Saudi Arabia announces investments of more than $9bn to boost digital transformation

Microsoft, Oracle and Huawei among those to pledge funds to boost operations in the kingdom during Leap

Abdullah Alswaha, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Communications and Information Technology, talks at the opening of Leap in Riyadh on Monday. Photo: Leap
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Saudi Arabia has announced more than $9 billion investments in its technology sector, as part of efforts to bolster digital transformation in preparation for the future economy.

The investments are led by a $2.1 billion commitment from Microsoft, which will build a super-scaler cloud in the kingdom, Abdullah Alswaha, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Communications and Information Technology, said at the Leap 2023 conference in Riyadh on Monday.

They also include Oracle's plans to invest $1.5 billion to boost the kingdom's cloud-computing capacity and $400 million from China's Huawei to enhance Saudi Arabia's cloud infrastructure, he said.

An additional $4.5 billion has also been invested in global and local assets across a number of technology sectors, the minister said.

The investment was announced by the Arab world's largest economy surpasses the $6.4 billion announced at the inaugural Leap last year.

They are part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's plans for the "empowerment of the technology sector, which is one of Saudi Arabia’s most promising sectors amid unprecedented growth in the kingdom’s digital economy", Mr Alswaha said at the opening of Leap.

Some of the areas on which the kingdom will focus are financial and health technology, Internet of Things, quantitative science, satellites and space.

Saudi Arabia has introduced several projects to promote the use of technology as it prepares for the future economy.

The kingdom is also diversifying its economy away from oil as part of its Vision 2030 strategy, with technology one of the key pillars of the plan.

The global digital transformation market is projected to hit about $3.95 trillion by 2030, from about $608 billion last year, growing at a compound annual rate of more than 23 per cent, data from Grand View Research indicates.

Riyadh is encouraging entrepreneurship and seeking investment domestically and from overseas to develop the technology sector.

The kingdom benefits from being a large country undergoing massive transformation at every level, including in infrastructure, society and regulations, IDC group vice president Jyoti Lalchandani told The National last week.

Across the kingdom, more than 340,000 people are working in the digital, telecoms and information technology sectors, government data revealed at Leap showed.

Female participation in the sector has also grown steadily and stands at 32.5 per cent, up from 24 per cent in 2021.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology also aims to boost the technology sector's labour force as part of its Future Skills campaign and is offering 38,000 training opportunities for about 20,000 jobs in the industry, its website says.

"The initiative aims to build and stimulate a sustainable ecosystem for the development of digital skills and contribute to bridging the gap between supply and demand in accordance with the requirements of the labour market," it said.

Saudi Arabia is projected to spend $34.6 billion on information and communications technology in 2023, making it the top-spending nation for the category in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, the IDC said last week.

Leap will be used as a platform to help diversify Saudi Arabia's economy, localise technology and advance industry, Mr Alswaha said.

"Leap boasts the unique capacity to connect innovators with entrepreneurs and thought leaders, and drive bold investment funds to launch qualitative partnerships in new investment areas," he said.

Updated: February 06, 2023, 2:00 PM