With a high-profile delegation headed by His Excellency Eng. Abdullah Al-Swaha, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is taking part in the preparatory meetings of ICT ministers and experts for the G20 Summit to be held late this year in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The meetings began in the province of Salta with the Digital Economy Task Force meeting on 21-22 August, and to conclude with the Digital Economy Ministerial Meeting today and tomorrow, 23-24 August. The latter is to prepare recommendations for the G20 Leaders’ Summit and will issue a joint declaration on the outcomes.
Saudi Arabia’s participation in the G20 (Group of Twenty), which includes the world’s 20 most powerful economies, is particularly important due to its active role in the G20, accounting for 80% of the total world trade, around 90% of world GDP, and about two-thirds of the world’s population.
The Kingdom’s G20 membership is an international recognition of its great economic importance as well as its political and economic weight, elevating it to the level of advanced countries in the world.
Given the significance of digital transformation in the G20 Summit’s agenda as one of the pillars of the global economy, the Kingdom is proud to be a member of this group to support international collaboration for bridging the digital divide, highlighting its honorable standing in the digital world and remarkable achievements in digital transformation.
The Kingdom took the initiative and launched its Digital Transformation Program as one of the principal programs to achieve the Vision 2030, aiming at building a digital government, a digital economy with an industry based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and a digital society, with a view to create a vibrant environment, a thriving economy and a better future.
Through its digital transformation program, the Kingdom has supported the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Saudi society to reach the desired digital society as well as to develop public services, build and develop the digital infrastructure needed to develop and promote the IT sector, empower users, accomplish digital transformation through developing a strong digital base characterized by digitization of sectors and open data, embedding innovation in government services to make the Saudi Government at the vanguard of the most innovative governments globally, by providing high-value digital services in a smooth and easy way that saves effort, time and money to users, improves government services and interlinks them, together with the ability to collect required data as quickly as possible, and to avoid duplication and rationalize government spending.
As an extension of its constant efforts, the Kingdom has not overlooked digital culture and launched ‘FekraTech’ platform, a platform that began addressing challenges in the health sector out of 4,000 ideas, resulting in 15 entrepreneurial models that address current and future challenges in digital health. In addition, ‘Digital Saudi’ platform has been launched. It is overseen by the National Committee for Digital Transformation and aims to ensure the highest economic and social impact of digital transformation projects and initiatives in all sectors of the Kingdom, in partnership with the private sector and entrepreneurs, thus connecting the Kingdom digitally and upgrading the services and platforms, developing digital skills and raising the participation of the private sector and entrepreneurs in the implementation of digital transformation projects, in order to create active digital society, effective e-government, and competitive digital economy.
In the digital government, the Kingdom has made many achievements through several important digital programs and initiatives to serve users in the highest performance and trustworthiness. One of those programs is the Maras program, which has contributed to accessing more than 40 e-services, reducing transaction time from 81 days to 24 hours, registering more than 90,000 operations to date. Another program is Etimad, the largest electronic financial interlinking platform, dealing with more than 450 government facilities using its portal. There is also Absher program, which helped linking over 130 government services to be used by citizens, reducing passport renewal from 8 days to 1 day, implementing more than 20 million transactions to date, and delivering documents within one day, besides others.
For the area of digital health, through the introduction of smart and connected hospitals, clinics, telemedicine, telecare and the mobile app ‘Sehhi’, the Kingdom could cut down physical doctor visits by 50% and reduce waiting times from months to weeks, and in some cases to 5 minutes.
The digital economy contributes to making Saudi Arabia a global economic power, by increasing investments to accelerate the development of the infrastructure in order to empower the society and the business sector. In this regard, the Kingdom has increased the Internet speed by 300%, 4G coverage by 90% and fiber-optic coverage by 7%, with the aim to support digital economy and its role in transforming digital products into commodities, reducing financial costs, enhancing transactional transparency, and reinforcing competitiveness by promoting access to information and speed of implementation, in addition to its role in creating more job opportunities for the Saudi youth by boosting innovation and SMEs.
As part of its commitment to stimulate innovation and achieve regional and global leadership in technology, the Kingdom organized the 2nd edition of ‘Hajj Hackathon’, the biggest technology challenge in the Middle East that destroyed the former record and was listed in the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest hacKathon. It aimed to attract world’s leading programmers to innovate technical solutions that contribute to enriching and improving the experience of Hajj pilgrims. It featured thousands of programmers of males and females as well as 18,000 people interested, and the winning projects of applications will be selected to be developed into real pilot entrepreneurial projects funded by technology incubators and accelerators in the Kingdom.