The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia forecasts that artificial intelligence (AI) can contribute an estimated $135 billion to its gross domestic product (GDP), which corresponds to 12.4% of the national GDP. Since the launch of the Saudi Vision 2030 program in 2016, which is the Kingdom’s large-scale economic development transformation, Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in unlocking the value of data as a national asset. Around 70% of 96 strategic goals under Vision 2030 closely related to data and AI. Overseeing that responsibility for AI and data in Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Data & Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA).
Established by a royal decree issued on 30 August 2019, SDAIA is responsible for overseeing the national data and AI strategy through three executive arms: The National Data Management Office (NDMO), the National Information Center (NIC), and the National Center for Artificial Intelligence (NCAI).
Through its vision, SDAIA seeks to establish the Kingdom as a global leader among the league of data-driven economies. Its mission relies on unlocking the value of data as a national asset to realize Vision 2030 aspirations by setting the national data and AI strategy and overseeing its execution through harmonized data policies, data and insights capabilities, and continuous AI and data innovation. Given that nearly 70% of the strategic goals, as mentioned, are AI and data related, the role of SDAIA is imperative.
Speaking earlier this year at the launch of its brand identity, Dr. Abdullah Bin Sharaf Al-Ghamdi, the President of SDAIA, said, “We have witnessed first-hand, the early impact of AI and data-driven initiatives and their potential to propel Saudi Arabia’s future economy, but we are still in the early stages with several untapped opportunities available. We, at SDAIA, have been tasked with defining the national data and AI strategy, and delivering on our nation’s vision for the future by optimizing our national resources, improving efficiencies and enabling the creation of diversified economic sectors.”
It was announced recently on the Saudi Press Agency that King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has approved the National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence that was being done by the SDAIA. Commenting directly about that with the Saudi media, United Arab Emirates (UAE) – based Gulf News reported that Dr. Al-Ghamdi commented to the Saudi media, “The establishment of a national data bank consolidated more than 80 government datasets, which corresponds to 30 per cent of government’s digital assets. The Authority aims to build one of the largest clouds in the region by merging 83 data centres owned by over 40 government bodies. Data is the single most important driver of our growth and reform, and we have a clear roadmap for transforming Saudi Arabia into a leading AI and data-driven economy.”
An upcoming event being organised by the SDAIA is the Global AI Summit, which from their website is “the world’s premier platform for dialogue that brings together stakeholders from public sector, academia and private sector, including technology companies, investors, entrepreneurs and startup to shape the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI).” It is scheduled for 14-15 September in Riyadh.
Finally, on the ground, examples of partnerships and innovation in the Kingdom are emerging. For example, Numou Center for Education, in Dhahran, a city in the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia, has teamed up with Century Tech, a London-based education company, to create a new AI-powered learning platform designed specifically for the needs of students in Saudi Arabia. Century Tech is a developer of AI classroom technology which uses machine learning to provide students with an education personalised to their individual strengths, weaknesses, behaviours, and habits. It will be interesting to see the future innovations and collaborations that will happen in the world of big data and artificial intelligence.