Saudi Vision 2030 will require ICT investment
Infrastructure, education, laws and security needed for success of strategic plan, says IDC
Technology will be a key enabler in helping Saudi Arabia to achieve its 2030 Vision plan, according to analyst company IDC, but successful implementation will require investment in infrastructure, cybersecurity, skills and education, along with more regulation.
Vision 2030 provides a long-term economic blueprint for diversifying Saudi Arabia's economy away from its dependence on oil, and IDC believes that technology, particularly digitization of processes and procedures, will play a critical role in enabling the Kingdom's vision for the future. The company is set to publish a research paper on Vision 2030, and the challenges facing government, telecoms operators and industry in delivering the vision.
Abdulaziz Al-Helayyil, IDC's regional director for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain and head of business development for national ICT development in the GCC, commented: "There is a clear opportunity to leverage emerging information and communications technologies in order to enhance public service delivery and overall government effectiveness and efficiency. Indeed, ICT can lead to significant improvements in the citizen experience if employed through an omni-channel approach, while the implementation of shared services and e-procurement tools can considerably improve the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and transparency of government operations."
Digitisation will play a role in many of the areas outlined by Vision 2030, Al-Helayyil added, such as automation of manufacturing and supply chain to increase efficiency; integration of systems between healthcare providers to reduce costs or improving connectivity and services to tourists via mobile devices.
Third Platform technologies - namely cloud, mobility, Big Data analytics, and social - and innovation accelerators such as the Internet of Things, cognitive systems, 3D printing and others will enable all types of organisations to become more deeply involved in the digital economy and become globally competitive, he added. It is also important that digitization initiatives must not be the sole preserve of large-scale enterprises, but that SMEs should also integrate technology into their operations to increase their productivity, enhance their contribution to national economic output, and support the diversification aims of Vision 2030.
These digitisation efforts must be accompanied by supporting investment in next generation communications infrastructure, Al-Helayyil added: "Investments in the rollout, upgrade, and optimisation of communication technologies such as 4G and 4.5G will be crucial in developing a digital infrastructure that is equipped to handle zettabytes of data, high-definition video, and millions of connected devices and things will attract investors and enhance the competitiveness of the Saudi economy.
"Lack of sufficient regulatory safeguards is a challenge that needs to be addressed through a transparent regulatory framework that raises end-user trust in technology services. Regulatory bodies need to strengthen the regulations that affect digitization (such as data protection laws, intellectual property protection laws and judicial procedures, and anti-trust and anti-corruption laws). Cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly important aspect to consider, and its implementation will be critical in enabling existing strategies to be executed safely."
Leaders in the Kingdom will also need to ensure there are adequate skilled IT workers for these initiatives, and to also raise the general IT literacy levels of the country to enable individuals to participate fully in social and economic growth.
According to the CITC's ICT Workforce 2015 report, the number of ICT professionals required in the Kingdom will increase to approximately 213,000 by 2017 (up from 165,000 in 2014), resulting in a cumulative shortage of 37,000 professionals. Al-Helayyil said that investment will be needed in a number of areas to develop Saudi nationals to make up this shortfall.
"The development of the Saudi ICT talent pool, both in terms of quantity and quality, will contribute significantly to bridging this gap and raising the overall employment rate in the Kingdom," he said. "The Kingdom will need to mobilize the local ICT workforce by fostering collaboration between the public and private sectors. Further investments in the recruitment, training, and retention of Saudi national ICT workers should be encouraged. At the same time, the capacity of the higher education system should be strengthened through greater coordination and collaboration between government stakeholders, policy makers, academia, and the ICT industry."
Technology can also play a role in helping organisations to meet the aims of Vision 2030, and to improve collaboration and co-ordination between stakeholders.
"Achieving coordination across government entities is a significant challenge in any such endeavour. The Vision 2030 and the national executive programs are meant to provide common goals and direction for the various entities and motivate them to collaborate. The programs are expected to have KPIs for the entities and thus enable proper performance monitoring," Al-Helayyil said. "Technology can help improve the communication, collaboration and performance monitoring in the government, and increase transparency, and possibly, spur the entities to focus on the goals."