By now, ‘Data being the new oil’ sounds cliched. However, one cannot deny the fact that data is proliferating all walks of life and hence becoming very valuable for all stakeholders.
The Saudi government has recognised this fact and accordingly has outlined AI as a pillar of Vision 2030. This is the Kingdom’s strategy to evolve into a knowledge-based society, diversify its oil-based economy and become a global hub for technological development.
Around 70 per cent of 96 Vision 2030 strategic goals are closely related to AI. To achieve its mission, Saudi Arabia has led a concerted effort to advance its technological capabilities and to create a domestic AI-enabled digital ecosystem by 2030—driven by a 5G-enabled national ICT infrastructure and a massive use of data.
In line with this, the government support towards cloud services and data centre, online media consumption, installation of IoT devices will drive the Data Centre and Cloud services market in Saudi Arabia, according to Ken Research.
The National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence (NSDAI) will seek to attract $20 billion in foreign and local investments by 2030, a NSDAI statement said.
The data centre industry is witnessing a surge in the investments from local as well as global companies to meet the data storage demands of end users. New entrants will provide a major boost to market growth, supporting the wholesale needs of local enterprises and cloud service providers in the region.
“Saudi Arabia will implement a multi-phase, multi-faceted plan that includes skills, policy and regulation, investment, research and innovation, and ecosystem development,” the statement said. Further, the 2030 vision of Saudi Arabia includes shifting 80% of its data on cloud and proliferation of IoT, digitisation and the need for cybersecurity will fuel the market in KSA.
What’s in the Pipeline?
Major data centre and cloud service market operators are exploring the market to set up their own data centres in KSA. Google Cloud planning to open 3 zones in Dammam which is an important location given its proximity to several subsea cables, according to reports. Also Oracle, Google, and Huawei Cloud are opening new cloud regions in KSA. Saudi Aramco and Google Cloud signed an agreement that paves way for the rollout of high-performance, low-latency cloud services.
The government of the KSA is focusing on e-government concept. KSA has increased its efforts to adopt cloud-computing technology and was one of the earliest countries in the region to adopt specific regulations for cloud service provider. Government is leading a comprehensive digitization strategy of Saudi Arabia and is focusing on development of KSA as a digital hub (including cloud strategy) with Data center as a core asset. Attractive power tariff and special tax treatment are available in KSA.
What is the Future?
Data Center and Cloud Services Market is expected to grow at a double digit positive CAGR during 2021-2026 time frame as emergence of 5G technology in KSA is likely to grow the adoption of IoT-enabled products in the KSA market further contributing to the development of data centre industry.
A strong government support, rising awareness and surge in the data is expected to create higher demand for cloud services. NEOM represents the emblem of how the Saudi Arabia envisions AI’s future and its own. Worth a $500 billion (USD) investment by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the project consists of a futuristic city spanning from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.
The metropolis will fully integrate AI, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT) in every aspect of human life. NEOM is projected to be a hub of innovation in a number of vital sectors for Saudi Arabia’s economy, such as energy, water, biotech, health and food; innovations to be fully empowered by AI. Vision 2030 encompasses a full-scale transition of its economic and public structure towards a new era of AI-driven governance.
In that backdrop, in August 2019 the country launched the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA), a public body which pursues the development and implementation of national data and AI strategies. SDAIA runs through three centres- the National Data Management Office (NDMO), which covers data, AI regulations and standards.
Additionally, the National Information Center (NIC), is the operator of data infrastructure and AI-powered analytics. Finally, the National Center for Artificial Intelligence (NCAI), the driver of AI innovations also provides strategic advice to public bodies and promotes AI expertise. Within such framework Saudi Arabia has already established a National Data Bank for public entities’ datasets and built one of the largest government clouds (G-Clouds) infrastructures in the Middle East, finalised to merge 83 data centres of 40 government bodies.
As data is the main fuel to enable the functioning of AI, the establishment of integrated platforms for its gathering and analysis is crucial. Additionally, the progressive digitalisation of public entities allows an ever-increasing collection of data by public authorities.
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