President of the Arab Federation for the Digital Economy to the Newspaper “Al-Bilad Saudi”: Unique technological leaps that lead to globalization

Date: 23 - 09 - 2022

Source: Albilad Saudi newspaper

Maha Al-Awawda

Dr.. Ali Mohamed El Khouri

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become among the most advanced countries in the field of information and communication technology, and is making its way to be part of the advanced ranks among the 7 countries in the field of information and communication technology, which is now euphemistically called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The Kingdom ranked eighth globally in terms of the efficiency of the use of information and communication technology by the government and official bodies in carrying out their work, and the extent to which the quality of government services to the population in the field of information technology improved, and in the ninth place globally in terms of the government’s success in encouraging the use of information and communication technology.

The Kingdom also ranked 15th in terms of broadband subscriptions to the Internet for laptops per 100 people, and 18th in terms of the quality of services provided by the government on the Internet. This indicator evaluates the government’s implementation of Internet service projects.

How do you see the Kingdom ’s  proactive vision in preparing the digital infrastructure?

With its ambitious strategic vision 2030, the Kingdom has been able to achieve great and tangible leaps and record achievements in a short period of time. The report of the Arab Index of the Digital Economy issued in 2022 showed that the Kingdom rose during the period (2020-2022) from fourth place to second place among Arab countries, which confirms that it is pursuing unconventional development patterns and accelerators.

The report also shows that the Kingdom has raised the average internet speed from 9 Mbit/s in 2017 to 109 Mbit/s in 2020, and has delivered broadband services to all remote areas to connect all communities and regions with advanced infrastructure that achieves the Kingdom’s vision of building one of the most important capabilities of the digital economy. Which is the speed of the Internet connection.

In order to more accurately express the radical growth of the infrastructure in the Kingdom, it is worth mentioning the project of digital authentication services based on public encryption keys (PKI), which was strengthened by the establishment of the National Center for Digital Certification to issue public certification certificates within the framework of an integrated package of procedures, infrastructure and legislation to enhance and secure transactions e; This will jump all digital activities to a new dimension that may be the most modern and unique of its kind regionally and globally.

We can also see the extent of the seriousness in the digital development movement in the Kingdom, where the Board of Directors of the Digital Government Authority was formed, headed by ministers and senior officials in the state, and this is reflected in the Kingdom’s insistence on facing and overcoming the difficulties and obstacles that may encounter the implementation of its digital plans and agendas, which we see as a step It is very important to confront the traditional resistance that digital transformation projects face, as we usually find that government institutions do not engage in the transformation process seriously enough, and do not integrate properly, which often delays government plans or wastes resources on government projects that do not achieve their goals efficiently and effectively. Hence, this council, with its formation, represents a strategic decision that seriously places the government’s weight behind this digital transformation.

 What is the impact of this on the development movement ?

There is no doubt that digital empowerment of various services and economic activities doubles national capabilities and speeds up the growth rates of general output, according to what various studies and country experiences show. Also, according to the report of the Arab Digital Economy Index, every (2%) increase in the result of the Digital Economy Index will be matched by an increase in GDP by about (5%-10%); This indicates the depth and effectiveness of digital transformation in enhancing production and developing national economies.

According to the official forecasts issued by the Saudi Ministry of Communications, the rate of contribution of the digital economy will reach 25% of the Saudi economy during the next three years, which is a significant and striking impact, and we expect from our point of view that as the Kingdom continues to implement its digital plans and agendas at the current pace, the size of the contribution It may exceed a third of the Saudi economy by 2030.

The  effect of this on the speed of completion of transactions?

Within the smart government strategy (2020-2024), the Kingdom has approved the principle of “one visit”, which is intended to provide data from individuals and companies for one time without repetition, and to rely on electronic linkage between government databases, which would contribute to automating procedures and developing services More efficient digital. With the existence of a unified digital identity system in the Kingdom, this would support public and private sector institutions in developing their electronic services and digital applications on smart device platforms, which will not only shorten the time for completing transactions, but may also eliminate the need for traditional service centers.

For example, suppose that after registering the ownership of a property, the owner will not need to repeat obtaining municipal approvals, for example, when he needs to connect services and utilities. The data will be accessed from the database and without the need to revisit the government municipal center again, as the records will be linked to the identity of the individual The data can be verified electronically and automatically according to the data management system that controls the nature of the data available according to the type of government service.

Moreover, if we add the advantages of fast infrastructure, the availability of the Internet, and the growth of government services in an integrated digital form, this will mean high and rapid efficiency of operations and a great saving in operating costs and issuance of those services, which can achieve financial savings of tens of billions of riyals in terms of time consumed by the beneficiaries. And the government agency to implement these services manually.

  Does technical strength enhance the effectiveness of cybersecurity ?

With the increasing development of emerging and new technologies, governments and institutions are faced with complex and unprecedented challenges to ensure the protection and continuity of their digital infrastructure. As much as technological solutions provide capabilities to repel potential cyber risks, they also give new capabilities to the developers of cyber attack and deception methods.

According to global estimates, the cybersecurity market and its services is likely to witness significant growth, as a result of the high rates and risks of global cyber-attacks, to protect infrastructure, systems and services from the risks of such attacks and ensure their sustainability.

A study conducted by (Global Market Insights), indicated that investments in the cybersecurity sector will double and reach $300 billion by 2024, with the value of the cybersecurity market in the Middle East and North Africa rising to $2.89 billion by 2026, with an annual growth rate of about 8% during the period (2021-2026). The volume of investments in cybersecurity infrastructure in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is expected to exceed 30 billion riyals by 2023 in light of the expansion of development projects and the need to secure vital infrastructure.

Therefore, enhancing cybersecurity and digital trust comes as a strategic result that can only be achieved through a comprehensive plan in which the government, the business sector and individuals also participate through awareness, digital culture, awareness and training to confront cyber risks. We can see the Kingdom’s efforts in implementing practical and serious national plans through the National Cyber ​​Security Authority in its coordinating efforts between the parties of society and towards securing digital infrastructure, which translates into its ranking second globally among 193 countries in the axis of continuous improvement in the cybersecurity index for 2021. According to the report of the International Telecommunication Union.