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How Saudi Arabia is Pioneering AI Investments | A Deep Dive

AI in Saudi Arabia

AI in Saudi Arabia is increasingly becoming a major player in our global society, and Saudi Arabia is keeping up with this trend. The country is rapidly embracing advancements in AI, integrating it into various sectors like healthcare, education, transportation and tourism. It’s an exciting era, a time of extraordinary technological revolution, and Saudi Arabia is determined to be at the forefront.

The Saudi Arabian government has recognized the value and potential of AI and is investing heavily in its development and integration. The kingdom’s commitment to AI is not just about adopting new technologies, but a structural shift in how the country operates, both economically, socially and digitally. It’s a clear message that Saudi Arabia is ready to transition from an oil-based economy to a more diversified, technologically advanced one.

Saudi Arabia set to be the biggest gainer from artificial intelligence.“

Artificial intelligence is set to contribute $320 billion in Middle East –  Saudi Arabian will gain 12.5% of the GDP ($135 billion) to the Saudi economy in 2030, making them the biggest beneficiary of the technology in the Middle East, according to global consultancy firm PwC.

 The potential impact of Artificial Intelligence in the Middle East – PwC Middle East.

This impact could be even bigger, if stringent policies are in place and the governments pushes the boundaries of innovation and implementation of AI across various business sectors.
The expected growth in the contribution of AI is in the range from 18-34% annually across the region, with the fastest in the UAE followed by Saudi Arabia.

The magnitude of the impact in these two economies is much expected given their investment plans in AI technology as compared to the rest of the Middle Eastern region. Both countries places in top 50 countries on GII – Global Innovation Index in terms of ability and outputs of their innovation.

The journey to AI integration has not been without its challenges. The country faces significant hurdles, such as a lack of skilled workforce, data privacy concerns, and infrastructural limitations. Despite these obstacles, Saudi Arabia is shaping quickly and keen on transforming these challenges into opportunities, a demonstration to the country’s resilience and ambition.

The Role of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 in AI

The Vision 2030 initiative, launched by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2016, has been instrumental in shaping Saudi Arabia’s AI landscape. The ambitious plan aims to diversify the nation’s economy, reduce its dependence on oil, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, tourism and infrastructure.

AI plays a pivotal role in Vision 2030, with the Saudi government recognizing its potential to drive economic growth and innovation. This has also led to the establishment of the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority – SDAIA. SDAIA is responsible for driving the country’s AI agenda, fostering partnerships between public and private sector entities, and ensuring Saudi Arabia remains at the forefront of technological innovation.

How Saudi Arabia is Leading in AI Investments – Major Investments & Initiatives

Saudi Arabia is not just investing in AI; in fact, it’s leading. The country’s commitment to AI is reflected in its substantial investments, strategic partnerships, and policy initiatives. The government has reserved and allocated billions of dollars to AI research and development, making it one of the world’s top investors in this field.

The establishment of the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) is a clear example of the nation’s commitment to AI. The Authority is not only responsible for implementing AI projects, but it also oversees the development of AI policies, standards, and regulations. This demonstrates the Saudi government’s strategic approach to AI, ensuring the technology is utilized effectively and responsibly.

Saudi Arabia is determined to future-proof its workforce by training and developing a pool of 20,000 AI and data specialists.”

Digital training courses in AI and coding for 300,000 middle and high school students have been organized. These students have been selected from 3 million school children, and the courses are organized in partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Education and the Mawhiba (The King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity). 

This school initiative is part of  their preparation work for the country’s National Olympiad for Programming and Artificial Intelligence, which starts in January 2024. 

Another significant initiative is the National AI Strategy, which will position Saudi Arabia as a global leader in AI by 2030. The strategy focuses on specific key areas, including AI governance, talent development, and data and infrastructure readiness. Partnered with Huawei for the National AI Capability Development Program, it aims to tap into the country’s estimated $4 to $5 bn data and AI economy. Furthermore, by utilizing data insights in government decisions, the program could generate over $10 bn in revenues and savings.

SDAIA is leveraging Huawei’s extensive portfolio of 500 plus AI projects targeting all major sectors. This Program will also offer support to governments, enterprises, and research institutes in the Kingdom. It will also assist them in finding AI technology partners, improving their talent pool, and exploring new growth strategies through AI applications. Ultimately, this collaboration confirms to deliver the desired outcomes by actively contributing to the Kingdom’s economic growth and diversification through various Saudi AI initiatives.

The Global AI Summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, is another key initiative. The summit brings together global AI experts, policymakers, and industry leaders to discuss the latest trends and developments. It’s a platform for knowledge sharing and collaboration, further cementing Saudi Arabia’s position as a global AI hub.

Saudi Arabia’s leadership in AI investments is also evident in its partnerships with global tech giants. The country has forged alliances with leading tech companies, such as Google and Alibaba, to drive AI innovation and development. These strategic partnerships feature Saudi Arabia’s determination to position itself as a global AI powerhouse.

Redsea Marine Life, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology – KAUST isexploring the AI potential by preserving Red sea fish species assessing their sustainability.
Conventional data collection methods take decades to identify the declines in stock levels, through machine learning technology, KAUST analyzes the required data on fishing populations, practices and environmental factors by applying predictive models to improve forecasting.

In line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which emphasizes on food production sustainability to overcome malnutrition, KAUST is working on an AI-based tool that categorizes fish based on their economic and population growth rate.

AI-Powered vs Desertification, Saudi Arabia faces significant challenges due to desertification and climate change. To tackle this situation, the Ministry of Environment launched an AI-powered program in collaboration with the National Center for Vegetation Development and Combating Desertification and KAUST.

By analyzing satellite images and data using AI analytics, the program identifies potential risk factors of desertification. It also continuously monitors and analyze vegetation, rainfall, and plant health through sensing technologies.

To mitigate desertification, tree planting and monitoring, advanced water management, sustainable agriculture practices and predictive measures have been applied. These AI initiatives demonstrate their dedication to environmental preservation and sustainability.

The Impact of AI Investments on Saudi Arabia’s Economy

One of the most significant impacts of AI investments is the creation of new industries and job opportunities. AI has the potential to create a wide range of jobs in areas such as data analysis, machine learning, robotics, and software development. This not only diversifies the job market but also provides opportunities for the country’s youth, who constitute a significant portion of the population.

AI investments are also driving business growth and competitiveness. By integrating AI into daily operations, businesses can enhance their efficiency, improve their decision-making, and create innovative products and services. This not only boosts their profitability but also contributes to the overall growth of the economy.

The Rise of AI Investments Globally

AI investments are on the rise globally, with countries like the United States, China, and the United Kingdom leading the way. These countries are investing heavily in AI research and development, recognizing its potential to drive economic growth and innovation.

On the other hand, “Global corporate investment in artificial intelligence has had a significant increase over the past decade. A Stanford University analysis estimates that total mergers, acquisitions, minority stake and private investments and public offerings had a value of over an $934.2 billion from 2013 to 2022. Chart: How Much Are Companies Investing in AI? | Statista

Investment peaked in 2021, when $276.1 billion was invested into the sector by businesses around the world, however a notable slip was observed in 2022, but with the release of OpenAI’s tool ChatGPT, the view of AI has changed to the Next Big Thing with almost all of tech’s major players now have heavy focus on the area”

Looking ahead

With a very fast pace, AI is advancing in Saudi Arabia. The government is fully aware of the potential and actively promoting its adoption and implementation across various sectors. By leveraging AI technologies, Saudi Arabia aims to boost economic growth, improve healthcare services, transform education, increase tourism and foster innovation in the country.


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