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AI, innovation and mineral market are Saudi Arabia's new cornerstones

This is how Saudi Arabia is trying to limit its already too heavy dependence on the oil and gas sector.

It is investing heavily, in terms of double-digit in billions of dollars in Artificial Intelligence, innovation and looking at the mineral market.

While the United Arab Emirates ranks number 1 in terms of innovation in the Arabian or Middle East region, Saudi Arabia is cutting a fair share of success for itself.


According to the Global Innovation Index, Saudi Arabia ramped up notably in the Innovation Output SubIndex by eight ranks to reach the 77th place.

“With 46 brands in the top 5,000, led by telecoms STC, Saudi Arabia ranks 18th in the novel GII indicator Global brands value.

“Other relative strengths include the Ease of protecting minority investors, where it ranks 3rd worldwide, Global R&D companies (22nd), ICT access (31st), ICT use (29th), and the quality of its universities (31st),” the report said.

In August, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz approved Saudi Arabia’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy.

AI is expected to contribute an estimated 500 billion riyals (US$133 billion) to gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.

The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) was also set up in August 2019.

The authorities are establishing a national data bank to consolidate more than 80 government dataset.

This is the equivalent to 30 per cent of the government’s digital assets.

Saudi Arabia is also also planning to build one of the largest clouds in the region.

To get there, it will be merging 83 data centres owned by more than 40 government bodies.

Saudi Blockchain

The plan is to put AI and digitalisation at the heart of the Saudi Vision 2030.

The strategy was launched in 2016 and raised eyebrows in many parts of the world. The Saudi’s are known for the heavy dependence on oil and gas, hence observers found it difficult to believe they will focus on anything else.

The attention span, they say, were short for the Saudi’s to concentrate on anything else but oil.

The government is undertaking major educational reform to make sure students acquire the digital skills for future jobs in AI and other technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain. 

deputy minister of technology, industry and digital capabilities, Dr Ahmed Al Theneyan

But with the recent investments, Saudi Arabia seems committed to building sustainable cities and communities, improving health and well-being of citizens, improving the quality of education, providing decent work and fostering innovation-driven economic growth.


The Saudi Ministry of Investment says mineral market is an opportunity, following decline in foreign investor licences in Q2.

With a fall in the number of foreign investor licences (-47%) in the second quarter of 2020, the Saudis are reminding investors of the immense potential in the country.

This includes mineral resources with a new mining law enacted. The authorities say it will help unlock an untapped mineral market worth US$1.3 trillion.