Saudi Arabia announces $1.2bn tech initiatives; unveils first locally-made smart chips

Saudi Arabia launched a series of technology initiatives worth over $1.2 billion (SR4 billion) aimed at improving the digital skills of 100;000 Saudi youngsters by 2030.

The announcement was made at an event under name of Launch held on Wednesday; hosted by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity; Programming and Drones (SAFCSP); as well as the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT); and the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA).

During the event; several multinational corporations including Amazon; IBM; Cisco; Oracle; Informa; and Microsoft; announced their partnership with the Kingdom to create digital capability centers and also innovation hubs for tech startups.

Usage of the chip

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Al-Sawaha also unveiled the manufacture of the first Saudi-made smart chip to be used in military; civil and commercial applications.

He explained that these smart chips have a processing power that is also more than 60;000 times that is also used in the human journey to the moon; and in smart phones and also what giant companies; such as Apple; Google; Microsoft; Amazon; IBM; Sixo; Oracle and Alibaba use; which represent 60% of the power.

Faisal Al-Khamisi; chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity; Programming and Drones; said that Saudi Arabia aims to have at least one programmer out of every 100 citizens in 2030.

The head of the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority Abdullah Al-Ghamdi also said that Saudi Arabia aims to be one of the top 5 countries globally in AI; and also this requires the creation of 25;000 specialists’ jobs in data science and also AI before 2030.

In addition; MCIT established the National Technology Development Program also with a budget of SR2.5 billion; with the goal of making the Kingdom the world’s leading technology country.

Expansion plans

The program launched its early products; Financial Security; to strengthen trust between tech companies and financial entities; as well as the SME loan guarantee program; Kafalah; which aims to provide up to 90 percent insurance of the financing value and with a volume of SR15million; so that technology SMEs can have a financial fund to cover their expansion plans and implement them.

Meanwhile; the Saudi Chinese eWTP Arabia Capital fund with $400m capital; which also seeks to support technology startups in the Kingdom; was also unveiled at the Launch event.

This investment came along after Alibaba Cloud chose Riyadh as its regional center for management and also training; with investments amounting to $500m over five years in the region.

The event on Wednesday also saw the launch of the Tuwaiq 1000 Bootcamp; which also ends in student employment and is supported by the MCIT’s future skills initiative.

Projects in Saudi Arabia will be launched simultaneously in 13 regions around the country; with 40 training bootcamps focusing on four tracks: cybersecurity; programming; artificial intelligence; and further the electronic games sector.

First Arab portal

The Launch ceremony also announced the introduction of the SATR platform for learning programming principles; which coincided with the launch of CoderHub; the first Arab portal specializing in programming challenges.

The event witnessed the partnership between Google and further Tuwaiq Academy that is part of (SAFCSP); in upskilling programs and the cooperation with OneMT; an electronic games company.

Moreover; the event marked the start of registrations for the Apple Developer Academy; the first of its kind in MENA; which will in its first phase focus on female developers and further programmers.

On Wednesday; MCIT; SAFCSP; and the General Entertainments Authority also launched two events — LEAP and @HACK — in collaboration with Informa.

LEAP will be held in Riyadh from Feb. 1-3; 2022; and will feature over 500 international speakers; exhibit technologies from over 1;000 of the world’s tech companies and startups and is to attract at least 40;000 people.

Some of the topics that will be addressed at LEAP include artificial intelligence; Industry 5.0; robotics; smart cities; IoT; among other fields.

Visionary tech hub

Thought leaders from companies including Google; Huawei; Microsoft and The Coca-Cola Company will deliver conference sessions at LEAP tackling issues from poverty; disease and environmental disaster to inequality; access to education; productivity; mobility and smart living.

Supported by Saudi Arabia’s MCIT and further organized by Informa Tech; LEAP is also set to be a strategic initiative that aims to transform the national economy and position the kingdom as a visionary tech hub.

@HACK meanwhile; backed by the American hacking event Black Hat; will take place as part of Riyadh Season and further will feature the most advanced ethical hacking training sessions to help the country defend against the threat of hostile cyberattacks.

@Hack will also include the region’s largest hacking tournament. Over 250 cybersecurity vendors will be present at the event including Fortinet; Malwarebytes; STC; SPIRE; Honeywell; Qualys; SentinelOne; Synack; and RSA.

The event is being organized in support of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and further SAFCSP’s aim to make one out of every 100 Saudi nationals a programmer.

@Hack is the official Middle East facilitator and further distributor for offensive security; and also its security instructors will be among the 50 Black Hat authorized trainers running a training series in the run-up to the event; which will take place from Nov. 23-27.