Always online: Saudi Arabia begins installation of 60,000 Wi-Fi points

Users will be able to access the Wi-Fi for up to two hours a day.

FILE PHOTO: A man speaks on the phone as he walks past the Kingdom Centre Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser - /File Photo

Saudi Arabia is filling public spaces with free Wi-Fi hot spots in a new initiative involving 60,000 installations across the kingdom.

In co-operation with telecommunications service providers in the kingdom, not only will free Wi-Fi be installed, but a map will be created for users to see all the sites that offer it.

Users will be able to access the Wi-Fi for up to two hours a day. The initiative forms part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, drawn up by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"It makes me proud to see us transitioning with such vigour and speed. Digitalisation is the future and we are finally on the right track thanks to Crown Prince MBS," Ahmed Obaid, a 28-year-old Saudi marketing executive told The National. "Smart cities and innovative technologies are part of the vision and further enable mobility and optimised infrastructure."

Governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, Dr Muhammad Al Tamimi, said that the service providers were being asked to provide Wi-Fi with the aim of spreading internet services on the largest scale, and contributing to improving the quality of life by providing internet services in public places, including hospitals, the two Holy Mosques, holy sites, malls, and public parks in cities across the kingdom.

The project seems to have one down well with Saudi citizens. "The government has made every effort to help people cope with the pandemic and I believe this initiative to provide Wi-Fi to all who need it during Covid-19, will help keep families and communities connected," said Raghad Alshammari, a 32-year-old doctor in Jeddah.

And Marwa Hashim, a 37-year-old home-maker in Riyadh, said: "This is about to change the lives of millions of pilgrims! It is absolutely essential in today's time to have access to Wi-Fi especially when it is so crowded and you can easily lose your group or family members. With free Wi-Fi, people who can't afford it can communicate with their families, even the ones back home to share their wonderful experience in the Kingdom."

School pupils were also excited by the new scheme. "Now I can go out and still be connected to my school, family and friends," Alia Mohammad, a 15-year-old Saudi student in Al Khobar told The National. "My parents won't have to pay for my data or worry about me missing class because I can use it anywhere. We can't study or move around without Wi-Fi it is the most important thing for me."