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Saudi Arabia's Artificial Intelligence Dreams

· Saudi Arabia,Ai

Saudi Arabia's Artificial Intelligence Dreams

In 2016, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman(MBS) shared his mission of driving innovation and economic growth in the country, Vision 2030. The overarching idea is to move Saudi Arabia away from its dependence on Oil production, currently comprising 30-40% of Saudi Arabia's GDP. The artificial intelligence industry in Saudi Arabia is a key part of MBS' vision for a new Saudi Arabia.

A once unthinkable move, MBS has brought the nation's oil monopoly Saudi Aramco, to the public markets in an IPO. Though a very small amount of shares were initially sold, MBS has made it clear he plans to continue to divest the country's ownership in Saudi Aramco over time.

With these funds MBS has come up with a futuristic metropolis the size of the state of Massachusetts named Neom, comprised of 5 smart cities. Some estimates run as high as $500 billion for this Jetsons-like vision in the desert, but MBS has made it clear he plans to turn his economy inside out.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia’s GDP was ranked 17th globally, but MBS has visions for Saudi Arabia becoming potentially a G8 country one day. To take the next economic step, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is paving the way for technology to trade more freely with the other countries and attract those foreign technology firms to set up operations in Saudi Arabia. This is one of the pillars of MBS' Vision 2030, "We will continue to pursue public-private partnerships, facilitate the flow of private investment and improve our competitiveness."

Currently, artificial intelligence and robotics are only seen as a means to unlock a future of economic stability.

The national goal is to raise USD $2 Trillion by 2030 for startups in Saudi Arabia. If successful, that capital inflow has the potential to turn Saudi Arabia into a leading technology center in a very short period. Though the industry is still in a nascent stage, there are already a host of startups in Saudi Arabia. Some current Ai startups include Lucidya, an Ai-analytics firm for businesses to monitor their global presence in the social media world. UnitX, a supercomputing and Ai firm that was founded at and financed by King Abdullah University. Healthcare firm Nala, which uses Ai to offer instant diagnosis of patients' issues in Arabic. As of November 11th, 2019, Nala had boasted over 50,000 patient diagnoses on their platform throughout Saudi Arabia.

In order to align with the king’s Vision 2030, a number of investors have been zooming in their focus on the country and making active investments in their Saudi operations, including both Bechtel and Blackrock who have announced plans to open up Saudi offices. The Vision 2030 roadmap, begins with improvements in the information and communications technology (ICT). The future plan is to leverage sister technologies such as Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), and any others that can be brought in. MBS has made his desire for all things tech to find their way to Saudi Arabia, including flying cars and robots.

Besides focusing on the use of technology for the enhancement of businesses and infrastructure, the country has plans to expand the use of artificial intelligence in the educational sector as well. The convergence of education and artificial intelligence will open new frontiers for Saudi students to develop their digital skills and enhance their overall learning experience. Last April, Misk Schools, one of the top schools in the capital city of Riyadh, introduced Ai for their classrooms. The Ai is used to assist in analyzing the skills of the Misk students, so that the school can better understand the individual student needs.

In addition to uplifting the commercial and educational sector, MBS' main dream is for Ai and technology to help in upgrading the lives of Saudi Arabia's common people. There are plans in the country for the development of five smart cities that will rank among the very best in the world. However, if only government and public authorities are available to fund this vision, Saudi Arabia may not turn the corner. Saudi Arabia doesn't have all the needed capital for these dreams on hand. MBS has made it clear that there is a call for investors and private sector partners to come to Saudi Arabia.

The penetration of smartphones is very high in Saudi Arabia. So, embracing artificial intelligence and other technologies may not be such an issue for the country. Also, the population of Saudi Arabia consists of a young populace, with a median age of 30 vs Europe's 42.6 median age, making the adoption of automation in general an easier task.

Though the prominence of artificial intelligence in Saudi Arabia is mostly restricted to imagining the possible outcomes, with all of the potential capital for future investment, Saudi Arabia's Ai future looks bright.

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