Saudi Arabia unveils national strategy for data and AI

The kingdom aims to attract investments worth $20bn and train up to 20,000 data and AI specialists by 2030

AI is expected to contribute up to 12.4 per cent of Saudi Arabia's GDP by 2030.
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Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, launched its National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence as it looks to position the kingdom among the top 15 nations in the field of AI by 2030.

Abdullah Bin Sharaf Alghamdi, president of the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA), unveiled the strategy during the opening of the Global AI Summit in Riyadh on Tuesday.

“This is a strategy with a bold vision to make Saudi Arabia the place where data and AI innovations will become reality,” Mr Alghamdi said.

“The national strategy sets the direction and foundation up on which data and AI will fulfil our national transformation priorities and establish Saudi Arabia as global hub for data and AI.”

The kingdom is aiming to attract foreign and local investment worth $20 billion in the fields of data and AI in the next 10 years, he added.

Up to 20,000 data and AI specialists will be trained as part of the strategy, which aims to have 300 active start-ups in the sector by 2030. The country will also forge various global partnerships to propel advancements in data and AI, Mr Alghamdi said.

The strategy will focus on initiatives to accelerate the use of AI in five critical sectors: healthcare, mobility, education, government and energy.

Saudi Arabia is ramping up its technology investment to further diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on hydrocarbons.

AI is expected to contribute up to 12.4 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product – equivalent to Dh496.2bn – by 2030, according to a report by consultancy PwC.

The inaugural two-day summit is being held online under the theme of AI for the Good of Humanity. It had originally been planned to take place in March but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our world is going through unprecedented times, history has taught us that such critical junctures are crossroads,” said Alghamdi said.

“Which step and which direction we will take rely on us, so let’s challenge ourselves, let’s think and work together to shape the future of AI for the good of humanity.”

The implementation of the strategy will follow a multiphase approach that will focus on addressing the immediate requirements for Saudi Arabia until 2025, particularly the development of data and AI programmes, SDAIA said in a statement.

It will then shift its focus to establishing the foundations of a competitive international AI ecosystem by developing specialisations in specific areas of AI to become one of the leading AI and data-driven economies by 2030.

The summit will focus on the latest developments in AI and explore topics such as the technology's impact on socio-economic development and the challenges faced by the global community in its implementation.