after the COVID-19 pandemic crisis?
Our participation at GITEX has been a great experience. Thousands of people have visited our booth and learned more about SDAIA and its various arms. They have also been informed about our ambitious National Strategy for Data & AI and its impact in the Kingdom and beyond. The event has also created outstanding opportunities to discuss the latest developments with our peers and meet new potential partners.
For instance we also signed an MoU with Dell Technologies to innovate data analytics and AI accelerations. We are always seeking to collaborate with distinguished partners and further strengthen our capabilities. Events like GITEX play a vital role in bringing the region’s industry experts together to share knowledge and shape the future of technology. It’s truly inspiring to be part of that process.