Saudi Arabia was the first Arab country, along with the UAE, to participate in the 2023 Artificial Intelligence (AI) Safety Summit.
During the event, Saudi signed the world’s first global declaration on AI safety. Called the Bletchley Declaration, the document seeks to establish a shared understanding of the opportunities and risks posed by frontier AI and the need for governments to work together to meet the most significant challenges. In signing the declaration, Saudi has affirmed its status as a leading AI nation.
How was Saudi Arabia able to ascend to this lofty position in the global AI industry?
World’s first AI government
Saudi Arabia ranked first globally in the government strategy index for AI issued by Tortoise Intelligence. The index includes more than 60 countries in the world. Germany ranked second and China third on this index.
The Global AI Index measures countries based on over 100 criteria within seven indicators. The indicators include:
- Government strategy
- Research and development
- Operating environment
The kingdom ranked first in government strategy for AI and 31st across all indicators. Tortoise Media is a global company that has a global AI expert advisory board.
Saudi achieved a 100 percent score in a few categories of the index, including:
- Dedicated and approved national strategy for AI
- Government agency dedicated to AI
- Funding and budget for AI
- Setting and following up on national targets for AI
World’s first in AI awareness
Saudi Arabia also ranked second globally in AI awareness. An opinion poll revealed that Saudi citizens are confident in dealing with AI products and services. That is according to the sixth edition of the AI Index Report 2023 by Stanford University issued in April.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia came in second place globally when it comes to leveraging AI services to make life easier. It also came second, ahead of India, France, and Russia, when it comes to participants’ knowledge of the benefits and value of AI products and services.
22nd on the Global AI index
In 2020, the Kingdom ranked first in the Arab world and 22nd in the world in the field of AI. That is compared to 29th globally in 2019, according to the Tortoise Media Global AI Index. With all of these, Saudi Arabia is aiming to become a leader in the world of AI.
In 2022, the AI Ethics Principles were launched to address the ethical challenges that may arise in the field of AI. It takes public perceptions into consideration, which play a key role in facilitating the practical application of AI ethics. It also supports AI research and development initiatives in the kingdom.
Last year, Saudi Arabia also joined the Digital Development Partnership that the World Bank launched. It is a collaborative partnership between public sectors to help countries build digital products that solve some of the most modern challenges.
Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence (SDAIA)
The Saudi leadership’s interest in and commitment to AI is the main driver of the success achieved by the kingdom in this field. In his speech during the 2019 G20 Summit in Osaka, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman noted, “We live in a time of scientific innovations, unprecedented technologies, and unlimited growth prospects. New technologies, such as AI and the Internet-of-Things (IoT) can, if used optimally, save the world from many harms and bring the world endless benefits.”
Saudi leaders’ interest in this technology was also demonstrated by the establishment of SDAIA in 2019. The authority undertakes the management of AI and data in the kingdom’s public sector. It is the official national authority that organizes, develops, and deals with data and AI-related matters. One of its main goals is to ensure the kingdom’s economic advancement when it comes to information, data, and AI.
AI World Summit
SDAIA intensified its efforts to raise awareness of AI and its uses. That included organizing the two Global AI Summits in 2020 and 2022. In addition, SDAIA Academy provides qualitative knowledge to trainees, ensures their training is based on market needs, and publishes research.
It also issued an AI glossary that aims to facilitate the concepts of data and artificial intelligence terms. The glossary contains more than 1,000 terms and their definitions.
Digitization of government services
The achievements made by Saudi Arabia in the AI field were reflected in the digitization of government services. Advanced apps such as “Absher”, which is supervised by the Ministry of Interior, made it easier for the public to access vital services with a click of a button.
Moreover, SDAIA offers the Tawakkalna Services app, in addition to other applications, that benefit residents and citizens of the kingdom. Such apps support the role of small and medium enterprises in building a sustainable nation. These developments fall under government frameworks in collaboration with the private sector and support Saudi Vision 2030.
Moreover, the SDAIA National Center for AI launched the advanced “SauTech” speech-to-text software that is based on voice recognition. It was developed in collaboration with the Saudi Company for AI (SCAI), a fully owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The kingdom presented to the world proof of applying AI throughout the city of the future, “The Line.” It is a model of how cities will be planned over the next 150 years. Furthermore, it reflects the Saudi’s commitment to leverage AI and data solutions to build sustainable societies.
AI in agriculture
AI has supported the Saudi agricultural sector by providing geospatial data to stop desertification and random agriculture and preserve the environment.
Saudi Aramco, the largest industrial user of data and artificial intelligence, uses methane sensors, IoT, big data, and AI to ensure the sustainability of the refining, chemical, and marketing sectors around the world.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, in partnership with SDAIA, launched the AI Center for Environment, Water and Agriculture. They also initiated the Smart Planet program. Both programs ensure finding innovative solutions to help benefit from the potential of untapped resources. The kingdom is also leveraging advanced technologies to ensure sustainability in this sector.
Leadership in academe
In the education sector, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has emerged as a leader in the AI field. In collaboration with SDAIA, the university has launched a center of excellence in data science and AI. Furthermore, public and private universities have prioritized developing their curricula to include AI and its applications. These will contribute to enabling current and future generations of Saudi citizens who are capable of dealing with these technologies professionally.
AI in the health sector
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health, in cooperation with SDAIA, has established a center of excellence in AI. Through this center, AI is being used to identify treatments for diseases such as breast cancer and diabetic retinopathy. It also provides smart solutions for the early detection of such diseases.
AI is the future of building smart cities, raising the level of city services, and improving the quality of life. Saudi Arabia aims to serve humanity and reach limitless horizons by investing in data and revolutionary information technology. Such technologies are crucial and have entered all aspects of private and public life.
Information technology market
During the Digital Technology Forum 2023, the Saudi Communications, Space, and Technology Commission reviewed a number of emerging technology markets. The commission revealed that the information technology market in Saudi Arabia reached SAR81 billion in 2022. Furthermore, the market is expected to grow to SAR103 billion by 2025.
Moreover, the commission noted that the number of technology companies listed on the financial market has increased to 18 companies. Meanwhile, the number of companies registered on the “Tech” platform has reached more than 1,000 technology companies. In addition, the market includes more than 150 local technical products.
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