Saudi Arabia will provide up to $4 million in loans to technology businesses as it seeks to boost its digital economy and attract new investment in the sector.
The Arab world’s largest economy will provide loans ranging from 100,000 Saudi riyals ($26,666) to 15 million riyals to support start-ups and small and medium enterprises operating in the technology sector, the Saudi Press Agency said.
The financing is part of an initiative by the kingdom’s National Technology Development Programme (NTDP) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Loan Guarantee Programme (Kafalah) that aims to foster the growth of information technology enterprises and improve "the financing of financial institutions licenced by the Saudi Central Bank to the information technology sector”, the SPA said.
Saudi Arabia also plans to attract new investment in the information and communications technology sector to create “success stories for local companies" through the new programme.
Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, is investing significantly in its digital transformation and has introduced various smart initiatives in recent years. Last month, the kingdom announced initiatives worth $4 billion in partnership with 10 global tech companies.
The new initiatives seek to boost the digital capabilities of the kingdom and produce one programmer out of every 100 Saudi nationals by 2030, the SPA said.
Saudi Arabia also unveiled its first locally made smart chip, which can be used in military, civil and commercial equipment applications.
The kingdom's recent programme will also offer guarantees for financing institutions to increase lending for profitable start-ups and SMEs in the technology sector, the SPA said.
The NTDP plans to launch several initiatives throughout this year to develop the ICT sector in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia aims to attract foreign and local investment worth over 75 billion riyals in the fields of data and artificial intelligence by 2030 and is looking to develop customised applications that could propel the use of the Arabic language in AI algorithms and software.
AI is expected to contribute up to 12.4 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product – equivalent to 506.5bn riyals – by 2030, according to PwC.