Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil-exporting company, has partnered with video conferencing company Zoom to build the company's first global data centre in the kingdom.
Zoom's centre in Saudi Arabia will serve the wider Middle East, Aramco said at the Leap 2023 technology conference in Riyadh on Monday.
“Our new partnership with Zoom is expected to further enable innovative solutions focusing on the digital transformation ecosystem,” said Amin Nasser, president and chief executive of Aramco.
The value of the deal and the location of the data centre were not disclosed.
GCC states are attracting a large number of technology companies because of the rise of technology-savvy young consumers and a focus on digital transformation.
Data centres have been a leading factor in helping economies to keep up with the rapidly evolving digital landscape.
Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in technology and has identified innovation as a main pillar of its Vision 2030 strategy, which aims to diversify its economy away from oil dependence.
In November, Aramco also partnered with US technology company IBM to build an innovation centre in Riyadh.
Through the centre, the companies will explore potential opportunities on how artificial intelligence, the hybrid cloud and other emerging technologies can help to address sustainability challenges.
As part of its latest agreement, Aramco will explore the joint development of technology solutions with Zoom “to contribute to the digital transformation of various market sectors, such as energy, industry, education and health care”, the company said.
“Our establishment of a diversified network of partners has helped us maintain a track record of reliability,” Mr Nasser said.
Aramco also announced on Monday that is raising the funding for its venture capital arm Wa'ed Ventures to $500 million from $200 million.
The move will help Wa'ed add to its portfolio of investments, particularly in technology and start-ups, Aramco said.
“With an expanded fund size, Wa’ed Ventures aims to facilitate the cross-pollination of innovation between the global and local markets,” Mr Nasser said.
Start-ups in Saudi Arabia recorded a 72 per cent annual increase in venture capital funding to $987 million across 144 deals in 2022, data platform Magnitt said in January.
Wa'ed has been among the most active venture capital funds in the kingdom, targeting start-ups locally and globally.
Last month, it led a $14 million funding round for Japan's Terra Drone, and participated in a $108 million Series B funding round in Pasqal, a French neutral atoms quantum computing company.
In October, it joined in a $50 million early-stage funding round for Saudi retail start-up Zid, while in September, it co-led a $13 million Series A funding round for Luxembourg-based OQ Technology, an operator of 5G Internet of Things satellites.
The increase in funding for Wa'ed “aims to enable the company to deliver an accelerated investment performance regionally and globally”, Aramco said.
“Wa’ed Ventures aims to localise global frontier technologies to advance the kingdom’s innovation ecosystem, expand investments in mid and growth-stage start-ups; and fund underserved domains such as environmental, social and governance, the metaverse and quantum computing,” it added.