The Middle East has been boosting its economy with new and emerging technological innovations in recent years. Government and private sectors have been making huge investments in 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), blockchain, cloud computing and cybersecurity. IT spending in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions are forecast to increase to $1.7bn in 2022, surging 2.6% from last year.
This year, digital transformation projects will advance moderately. Underpinned by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country visions (Vision 2030), the rapid shift of the GCC countries from an oil-exporting economy to a knowledge-based economy will see a major push in the direction of implementation.
One of the focus areas for this is the push towards more cognitive and smart cities as an all-encompassing strategy in the adoption of technology. For smart cities, The Middle East is one of the most proactive regions in the world in terms of developing smart cities which are led by property technology innovation. Nowhere is this more apparent than with developments within the Public Investment Funded (PIF) Giga Projects in Saudi Arabia. These developments are planned megacities in the Kingdom which are being developed in the coming years which will incorporate smart technologies like never before.
Some, more ambitious than others, focus on integrating Industrial Cities of tomorrow via modern manufacturing and industrial research, and developments centred on infrastructure re-development. At the same time they are also planning for sustainable agricultural projects on sizable hectares of land for genetically engineered crops that would lead to a self-sustaining, or should we say, self-fed city with a sprawling ecosystem.
There are several lessons to learn from KSA’s implementation of their Vision 2030, one of which is their self-awareness. Awareness of their dependence on oil and therefore the willingness to push for innovation whilst still running strong on their legacy business. The strategy of carefully implemented private-public partnerships too is truly an inspiring case study for governments globally. Tech partnerships for cognitive cities include various global institutions who will build the countries first fully integrated quantum security systems. The recent trials will see interoperable organisations develop new software capable of defending cognitive cities against cyber-attacks from the most advanced computers.
Vision 2030 notes that sophisticated digital infrastructure is integral to today’s advanced industrial activities. Digital infrastructure attracts investors and enhances the competitiveness of the economy. For this reason, the government will partner with the private sector (including telecommunications operators) and support local investments to help develop the telecommunications and information technology sectors and ultimately lead the digital economy. A particular area of focus is improving the quality, and expanding the coverage, of high-speed broadband to 90% of housing in densely populated cities, and 66% in other urban zones.
Vision 2030 offers a great opportunity for the development of the Kingdom’s information and communication technology sector and technology focussed businesses operating in the region are well-placed to benefit from this game changing initiative over the coming years.
Interested in talking further about the developments coming out of Saudi Arabia? Get in touch with Matt Donovan.